This route, though little used today as a direct route from New York to Boston, offers a pleasing variation and many attractions and interests. It is an historic route, known in Colonial times as the `Middle Road, and more recently as the `Air Line,’ because, except for minor variations, it follows the straightest route between the two terminal cities. It follows State Roads throughout, which in Connecticut and Massachusetts are marked in red or blue (p 64).
R. 3 § 1. New York to Hartford. 127.0 m. Via WHITE PLAINS, DANBURY, and WATERBURY.
In New York State the route runs through the historic region about White Plains, and the Kensico district, a country of gentlemen’s estates now being transformed by gigantic reservoirs, extending into Connecticut. Thence the route passes through typical Connecticut industrial towns with intervening stretches of interesting rocky country.
From the Connecticut State line, near Mill Plain, Conn., to Newtown, the route is indicated with red markers on poles and fences; thence by blue to Woodbury, with red from there to Milldale, with blue to Plainville and Farmington, and thence red to Hartford; or from Plainville with red via New Britain to Hartford.
From the Plaza or Columbus Circle the route runs north-ward through Central Park and over the Grand Boulevard and Concourse. Routes r and 5 turn eastward, to the right, at Pelham Ave. (9.5); the latter route is alternative from this point to Hart’s Corners (21.2). To the left is Jerome Reservoir on the site of the famous old race course. At the end of the Concourse (10.o) the route jogs left and right into Jerome Ave. across a long concrete viaduct over Mosholu Parkway which leads to the left to Van Cortlandt Park (1132 acres). Here is the old Van Cortlandt mansion (1748), which was Washing-ton’s headquarters at one period of the Revolution. It is now a Revolutionary museum in charge of the Colonial Dames.
Woodlawn Cemetery and the Empire City Race Track are on the right of Central Ave., on which the route leads northward through Hart’s Corners (21.2). Near the cross-roads occurred one of the encounters, and an amusing one, that preceded the Battle of White Plains. General Spencer, with 2000 troops, had gone forth to check the enemy’s advance, and the meeting took place on the old York road. They greeted the oncoming Hessians with a full discharge of musketry, and punished them severely; but were so overcome with stage-fright at their successful attempt that they fled to the hills near Chatterton’s. The episode was dubbed “the rout of the bashful New Englanders.”
From the end of Central Ave. the route turns right on Central Park Ave., crossing the Bronx River Parkway Reservation into Main St.
23.5 WHITE PLAINS. Alt 201 ft. Pop 19,287 (1915). County-seat of Westchester Co. Settled 1683. Indian name Quarropas.
White Plains, in the valley of the Bronx, is a beautiful residential suburb of New York, with broad, elm-shaded streets and well-kept lawns. In the village are the Westchester County buildings, Muldoon’s Hygienic Institute, and the Bloomingdale Hospital for the Insane (1821). Here also are the Century Country Club, the Knollwood Golf and Country Club, and the Westchester County Fair Association.
Halfway between the main town and North White Plains stands a unique monument,the actual mortar used here in the battle, mounted upon a solid base bearing this inscription:
“This mortar and this remnant of the Revolutionary entrenchments of October, 1776, mark the final stand by General Washington at the end of his long retreat; the abandonment by General Howe of his purpose to capture the American army, and the revival of the hopes for national independence.”
At North White Plains is the old Miller house, occupied by Washington as his headquarters before the Battle of White Plains and again in the summer of 1778. Near here is `Mt. Misery’ of old days, identified with the battle. Just to the north are the Kensico Hills and the great Kensico Reservoir. South of the town is the Gedney Farm, Country Club, and nearby the Gedney Farm Hotel, an all-the-year-round hostelry with many attractions. The country is attractive, consisting of rolling wooded hills and meadow lands in the valleys of the Bronx and the Mamaroneck. Near the village are Silver, Kensico, and Rye lakes. The entire section along the Bronx river is being developed as part of the Bronx River Parkway.
