Category Archives: Roads

Bridge Street, New Hartford

These photographs were taken sometime shortly before the 1955 Flood. It shows the Bridge Street bridge, rebuilt after the 1936 flood, that connected Bridge and Cottage Street. This alignment was changed completely after the 1955 Flood, with the creation of Route 219.

What is particularly interesting in these photographs is the building behind the bridge: the old Village Firehouse. Very few photographs exist of this structure, which also went down the river. In the second photograph old Greenwoods factory complex is visible. At the time of the picture, it was being used by the Underwood company, which made everything from gun fittings to vacuum cleaners.

Today the site of the old Firehouse is part of the town garage parking lot. The new firehouse is slightly back from the river, roughly where the substation (visible on the right in the first picture) was.  Only a few traces of the bridge remain: the abutments on the Bridge Street side are buried in the lawn/river bank, on the Cottage Street side a few traces of rebar and stone work can be found.

2003.295.01.a Bridge Street Bridge before 1955 flood firehouse in back

2000.46.1.0 Bridge Street Bridge in NH Center

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The Bakerville School

In Bakerville, the intersection with the stoplight, where Cedar, Cotton Hill, and Maple Hollow all come together with Route 202, there used to be a school (along with the Tannery, Blacksmith Shop, Post Office, and General Store). The school was in the narrow triangle formed between Maple Hollow and Route 202 (then the Litchfield Turnpike).  Today, this is an overgrown area, but the foundation was located as late as the 1990’s.

The Bakerville school, also known as the Brick Schoolhouse, was first known as the Watson district schoolhouse.  The building’s architectural style suggests that it was erected sometime around or after 1810, as it was a brick Greek Revival building.  In 1837, the district was reformed as the Baker district; the building was old enough that repairs were also done to its windows at this time.  The school district, and the building, continued in this use until 1870 when the building was sold to Franklin Watson.  The district also ceased at this time, being reformed as the Bakersville district.  The brick building was used as a house until the 1920’s.  When the Litchfield Turnpike was paved, the house’s well was fouled.  It was abandoned and razed shortly afterwards.

(information from ‘Where Walk the Souls of Heroes’ by Neal E. Yates.)

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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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Early houses on Town Hill

Although the Town Hill Church, and the original town center, was located on the very top of the hill*; the settlement extended partially down both sides almost immediately.

Two of the most important houses sat on the plateau just below the crest that marked the first break on the long hill up from the valley.  These two houses had a commanding view of the Farmington River.  One was Israel Loomis’ house, the site of the first Town meeting in New Hartford, which took place before the Town Hill Church was built.  The other was the home of the first reverend in New Hartford, Reverend Jonathan Marsh.  When Rev. Marsh built his house he told the men to cut down all of the white birches between his house and Loomis so that he could see his neighbours; a far cry from today’s preference for privacy screening.  He apparently turned it into something of a race, promising more rum as payment for faster work.  Rum was a standard form of barter currency at the time.

Today, Marsh’s house no longer stands, though part of the foundation is still visible.  The current house, an imposing and distinctive house with three massive center chimneys, is called Hillandale, a suitable name for a house that watches over both.

*It isn’t quite, the hill is ten feet taller a quarter mile to the north (back towards the Farmington) and a hundred feet taller a mile to the south on Yellow Mountain.  But they were close.  And the high point of Yellow Mountain has never been easily accessed.

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On Naming Things

New Hartford has several places which have debated names.  The most widely known is the Bakersville/Bakerville headache, which revolves around whether one believes the oldest inhabitants (no ‘s’) or the US Postal Service (yes to the ‘s’).  The state solved the problem for a number of years with one sign, going one way, saying ‘Bakersville’ and the one going the other way saying ‘Bakerville’.

Another headache is West Hill Lake, or West Hill Pond, or Shepard’s Pond, or Lake Wonksunk-a-munk….  The last was the purported Native American name for either the pond, or a local chief.  It had brief popularity at the turn of the last century.  Shepard’s Pond was a title given to the water-body after the first settler, one Daniel Shepard.  West Hill (X) has become its accepted title. But is it a Lake or a Pond?  Officially, it is a lake; but for strict geographers or cartographers, its size is more that of a pond…

We also have Maple Hollow, Stub Hollow, Skunk Hollow: all the same road.  The last name went out of use about a century ago.  Technically, Maple Hollow its entire length; the older name of Stub Hollow, named after a section of roughly cleared land on it, still crops up.

