Created By: Heritage Hill Association
"The Crookedest Street in the World"
Located between Columbia and Washington Streets
The Burlington business district was built in a natural amphitheater surrounded by hills. With all commerce situated in this valley, transportation was extremely difficult for the residents living on the steep hills surrounding the downtown. Burlington citizens realized that a new and improved form of road system was needed for travel to and from the residential area and the business district.
In 1894, Snake Alley was constructed with an experimental street design. It was devised by three Germans who replicated the vineyard paths in France and Germany.
In 1974, Snake Alley was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. The homes surrounding the street were standing before construction began, thus giving the street the appearance of an alley.
There is a legend that the fire department used this alley to test horses. If a horse could take the curves at a gallop and still be breathing when it reached the top, it was deemed fit to haul the city's fire wagons. Unfortunately, many teams would run out of control or stumble over the limestone curbing, sometimes resulting in a broken leg.
Snake Alley is composed of tooled, curved limestone curbing and locally-fired blueclay bricks. The constantly changing slant from one curve to the next required a complicated construction technique to keep the high grade to the outside. Snake Alley consists of five half-curves and two quarter-curves over a distance of 275 feet, rising 58.3 feet from Washington Street to Columbia.
The craftsmanship and soundness of materials used in the construction of Snake Alley have made it a durable street. Today, the brick paving is still the original used in construction more than one hundred years ago.
With its many twists and turns, Robert Ripley of Ripley’s Believe It, Or Not! named Snake Alley the “Crookedest Street in the World.” Snake Alley rivals Lombard Street in San Francisco for the honor. Visitors are encouraged to travel this landmark and symbol of heritage, in Burlington by foot, bicycle, or motorized vehicle.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Heritage Hill Historic District Walking Tour