From Main St. the route leads north on Broadway, past Battle Hill Park, occupying the highest section of White Plains, overlooking Bronx Parkway. This was formerly known as Chatterton’s Hill, and was the scene of the Revolutionary engagement.
Just beyond White Plains is the `millionaire district’ of Purchase, where many beautiful homes are found, among them Ophir Farm of Hon. Whitelaw Reid, and the home of W. A. Read. There is a more modest but charming house which belonged to the late Charles Frohman, and has opened its hospitable doors to many a struggling actor. A garden club promotes the raising of wonderful flowers.
Known to the Indians as Quarropas on account of the quantity of corn raised about here, the Dutch traders called it White Plains from the thickets of white balsam. Connecticut Puritans coming from Rye were the first settlers in 1683. The town was the scene of several important events of the Revolution. In the summer of 1776 the Third Provincial Congress convened in the Court House. The site of this building on South Broadway is marked by a tablet in front of the Armory. In October of the same year Washington concentrated his army near White Plains after Lord Howe had landed at Throg’s Neck. Washingtones right wing was lined up on the Bronx river and he hastily threw up earthworks at Chatterton’s Hill on the west bank. Howe attacked on October 28 with a force of 4000. In the ensuing conflict the Americans finally withdrew in good order, and the severe losses of the British prevented them from following. Washington retired to North Castle and fortified himself more securely. In 1779 a Continental force under Aaron Burr was encamped here for a time, and in 1781 a part of the forces of Lauzun and Rochambeau occupied the region during some months.
The route bears right, passing (27.o) the Kensico Dam, and follows along the shore of the reservoir, crossing a long, high concrete bridge with a fine view of the reservoir and dam. The concrete road straight ahead (30.5) leads to Mt. Kisco.
Bear right to
31.5 ARMONK. Alt 380 ft. Pop 300. Westchester Co. Indian name, “fishing Place.”
This is a quiet residential and farming region. The road bears right, then left, passing Byram Lake on the left, to
39.5 BEDFORD. Alt 280 ft. Pop (twp) 5629. Westchester Co.
The residential colony of Bedford Hills lies to the west. Bedford is a part of the Torquams tract, bought from the Indians in 1640 by Captain Nathaniel Turner.
The tract extended for about eight miles along Long Island Sound, and for sixteen miles into the then wilderness. On the outskirts of the village, in February, 1644, a force of English and Dutch troops commanded by Captain John Underhill, the redoubtable Indian fighter from New England, fell upon an Indian encampment and slaughtered some 500 of the savages, leaving their bodies lying in the snow. This massacre is believed to have occurred at the base of what is still called Indian Hill, about a half mile east of Bedford Court House. As late as 1765 mounds at the base of this hill were pointed out as the graves of the butchered red men. The first settlement here was established in 1680, the permission being granted by the town of Stamford (also within the Turner tract) to twenty-two men who bought from Katonah, Rockaway, and other Indian chiefs for £46 6d a tract of 7673 acres, which became known as `Bedford Three Miles Square.e Nearly all of these pioneers were sons of founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
The route circles around the end of Cross River Reservoir into the village of Cross River (45.o).
Note. A mile and a half beyond the village, an alternative route to Danbury turns to the right, through South Salem, with its ancient tavern, and Ridgefield (R. 6). A hard, winding road leads off from the highway to the left through the Titicus Reservation to the top of Titicus Mountain (969 ft) and the popular motor inn, the `Port of Missing Men.’ It commands a beautiful view over the surrounding country.
