Old roads

Although Route 44 cuts across only the northern section of New Hartford, it has always been the major road in the region.  Or perhaps, it might be better to say that a roughly east-west road running between Hartford/Windsor Locks and the Housatonic River Valley (and farther west the Hudson River at the point of navigation, i.e. Albany) was developed during the earliest colonial period.  At first, this was nothing more than a foot path, alternately following the ridgelines or the rivers as best suited the avoidance of either swamps or impassable rock ledges.

However, in 1760, the first formal survey of the road was presented to the General Assembly in Connecticut; by 1762 a track was cleared.  The first name of the road was ‘The Great Road through the Green Woods’, as the northwestern part of Connecticut, New Hartford included was still heavily wooded.  Other names quickly sprang up: the Great North Road, the Albany Road, the Hartford Road, the New Hartford Road, the Norfolk Road, (the use of a town for the road name was very local, it often indicated a town commonly visited, for example in Salisbury and Canaan one finds references to the ‘old New Hartford Road’ probably due to the traffic between that area and New Hartford in the iron industry).  The name ‘Albany Road’ appears in Hartford, the other end of the route.  Then came the Greenwoods Turnpike and its competitor the Farmington River Turnpike.  These roads were in use by 1800 and represented the next era in roads.  The alternate routes over difficult areas, which had caused the old road to resemble a braided river rather than a canal, were no longer used.  The biggest switch was running the road through Winsted to Norfolk, as opposed to up over Wallens Hill and through Colebrook.  At this time, those sections of the Great North Road lost their title; they became the ‘Old North Road’, the ‘Old New Hartford Road’ no longer ‘Great’.  In New Hartford, several sections were no longer seen as part of the main route (though they remained in use): Burgoyne Heights, Johnny Cake Lane, and a now completely abandoned track on the northeast side of the Farmington. The latter had been the northern extension of the Farmington River Turnpike between New Hartford and Barkhamsted, but it lost out to the Greenwoods Turnpike.  A story of competition that goes beyond this short post.  Eventually, the Greenwoods Turnpike would become Route 44.

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