"The First Plank Road"
Central New York has the distinction of being the site of the first
plank road in the United States; the first of what would become a common
type of road construction. The road extended from Salina, at the same intersection
where Crouse-Hinds was later built, to the village of Central Square.
The Plank Road roughly followed the path that Native Americans had used
to travel from Pennsylvania to the St. Lawrence River. They had called
this footpath the Thousand Island Trail. Later, the New York State Legislature
had the same route cleared, calling it the Salt Road northward from Salina.
The farmers with contiguous lands were taxed for the construction of the
road, and were also expected to maintain it.
In 1846, a group of businessmen saw the profit to be made by improving
the road and charging for travel on it. Planking was chosen as the material
because timber was so plentiful along the route, and because planks would’t
break up in the winter thaws or wash away in the spring.
The road cost $23,000 to build, and this money was raised by the sale
of stock. Four tollhouses along the route ensured that a profit was returned
to the investors.
Eventually, plank roads were built to Tully and Cortland, Oswego, Camillus
and Elbridge, Fayetteville and Manlius, and one between Jordan and Skaneateles.
Warren Street in downtown Syracuse was originally a double plank road.
The planks were removed gradually, first from Central Square to Brewerton
in 1873, then from Brewerton to Cicero three years later, and finally from
Cicero to the Syracuse city line. The road was paved in 1914, and the road
became a state highway. This same route today is known as Route 11.
Jo Anne Bakeman