Continue straight ahead past Waccabuc Lake on the right, through the Titicus Hills, a region of charming scenery, where the road attains a maximum of 620 feet. At Salem Center (51.o) is North Salem Academy (inc. 1790), one of the oldest schools in the State. A half mile to the west is the Titicus Reservoir, three miles long, one of the largest in the region. The road turns sharp right, following the Titicus valley to
52.5 NORTH SALEM. Alt 500 ft. Pop (twp) 1096 (1915). Westchester Co.
The route turns to the left, passing Peach Lake on the left, to the East Branch Reservoir, where the route turns sharply to the right, joining the route from Brewster and Beacon along the valley of Still River, and crossing the Connecticut boundary. From this point the route follows the Connecticut Trunk Line State Highway, and is clearly marked by red bands on poles and fences.
60.0 MILL PLAIN, Conn. Alt 464 ft. Pop (Danbury twp) 23,502. Fairfield Co.
The route continues to follow the valley of the Still river, entering Lake Ave., which crosses a bridge into West St., continuing to the City Hall, corner of Main, in
64.0 DANBURY. Alt 371 ft. Pop 20,234; about one fifth foreign, born. One of the county-seats of Fairfield Co. Settled 1684. Mfg. hats, hat-making machinery, metal novelties, electric light fixtures, iron making tools, ball and roller bearings, and laundry machinery.
Danbury is the greatest center of the fur felt hat industry in the United States. About fifty factories are engaged in this industry, turning out a product valued at over $6,000,000, which is about 17 per cent of the total value of the city’s manufactures and about 16 per cent of the total value of all hats produced in the United States. The materialsfurs for the feltare largely imported, but fur cutting and the manufacture of machinery and accessories is carried on here. Metal novelties and lighting fixtures, manufactured by the Rogers Silver Plating Company, are other important products.
The hat industry was begun here in 1780, and during the Revolution Zadoc Benedict, one of the pioneer hatters, turned out as many as three hats a day. From 1840 to 1850 silk hats were largely made here, but that branch has now been given up and the chief product is soft and stiff hats. The hat plants of the Von Gal Company, E. A. Mallory and Sons, and the Lee Hat Factory are among the largest and best equipped. The Loewe firm has been widely advertised because of the celebrated Danbury Hat Case, which has figured in the public prints for the past thirteen years. The industry calls for skilled labor, and is an unhealthy one because of the danger of mercurial poisoning and fetid steam atmosphere in which the employees work. Of recent years the hat manufacturers of Danbury have led in remedying these conditions, so that a great improvement is noted -in conditions affecting the health of employees. It is one of the most completely unionized crafts. In 1902 the Loewe firm declared for an open shop. A strike began, was followed by a boycott, the firm suffered, and in successive courts was able to prove damages to the amount of $80,000. This has been carried from court to court until, in 1915, it was finally decided by the Supreme Court of the United States and a judgment of $300,000 brought against the 186 hatters who conspired, as a result of which their houses have been sold at auction to meet the judgment. Such has been the fate of the mad hatters of Danbury.
The original settlers of Danbury came from Norwalk in 1684, and three years later it was named in honor of a town in Essex, England. In 1766 a large amount of supplies for the Continental Army were stored here. In April, 1777, Governor William Tryon of New York raided the town (p 81), and destroyed the supplies and much property. During his retreat he was attacked and defeated at Ridgefield by General David Wooster, who was killed in the conflict and succeeded by Benedict Arnold. A monument to Wooster was erected in Dan-bury in 1854. Enoch Crosby, a native of Danbury, is said to be the original of Harvey Birch, the hero of Cooperes “Spy” (p 70). This was also the home of James Montgomery Bailey (1841-94), the `Danbury News Man,e whose humorous sketches published in the “News” made both him and his town justly famous.
Note. A Trunk Line State Highway (R. 6), marked by blue bands, runs north from Norwalk to Litchfield and Torrington, entering Danbury from the south on Park Ave., and leaving northward on Main St.
From the Danbury City Hall and Soldiers’ Monument, turning left, the route follows Main St. past the Library on the left, and turns sharply to the right on White St., passing the State Normal School on the left. Bear right at fork of road after leaving trolley. The route as far as Newtown follows the State Road, marked by red bands on poles and posts.
