Following the history of the yellow-brick road

Remnants of early Bethlehem paved road still found in Normansville

In Bethlehem, the yellow-brick road doesn't lead to the Emerald City. Instead, followers of what's left of this golden-paved surface will end up under the Delaware Avenue bridge to Albany, next to the Normanskill, in one of the older settlements in the town.

While Normansville today is a sleepy enclave of homes, in the 19th century it was an entirely different place altogether, said Bethlehem Town Historian Susan Leath.

There was a whole really bustling community down there, she said. "All along the Normanskill it goes back really early because of the water power."

In addition to mills and other industry, the Normansville beach provided a close getaway for city dwellers, and a resort town-type environment sprung up with a hotel, dance house and other attractions.

"People from Albany would take the trolley ... and go to the beach down there and spend the day," said Leath.

In the winter, the river was dammed and ice was harvested.

And the way to get to all this was for a very long time the Delaware Turnpike, established in 1805 as one of the many toll roads in the town built of wood planks or gravel. The road bridged the river, though that wood crossing was washed out in 1868, not to be replaced by the concrete "old bridge" until 1913.

It's uncertain exactly when the turnpike was paved, but since the bridge still is covered in yellow bricks some think it was around the time of its installation. Today, the marvel isn't so much that the road was paved, but the color of the bricks used.

Of course, the more ubiquitous Yellow-Brick Road is the one in "The Wizard of Oz." Local legend has it Edgar Allan Poe saw the road on a trip to Albany and, having mentioned it in a letter, the reference was later picked up by L. Frank Baum, the author of the book "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."

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