A Drive Thru History
The poet Robert Frost preferred the less-trodden path. John Denver wrote fondly yet sadly about country roads. A snapshot of a dirt road surrounded by bright fall colors is an archetypal autumn image for those of us that live in the northeastern United States.
Putnam County still has some dirt roads, but perhaps no others have quite the historical significance of the Old Albany Post Road. Its roots can be traced to before 1700a.d. and it served as a vital link during the American Revolution. Over time, modern roads rerouted traffic in Putnam County, leaving a portion of the Old Albany Post Road a quiet country lane. In 1982, a 6.2 mile section of the road was listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, and two years later a group of local residents formed the Old Road Society to help preserve the road’s character. So if you are not used to the cold yet, but still want to see what Putnam County has to offer, fill up your travel mug with hot cocoa or coffee, and take a drive through history.
(Scroll down below slideshow for more info.)
We started at the intersection of Old West Point Road East and Old Albany Post Road in southwestern Putnam County. In retrospect we should have started from Canopus Hollow Road just a short distance away. This area, known as Continental Village because of its role in the Revolutionary War, sits just north of the Westchester/Putnam border. In 1921, a monument to the Mothers of the Revolution was erected near the intersection of Canopus Hollow and Old Albany Post Road.
We drove north. The dirt road required, and the light traffic allowed, a slower pace so we could take in the scenery of old barns, stone walls and other sights. There is a “Twin Redoubts” historic marker at the intersection with Old West Point Road East. At Travis Corners Road there is a bronze and stone monument that explains the history of the old road. And along the way there are a series of restored stone mile markers that have an interesting link to Benjamin Franklin – it was a great way to make history personal for my kids.
A man on a moped, holding a long leash attached to his trotting dog, puttered by heading in the opposite direction. A few minutes later, we met another dog, this time unleashed and followed by another vehicle. I rolled down my window and stopped the car to see if maybe the dog was stray or running away. Neither – this was standard practice for this family to let their dog run home on this portion of the road. Two sites you normally would not see on a paved road.
There are a number of hiking trails along Old Albany Post Road, including the Appalachian Trail and a trail called Cedar Ridge, which is a unique hike through cow-pied farm fields.
If you keep heading north, eventually the Old Albany Post Road will lead out to Route 9 about one mile south of Route 301, and back to the hustle and bustle of modern traffic. Or, if you are still feeling adventurous, there are a number of side roads that lead off Old Albany Post Road that are also unpaved and are worthy of exploration.
For more history and information, including a map, visit the website of The Old Road Society of Philipstown www.oldrdsoc.org.