73.5 NEWTOWN. Alt 396 ft. Pop 434. Fairfield Co. Inc. 1711. Mfg. buttons, lace, and fire hose.
At the Stone Church the route turns left under the R.R., downgrade through the hamlets of Sandy Hook (75.0) and Rocky Glen, crossing the Housatonic river (R. 9) at Bennetts Bridge, where an island divides the river. The Housatonic valley is here a narrow gorge, with an average width of about a mile, which has been worn through the hard resistant rock to a depth of 500 feet below the surrounding hilltops.
From Newtown to Woodbury the route runs northward from Bridgeport and is marked by blue bands on poles and posts. The road leads over Georges River and follows the valley of the Pomperaug, parallel with the New England R.R.
81.5 SOUTHBURY. Alt 200 ft. Pop (twp) 1233. New Haven Co. Inc. 1787. Mfg. steel traps, organ springs, tacks, and paper.
The route continues to follow the blue markers up the valley with the ridge of East Hill (580 ft) to the west.
85 5 WOODBURY. Alt 300 ft. Pop (twp) 1860. Litchfield Co. Named 1674. Mfg. pocket knives, and shears.
From Woodbury through Waterbury to Milldale, the State Highway, marked by red bands on poles and posts, is a portion of the east and the west Trunk Line, running westward from Middletown. The route follows the old Middlebury Road, running to the south of Quassapaug Pond to Middlebury (91.0), a quiet country village. Beyond the Green on the right is the Westover School, a fashionable school for girls. The route now turns right, to the east again, and follows the State Road, with red markers, along the Middlebury Road, crossing the Naugatuck and entering Main St. and crossing Route 7.
96.5 WATERBURY. Alt 260 ft (R.R.). Pop 73,141; one fourth foreign-born, mostly Irish, Italian, French Canadian, Russian, and French. New Haven Co. Settled 1677. Indian name Mattatuck. Mfg. brass, copper, german silver, wire, pins, clocks, and watches. Value of Product, $50,350,000; Payroll, $13,170,000.
This is sometimes known as `The Brass City,’ for it is the center of the brass industries of Connecticut and perhaps the largest brass producer in the world. According to its aggressive and enterprising Chamber of Commerce, Waterbury has “Something on Everybody.” By this they mean that on every person who wears clothing, some button, hook, eye, fastener, or other attachment is to be found, manufactured in this town. Up to the time that the war boom deranged statistics and resulted in a frantic expansion of industrial towns, Waterbury was the fourth city in population in the State, and the third in the value of its manufactures.
Waterbury is a fine old city, beautifully situated in the heart of the Naugatuck valley, where it is joined by Mad River. In the center of the city is the beautiful Green, facing which is the Hotel Elton, whose progressive proprietor originated the “Ideal Tour” and made the Naugatuck valley one of the gateways of New England. Opposite is the Mattatuck Historical Building, with collections illustrating the early history of Connecticut. Waterbury has a fine new City Hall of pleasing Georgian architecture with well-designed fountains and bas reliefs. Its railway station is marked by a tower re-producing the Torre del Mangia of Siena. Opposite the station is Library Park, iconoclastically created on the site of an old burying ground. Facing upon it is the Silas Bronson Library, munificently endowed by the New York business man of Waterbury origin whose name it bears. Here the Chamber of Commerce displays to passing travelers, in electric lights of red, white, and blue, its aggressive but justifiable slogan.
A tract of land ten by eighteen miles was purchased from the Indians for the sum of nine pounds by a group of men from Farmington. In 1708 the colony voted fifteen pounds to build two forts here and the town arranged for the expense of the construction of a third. Rochambeau and his French forces remained in encampment here through a winter during the Revolution. The site of this encampment is now marked by a monument.