Or perhaps one wishes to debate the question of ‘Townline Road’ versus ‘Torringford East’  The latter is the Torrington name for that road. It has become widely accepted due to the fact that more people live on the Torrington side of the road, in the Torringford district of Torrington. But it is literally the Town line, and is labelled as such on the older maps of New Hartford, hence the New Hartford name of ‘Townline’.

There is too Route 44, also the Old North Road, the Albany Road, the Greenwoods Road….but those names are now almost entirely forgotten and remain only as records of the old system of Post Roads.  More common is the local name for a numbered route: Town Hill is Route 219, the Litchfield Turnpike is Route 202, Main Street is Route 44.

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Drinks for Horses

In the modern world, we have gas stations for our convenience.  In the age of the horse and buggy, gas stations were not needed; however, water was.  Public drinking troughs, often with decorative fountains, were commonplace in all towns and cities.  In some historic districts these still exist, and the range of decoration is truly amazing.

However, in most places, the trough was purely utilitarian.  They were placed either in convenient town centers and supplied with water from the public water system, or in more remote areas where a horse might need to pause (as it might be at the top of a hill) and where a spring could provide water.  Obviously, river and stream crossings also supplied water.  These were generally wooden and it is likely that none of these, once ubiquitous, roadside icons still survive.  Though, the springs that served them can sometimes still be found.  There is one on River Road in Barkhamsted, between Pleasant Valley and Riverton, for example.

In the center of New Hartford there were several troughs.  At the intersection of Bridge, Church, and Route 44 a large riveted barrel served as the trough.  This was a very utilitarian one; but it served well.  It later was used at Asa and Irving Burdick’s dairy farm on Town Hill as a trough for the dairy cattle.  Legend has it that this barrel also served as the local drunk tank, in the old meaning of the phrase.

A more ornate water fountain was found at the Community House, now the Post Office lot.  Modeled on European, multi-level fountains this was on private property, but nonetheless served the public.  When drinking troughs were no longer used, this fountain found its way to a private home in New Hartford, where it remains to this day.

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Considering road names

Your author wishes to merely, randomly contemplate history rather than work…

The names of New Hartford’s roads fall, as one might expect, into several categories: strictly descriptive (West Hill, Main Street, High Street, Black Bridge, South Road, etc); ‘evocative’ (Willow Lane, Maple Hollow, Timberline, Honey Hill Road etc); and people….lots of people.  The evocative names merge rather uneasily with the descriptive.  There are no trout anywhere near Troutwood, but it is possible that at one time a trout stream might have existed nearby; knowing that it is a modern name for a subdivision, one knows it wasn’t named after actual fish, but rather after the idea of the fish.  Nor are there any notable stands of willow on Willow Lane nor were there when the road was created, but the idea was pleasant.  On the other hand Maple Hollow, a very old name, still describes the area accurately, yet it appears to be in the same class as Willow Lane.  Difficult.  The people are generally easier.

There is Burgoyne Heights, named after General Burgoyne and his army, marching through these long years since on the Albany Road.

Kinsey, Steele, Gillette, Beeney, Dutton, Turnbull, Holcomb, Hoppen, Cotton, Spencer Brook, Marsh (deceptive for it runs along a Marsh, but the Marsh family lived there), Niles, Bruning, Henderson, Hayward, Sabolcik, Dings, Carpenter, Bruning, Ratlum, Ramstein, Loomis, Whitbeck, Stedman,  the list goes on.  The map becomes a roll call of history, family names and forgotten images etched on the printer’s plate.  It would be an interesting project to tell the story of the town through those names.

The Black Bridge is long washed away in a flood, but the name lingers, a passerby might be forgiven their confusion for the modern span is most assuredly not black; the Cotton family entirely forgotten…but Cotton Hill remains.

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Summer Visitors

In studying prominent, and less so!, individuals from New Hartford’s history, a certain trend quickly appears: New Hartford as a retreat, especially in the summer.

