Created By: Upper Madison Improvement Group
In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a number of turnpikes unfurled from Albany, beckoning settlers to explore the new republic. You're standing near one of the most important.
Western Avenue began as the Great Western Turnpike. Chartered in 1799, it was the main route for overland travel to Buffalo. Its toll-gate house stood about where Marion Avenue hits Western today. Though built by private investors, turnpikes brought a lot of money to Albany; early nineteenth-century settlers would outfit here before beginning their journeys.
Even after the Erie Canal and the railway thinned the traffic, the turnpike helped shape the neighborhood. Farmers entered Albany here on their way to the downtown markets, and wagoneers hauled in sand for construction projects. They kept hotels near the Madison-Western Junction busy into the late nineteenth century.
In time people saw the toll-gate as a roadblock. “Albany should no longer be kept fenced in,” as one account put it in the 1870s. “The city [is] rapidly increasing and the toll gates [are] decidedly in the way.”
The gate that stood here was demolished in 1906.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Pine Hills