Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Origins of Washington Avenue

The roadway of upper Washington Avenue dates back to colonial Rensselaerswyck, when farmers traveled it to bring their rents of grain and poultry to the Patroon, and maintained it as required by their leases. The pre-revolutionary route was called the “Albany Road”, and went from the ferry in Bath-on-the-Hudson to Deerfield, MA.

The road’s importance as a commercial and stage coach route grew, and in 1799, it was incorporated as the “Eastern Turnpike Road”, to finance road maintenance. The toll for a horse and rider was 5 cents, and a four-wheel carriage with two horses paid 12½ cents. For more info, see these older posts:

The 19th century North Greenbush economy was based on transporting perishable farm goods to sell in Albany and Troy. This required good roads, which were expensive to build and maintain. In the mid-1800’s, the cheaper “plank roads” became wildly popular. In 1849, the Eastern Turnpike became the “Albany and Sand Lake Plank Road”, and a thick wooden surface was laid on the 11 mile stretch between the Bath ferry and the glass factory village at Sand Lake (Averill Park). For more info, see:

“Plank Road Fever” was short-lived. Planks had to be replaced more frequently than expected, which was costly. By the 1880’s, the wood surfaces were gone. The toll gates were removed after 1901, making the road, now known as “Forbes Avenue”, more attractive for residential development.

Sometime between 1926 and 1930, maps at the county clerk's office indicate that the road was renamed Washington Ave. (The name Washington Ave. originally only referred a the 5-block stretch between Broadway and what remains of Forbes Ave. today.) If anyone knows more about when and why this name change occurred, please post a comment or send an email to bathonhudson@gmail.com.

This is part of the series: North End Park Neighborhoods (download this as a free PDF here)

No comments: