The Original Yellow Brick Road
Paving began in March 1913 but encountered numerous problems. The
out-of-town contractor was shady, the weather uncooperative, and the
Italian workers brought in from NYC were wild (parties and gunshots
reported in the newspaper). Beneath it all lay the century-old feud
between the East End and the West End.
As construction began, property owners took some dirt as fill to raise
their properties to the level of the new street. However much of the dirt
from the East End was hauled to the center of the village where it was
used to fill in the Cambridge Swamp. On the West End the dirt was used to
build up South Union Street.
By July 1913 some of the concrete bed and curbing had been laid so
bricklaying began. Village president Charlie Tingue placed a time capsule
under the first brick near Dorrís Corners, the current junction of Route
313 and East Main. Cambridge had a village "president" from 1866-1927 when
the office was renamed "mayor".
By the end of July the brick road extended from Dorrís Corners to Park
Street. But on the West End no bricks had been laid, only the concrete bed
and curbing. The ongoing feud between the East End and West End resulted
in a construction plan to lay some bricks on one end of the village then
move the entire operation to the other end of the village. All of this so
neither end would have an advantage.
In August 1913, William L Hitchcock took control of the paving project.
The first problem he faced was the heavy traffic trying to get to the
Cambridge Fair. The portions of the road that were paved had not been
opened to traffic yet and the remainder of Main Street was a dust bowl.
In September 1913 the first traffic was allowed over the Yellow Brick
road. The Cambridge Fire Muster marched on a Main Street that was part
brick and part mud. In past years parades held following rainy periods
often allowed the marchers to walk on the slate sidewalks while the
viewers stood in the mud of Main Street.
In the midst of the ongoing construction battles, in November 1913 the
village of Cambridge voted to become a dry town. The Prohibitionists held
a victory parade on the finished portions of the Yellow Brick road.
As 1913 drew to a close the Yellow Brick road was complete from Dorrís
Corners to the RR tracks and from Coila to Blairís Brook (now known as the
Owl Kill). The next time you cross the green Victorian footbridge in front
of VARAK Park note the raised level of the ground above the brook. The
original lower level of the ground resulted in the brook routinely
flooding making it nearly impossible to get from the East End to the West
Finishing this section of the Yellow Brick road was important but had
to proceed cautiously to avoid flooding the abutting houses. Another
problem arose when a section of the completed Yellow Brick road cracked
from curb-to-curb where Cambridge Creek crosses West Main (in 2009 this is
next to the West Village Market). Another large crack appeared on West
Main near Academy Street, much to the howls of laughter from the East
All of these problems were addressed in December of 1913 and the
completion of the Yellow Brick road was cheered by all. In April 1914 an
early Spring snowfall and driving rain storm made all roads impassable,
all roads except the Yellow Brick road. There was literally "dancing in
the streets" as villagers rejoiced in having a paved Main Street.
The New Yellow Brick Road
A memorial to the yellow brick road is being laid, this time in front
of the restored Freight Yard. Inevitable hassles with the NYS Dept of
Transportation delayed the start of the project in the Fall of 2008
followed by the hindrance of bad weather, but finally this month yellow
bricks are once again being laid in Cambridge.
As you walk down East Main Street youíll soon be able to turn north
onto the yellow brick walkway between the Cambridge Diner and the Wrigley
As you stroll north on the yellow brick walkway, you'll see the old
Beacon Feed building that now serves as the Hubbard Hall dance studio.
Just north of that, you'll walk past the old Lovejoy Building that houses
the local agricultural businesses and Farmers' Market. The famous
Cambridge Plow that was used extensively in settling the West in the late
1800's was made in the Lovejoy factory at the corner of East Main and Rt
313 and shipped from this Lovejoy building.
North of the Lovejoy Building, you'll see the Freight Depot that will
host scaled-down Hubbard Hall presentations during the winter months. All
of these buildings have been lovingly restored as part of the Cambridge