The waterpowers of the Naugatuck and Mad rivers were early put to use. In 1680 Stephen Hopkins built a grist mill, which was operated for 160 years on the site now occupied by the Scoville Mfg. Co. The most important early industry here was button making; established in 1850 by Joseph Hopkins. This led in 1802 to the making of brass buttons and the introduction of the brass industry. The town presented Lafayette on his visit here in 1824 with a set of gold buttons. During the Civil War most of the brass buttons used on Federal uniforms were here made.
The variety of brass articles produced in the factories of Waterbury is almost endless. The cheap watch made Water-bury famous, and the New England Watch Company still turns out 600,000 watches yearly. The Ingersoll Watch Company, whose factories are also here, turns out an enormous number of watches. Copper coins for South American countries and the blanks for United States nickels are here made. Waterbury can deal in many superlatives. It produces more brazed and seamless tubing than any other city, has the largest button industry and the largest clock factory `in the world.’ Both German silver and silver ware are manufactured here.
The International Silver Company is a successor of the original Rogers Bros.
From the Green the route follows East Main St. south, and at Hamilton Park turns square left on the Meriden road. The route is clearly marked by red bands on poles and posts. Skirting the Waterbury Reservoir, which lies to the north, the road descends the long slopes of Southington Mountain, from the 700 to the 200 foot level, through the villages of Marion (103.5) and Milldale (104.5).
Here the State Road straight ahead, with red bands, leads to Middletown. The Hartford route turns square left, following blue bands on poles and posts to Plantsville (102.4) and 108.5 SOUTHINGTON. Alt 149 ft. Pop 3714. Hartford Co. Settled 1697. Mfg. hardware, pocket cutlery, tinners’ tools, wood screws, carriage hardware, rolled iron, wire, and paper bags.
This typical industrial town on the Quinnipiac river, which supplies some of the waterpower, manufactures the greatest variety of hardware. The name is a contraction of South Farmington, of which it was originally a part. In 1724 it be-came an independent parish under the name of Panthorn.
113.5 PLAINVILLE. Alt 191 ft. Pop (twp) 2882. Hartford Co.
Settled 1640. Mfg. knit underwear, saddlers’ hardware,hames, watchmakers’ tools, spun and cast brass goods.
This is an outlying industrial village on the borders of Forestville and Bristol, to the west, between the Quinnipiac and the Pequabuck rivers.
Note. At Plainville, the east and west State Highway, marked by red bands from Thomaston, runs east via New Britain to Hartford. From Plainville, this road ascends, passing through a gap in the north and south trap ridge. To the north is Rattlesnake Mountain.
4.5 NEW BRITAIN. Alt 200 ft, R.R. Pop (twp) 43,916; one third foreign-born, Irish and Swedish. Hartford Co. Settled 1687. Mfg. hardware specialties, locks, cutlery, iron beds, metal furniture, cotton and woolen underwear, and hosiery.
New Britain is the center of the hardware manufacturing of New England, and is sometimes called the `Hardware City.’ It has had a rapid growth in the last two decades, due to the prosperity of its industries. It was one of the first cities in the country to build a municipal subway for electric light, telephone, and telegraph wires. A State Normal School was early established, largely through the efforts of Henry Barnard.
New Britain is the home of the Corbin Locks; the plant employs 6000 hands. Landers, Frary & Clark have manufactured cutlery here for half a century.
Though early settled, this territory, originally a part of Farmington, was made part of Berlin, and not incorporated as a separate town until 1850. There are a few old houses antedating the Revolution, notably the Hart house on Kensington St and the Nathan Booth house on Arch St.
The pioneer of New Britaines industry was James North, who made brass buckles, andirons, etc. His five sons each entered into different trades. One made bells and clocks, peddling his products from his saddle bags. Elihu Burritt, the learned blacksmith,e is perhaps the most distinguished product of New Britain. Born here in 1811, at the age of sixteen he was apprenticed to a blacksmith, and while practicing his trade mastered Greek and Hebrew by evening studies, and at the age of thirty he could read nearly fifty languages. In 1837 he removed to Worcester, took to lecturing, became an ardent advocate of universal peace, and traveled extensively in America and Europe. He died at New Britain in 1879.
