Presentation drives home history of U.S. 20
The Shakespeare Club met recently at the restaurant Music For Your Mouth, in Mayville. Dr. Irene Strychalski opened the meeting followed by a paper by Joyce Haines.
With the theme of “Distinctive Places” for the Shakespeare Club’s 2022-2023 year, Haines chose to take the members for a journey along the historic Route 20 in New York state. She divided areas naming them the Capital District, the Finger Lakes, and the Western New York district.
From 1926 to 1940 U.S. 20 extended from Boston to the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
In 1940, the western section was completed to Oregon, making U.S. 20 the northernmost of the true cross-country highways, and at more than 3, 365 miles, the longest. The route served in introducing automobile and truck traffic to America.
Albany is the only major city through which Route 20 passed. It went from village to village leading directly down their main streets. Then New York State Thruway came in the 1950’s and contributed to more rapid transit.
The members’ journey began at the Massachusetts border siting the area where the Shakers established their church in the area surrounding New Lebanon from 1787 to 1947.
Continuing along the route are Sharon Springs and Richfield Springs known for their curative powers of water where many of the wealthy found respite from their busy city life.
The Finger Lakes were known for the city of Auburn where William Seward and Harriet Tubman were instrumental in creating safe havens known as the Underground Railroad for slaves escaping from the southern states.
Seneca Falls is known for the convention emphasizing civil rights inspired by Elizabeth Cady Station, Lucretia Mott, Frederick Douglas and Sojourner Truth. It was the turning point in history setting the women’s rights movement into motion.
The Western District claims East Aurora and the Roycroft artisan community founded by Elbert Hubbard. Today many visitors enjoy the Roycroft Inn dining as well as shopping at the Vidler’s old-fashioned five and dime.
And, of course, we have our own Chautauqua County communities of Silver Creek, Fredonia, Brocton, Westfield and Ripley, each with their own historical memories.
The paper concluded with a suggestion to take time out of our busy lives of taking the fastest route and take a relaxing historical drive along route 20 to enjoy and view the past.