Ken Gottry - Cambridge NY History

In 1913 the Village of Cambridge paved its Main Street with yellow bricks. My great grandfather, William L. Hitchcock, was given the task of finishing a project that floundered through much of the year.

Cambridge began as four small communities each located 3/4 of a mile from the next along our current Main Street. To the East was Dorr's Corners at the intersection of Gilbert Street (NYS Route 313). Moving westward, you found North White Creek at the intersection of Park Street (NYS Route 22). Next was Cambridge Corners, at the intersection of Union Street (the Great Northern Turnpike, built 1799-1804 from Lansingburgh to Granville). Finally at the West was Stephenson's Corners, later renamed Coila.

Between North White Creek (now called the East End) and Cambridge Corners (now called the West End) was the Cambridge Swamp formed by the junction of Blair's Brook (now Owl Kill) and Cambridge Creek. For a century and a half, this swamp formed a political, religious, and economic separation between the two communities. Main Street was impassable after even the briefest of showers and was a quagmire after heavy snowfalls and early Spring downpours.

Three of the communities (all except Coila) united in April 1866 to form the village of Cambridge. While the incorporation presented a united community on paper, the terms of the union called for an East District and a West District. For over 60 years, the village had separate support structures on the East and on the West: Trustees, Police Dept, Fire Dept, Road Crews, and more. The village was united but separate.

In the late 1880's, J.B.Rice built his Seed House in the middle of the community after filling in much of the swamp with 3,000 truckloads of dirt. In 1891 Rice deeded land next to his business for the construction of a new school. Since 1799, Cambridge had had separate buildings of education on the East End and on the West End. Thanks to Rice, the Cambridge Union School helped bring the two districts a little closer together.

In 1901, the Village Board voted to pave Main Street in order to provide easy passage during any weather. Multiple proposals and multipe votes over the next 11 years and still no work had started. In Mar-1913, lines for the new curbing were finally drawn. By August, the project was floundering in the face of strikes, unmet payrolls, and delays in shipment of bricks and concrete. My great grandfather took control of the project and by Christmas Cambridge had its Yellow Brick Road from the corporation line on the East to the corporation line on the West.

This presentation explains why Main Street needed paving, how it was accomplished, and the effects on the Village, effects that linger today.