From New Britain the route continues to follow the State Highway, marked by red bands, entering Hartford (15.0) by New Britain Ave. and Washington St.
From Plainville the main route continues to follow the blue banded posts and poles along the valley of the Pequabuck river, skirting Rattlesnake Mountain (700 ft), on the right.
118.0 FARMINGTON. Alt 245 ft. Pop 897, (twp) 3748 Hartford Co. Settled 1640. Mfg. cutlery, rides, levels, and paper.
Farmington is a beautiful old town with wide elm-lined streets and some fine old houses which give evidence of the former importance and wealth of the place. The Thomas Cowles house was designed by a young oficer of Burgoyne’s army while he was held a prisoner here. On top of the hill is the munificent estate of the late A. A. Pope, the house being the best and purest evolution of the Mt. Vernon type, with an extensive formal garden. At the entrance is an “Odds and Ends Shop,” established by Miss Theodate Pope for charity. At the south end of Main St. is the Lodge, owned by the pupils, past and present, of Miss Porter’s School, and maintained for the benefit of working girls who come here throughout the year, although chiefly for the summer months.
Farmington was on one of the chief Colonial highways between New York and Boston. The inhabitants were prosperous, for in addition to agricultural pursuits they owned vessels engaged in East Indian trade. The first settlers named the village from the English town. They were attracted here by the fertility of the meadows, although it was already inhabited by the Tunxis Indians, who had given their name to the river, Tunxis, meaning “crane.” The settlers got on fairly peaceably with the Indians. In 1657, however, John Hartford and all his family were burnt to death in his house, which had been fired by the Indians. As a penalty for this the Indians were required to pay eighty fathoms of wampum a year for seven years.
Farmington was the home of Governor John Treadwell, who was prominent in public life during the Revolutionary period and in the administrative affairs of Yale during that time. It was the home, too, of the Porters. Noah Porter, President of Yale, and Samuel Porter, who spent much time and thought on the earlier editions of Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, were brothers of Miss Sarah Porter, whose school has made Farmington famous. Miss Porter opened her school for girls in 1844, and “in its long history it has probably exerted a greater influence on American womanhood than any other educational institution except perhaps Mt. Holyoke under Miss Lyon.”
Farmington overlooks the broad and fertile valley of Farmington River, which is here joined by the Pequabuck. The rich alluvial soils of this valley a little further on are largely given over to the production of wrapper tobacco.
From Farmington the route turns right, following the red markers on Farmington Ave., which ascends the hills to West Hartford (123.0).
This community is chiefly occupied in tobacco farming, market gardening, and the growing of flowers under glass.
Brick and bent pipe are also manufactured here, and a large quantity of ice is annually stored for the outside market.
Noah Webster was born here in 1758. His fame largely rests on his Dictionary, but he was a potent force in the life of the young republic during its formative years. He left Yale in his Junior year to join the Revolutionary army. Later he studied the law, but elected to teach school, and devised his famous spelling book and grammar, published at Hartford, which marked a great advance in school text-books. In that bitter campaign, waged so fiercely against the second election of Washington, he espoused his cause, and the result was in no small measure due to the speeches he made in stumping the country. A pamphlet he wrote in 1784 was the first definite proposal for a constitution to take the place of the “Articles of Confederation.” The following year he made the first advocacy for copyright laws. His love of precision in the use of words was well displayed when his wife, to her horror, discovered him kissing a pretty kitchen maid; to his wifees cry of “Noah, I am surprised!” the lexicographer immediately corrected, “No, my dear, you are astonished; I am surprised.”
The route continues on Farmington Ave. into Hartford, passing on the right the State Capitol and then along Asylum St. to the City Hall. Route 8 enters from the left.