Middle GateAll Roads to the River: The 1799 Columbia Turnpike and Historic Toll Houses

On Friday, June 16, from 6 to 8 pm, the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society will host an opening  preview to launch its summer exhibit, All Roads to the River: the 1799 Columbia Turnpike and Historic Tollhouses. Refreshments will be served.

“We’re excited to acknowledge the enormous importance of the Columbia Turnpike and its role in the development of early Hudson and Columbia County,” said Peter Cipkowski, President of the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society. “The turnpike was the first in Columbia County and became part of a giant network of roads designed to promote commerce after the American Revolution.”

Two toll houses still stand on either end of Route 23 in Columbia County – both listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Known as the East Gate (Hillsdale) and the West Gate (Greenport), they marked the beginning and end of Columbia County’s first turnpike, established in 1799 by the New York State Assembly. “Local folks are on a mission to help find a way to rescue and reuse the Greenport and Hillsdale tollhouses ,” Cipkowski said. “The buildings are irreplaceable cultural resources and can hopefully be put to good use.”

Toll SignThe Columbia Turnpike created a commercial trade route to and from the City of Hudson, an emerging center of commerce in the early nineteenth century. Prominent families along the pike adopted stock which provided an outlet for their goods, particularly livestock, wool, rye, and wheat.

The RJHS summer exhibit will explore the story of the Columbia Turnpike, and its part in demonstrating the Hudson River’s importance as an artery of inland commerce and its place in Columbia County’s history. Several historic districts, historic places, and landmark buildings line the route from the Massachusetts border to the Hudson. It will also describe the efforts underway to preserve the existing tollhouses and identify Route 23 as a scenic byway with historic importance.

Original documents connected to the establishment and development of the Columbia Turnpike will be on display, loaned by the Columbia County Historical Society. Additionally, the historic wooden sign, used to identify fares at the East Gate will be on display, loaned by the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

The preview is open to the public on Friday, June 16 from 6 to 8 pm. The museum is located at 8 Miles Road, opposite the Copake Falls Post Office and Taconic Wayside Inn in Copake Falls, NY. The summer exhibit officially opens on Saturday, July 1, from 2 to 4 pm and will be open every Saturday and Sunday thereafter until September 3 from 2 to 4 pm.




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