Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Toll Gates and the Shunpike Road

The Albany and Sand Lake Plank Road had four toll gates, described in this article from the Albany Evening Journal, May 25, 1901:
The committee on toll gates from the Rensselaer Board of Supervisors has begun its inquiry into the proceedings to abolish the toll roads.... Arthur Peck, director and secretary, said there were four toll gates, one at Bath, a second three miles out, a third at Sand Lake and a fourth at Crooked Lake. He said that the road had not paid a dividend in the last 11 years, though the net receipts for the last 11 years were $2,262.39....

The first toll gate was just beyond Ninth St. at the Bath village limits, near today's I-90 ramp. (See the entire map here: F.W. Beers & Co., Bath, 1876.)

The second toll gate was opposite Robert C. Parker school. Folks who wanted to avoid that toll took the "Shunpike road" instead (now Mammoth Springs Road, Morner Road and Best Road), rejoining the Plank road at Defreestville. (See F.W. Beers & Co., North Greenbush, 1876)

The third toll gate was at the intersection of Tollgate Rd and Rt. 43 beyond West Sand Lake. The last tollgate was just north of the Crooked Lake House.
(See F.W. Beers & Co., Sand Lake 002, 1876)

Previously: The Albany and Sand Lake Plank Road; Anatomy of a Plank Road
Next: Plank Road Directors

Historical newspaper pages found at

Friday, March 25, 2011

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire - March 25, 1911

Cornell University: Remembering the Triangle Factory Fire - 100 Years Later

New York Times (2/20/2011): 100 Years Later, the Roll of the Dead in a Factory Fire Is Complete

New York Times (3/26/1911): 141 MEN AND GIRLS DIE IN WAIST FACTORY FIRE

The Rensselaer Eagle didn't mention the fire. It happened just after an issue went to print, and a week later it was old news.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Gaslight Era: Storing Coal Gas

Great post on AllOverAlbany about Troy's Gasholder Building.

Maple Weekend!

March 19-20 and 26-27, generally 10am-4pm daily. Learn more and find a participating sugarhouse at the New York State Maple Producer's Association or the Upper Hudson Maple Producer's Association.

We drive all the way to Kent's in Berlin for our fix - read a detailed description of our 2009 visit. (It's a nice drive, mostly following the route of the colonial-era Eastern Turnpike through Rensselaer county.)

I've discovered that it's better to buy several small jugs, rather than one large one, to help keep the freshest flavor. (The air in a half-empty jug seems to diminish the zippy maple taste.)

I'll post a great maple-walnut muffin recipe later this weekend - check back.

Anatomy of a Plank Road

Upper Washington Ave. in Rensselaer, NY's North End was once the Albany and Sand Lake Plank road. So what was a plank road like?

The Merchants' Magazine and Commercial Review quoted a letter from plank road promoter George Geddes in their 1847 article “Plank Roads – New Improvement” (Geddes introduced the concept to the US, out near Syracuse):
The plank are of hemlock, eight feet long and four inches thick, laid crosswise of the road on sills four inches square. The earth is broken up and made fine, the sills are bedded into it, and the surface graded smooth; the plank are then laid on the sills, care being taken that the earth is up to and touches the plank at every point. … The plank having been laid, the next thing is to grade a road some ten or twelve feet wide on one side, and two or three on the other, by taking earth from the ditches on each side, and bringing it, by a ditch scraper, just up to and even with the upper side of the plank, so that if a wheel runs off the track, it passes upon a smooth surface of earth.
William Kingsford, Civil Engineer On Hudson River Railroad, provided these illustrations in his 1851 book: History, Structure, And Statistics Of Plank Roads In The United States And Canada.

Next: Toll Gates and the Shunpike Road; Plank Road Directors

Previously: The Albany and Sand Lake Plank Road

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Albany and Sand Lake Plank Road

Upper Washington Avenue in Rensselaer's North End was once a "Plank road". In the mid-1800's, the land was part of North Greenbush, an area "extensively engaged in supplying the markets of Troy and Albany with garden vegetables and milk.” An economy based on transporting perishable farm goods by wagon depended on good roads, but macadam surfaces were very expensive - a cheaper alternative was needed.

Then the “Plank Road Fever” swept across New York state. George Geddes introduced the plank road to the U.S. out near Syracuse, and the concept was widely published. Investors rushed to turn gravel turnpikes into wooden roads, and a speculative bubble led to formation of over 330 plank road corporations in NY, more than any other state.

In 1849, Rensselaer County's Eastern Turnpike became the “Albany and Sand Lake Plank Road”, and a thick wooden surface was laid on the 11 mile stretch between the ferry at Bath-on-the-Hudson and the glass factory village at Sand Lake (Averill Park). If you click to zoom in below, you can see the planks depicted with lines across the roadway in this 1854 L.C.G&M Land Ownership Map (NYS Library).

The plank road craze was short-lived. The planks had to be replaced every 3-5 years (not 8-12 years as promoted), and the toll revenue wasn't enough to fund such frequent repairs. By the 1880’s, our “Plank road” existed in name only, and its planks were gone. The toll gates still were manned in 1901, but were removed soon after, and the new city of Rensselaer was poised for residential expansion along this roadway.

Next: Anatomy of a Plank Road; Toll Gates and Shunpikes

Friday, March 4, 2011

Directors of the Eastern Turnpike Road, 1799

Shares in the Eastern Turnpike Road cost $25 each, and 400 shares were designated. Many of the directors and investors owned businesses that relied upon transport of farm goods and other merchandise. The road followed the route of Washington Ave. on its way:
...from the village of Bath in the county of Rensselaer in the nearest and most direct route to the house of James Main in Peterborough in said county and from thence to the line of the state of Massachusetts where the road from Williamstown to the city of Albany crosses the said line...

Eastern Turnpike Road, Incorporators:
Laws of the State of New York, Twenty Second Session, 1799 (Turnpikes)

The links are my best guess for biographical information. I'd appreciate corrections and additions.

Previously: The Albany Road and Eastern Turnpike

Next: The Albany and Sand Lake Plank Road