There are several reasons for this.  One is strictly social.  Many of these people knew each other prior to their introduction to New Hartford.  People tend, naturally, to congregate with their friends.  So, for example: Cyrus Yale, the reverend of the Town Hill Church, had a brother: Richard Yale.  Richard knew, through business, Morris Smith.  Morris was the husband of Julie Palmer Smith, author.  That friendship led the Smiths to New Hartford; where they bought a house on Town Hill expressly for use as a summer retreat.  From there, friendships with other people, including Efrem Zimbalist Sr. and Bernice Gilkyson, helped in those families’ decision to buy property in the area.  This sort of social relationship was repeated and reinforced through various networks, not all overlapping, and helped to create that cultural community, the snowball effect.

However, another reason was sheer practicality.  New Hartford had traditionally been a major stop on the Hartford-Albany stage route.  Originally, when the roads were at their most primitive, it would have been a long day’s travel.  However, by the late 1800’s the road improvements had cut the travel time down to a few hours by horse or by stage, perhaps half a day; freight traffic would have continued to be relatively slow, however, as it was dependent on oxen.  The advent of the trains in New Hartford in the 1870’s radically changed that.  In the late 1800’s New York City, Boston, and Hartford were all readily accessible by train.  It took perhaps five hours by the express routes to get from the center of Manhattan to New Hartford.  Suddenly, visiting the ‘country’ for the weekend, while working in New York became eminently reasonable.


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Roads to Barkhamsted

New Hartford lies on the route from Hartford to Albany, the Old North Road, also known as the Farmington River Turnpike or the Albany Turnpike. This road gradually developed from a path to a road to a turnpike during the early 1700’s. From New Hartford it continued on up the Farmington to Pleasant Valley and Riverton in Barkhamsted. This early link between the two towns is slightly obscured today; because stretch of road between the North Village of New Hartford and Pleasant Valley in Barkhamsted has long been abandoned. This is because the Greenwoods Turnpike, now Route 44, was built on the other side of the Farmington River in the late 1700’s and was a slightly better route.
As the area was colonized, the side roads developed. A more direct road to Barkhamsted’s nominal center from New Hartford’s North Village took off along the route of Holcomb Hill Road, branching off of the turnpike at the ford for the North Village. The Holcomb hill road was laid out in 1756, with New Hartford voting to clear the road if: “they can do it with pooting the Town of New Hartford to but little caust.”
Barkhamsted’s second road was established in the 1760’s. This road branched off from Town Hill along Burgoyne Heights, it followed this low plateau above the swamp and river valley, across Rust Hill. It dropped down to Fancher Road on Route 44 and then headed up Wallen’s Hill on what is now Old North Road past the Sterling Engineering buildings. This road was an alternate to the section of the Farmington River Turnpike that ran through Pleasant Valley and Riverton. While never a competitor for freight traffic, it was an important alternate during the Revolutionary War and it was along it that portions of Burgoyne’s Army marched as prisoners following their defeat at Saratoga in 1777. It had the advantage of being a more direct route between Town Hill, then New Hartford’s center, West Hill, and western Barkhamsted than going down into the North Village. There were also no major fords or bridges between Town Hill and Pleasant Valley, with only one minor river crossing at Fancher road.
The third New Hartford-Barkhamsted road was the short connection between the Farmington River Turnpike up to the North and South Hollows, which lay in the east branch of the river. This road, now under the reservoirs, connected Granby to the Albany Turnpike as well.

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The Dugway

The Dugway is the stretch of Route 44 between the Mobil station in Pine Meadow, opposite Wicket Street, and the Dunkin Donuts. This short piece of road was created when the railroad tracks were put in during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Its name is, of course, a very literal one; in order to create it the hill was cut away and flattened. Today the embankments, the railroad alignment, and the retaining wall that drops into the Farmington River stand as testimony to the manmade nature of this section.
Prior to the railroads, the main highway was the Farmington River Turnpike on the other side of the river, crossing at a ford between the current Rt. 219 bridge and the Town Hall. The south side did have a road, but it was higher up the hill; possibily an extension of High Street and Fairview Avenue. This was one of the original proprieters’ roads and ran along the side of the hill between Town Hill and the Satan’s Kingdom road.
In the early period, pre-1800, the North center of town (now the town center) barely existed, except as a ford. In the same period, Pine Meadow was known as Kelloggsville and was a small agricultural center, taking advantage of the wide floodplain that exists below the current Route 219 bridge. For Pine Meadow inhabitants, if they chose to go the center of town (Town Hill) it was no slower to start climbing the hill in Pine Meadow. It was only when industry began to grow that a direct route between Pine Meadow and the North Village became mandatory, hence the Dugway.

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