Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Back to the Hills of Bridgewater (NY)

I-90 is the driveway of our summers
Tempis fugit (time flies), as they say, and today's post is a reminder of just how fast. It is difficult to believe that we started this little project almost five years ago, and just as difficult to believe that it has been four years since our visit to Bridgewater, New York. Our return was just in time, it turns out, as Bridgewater is about to disappear!

That's an exaggeration, of course. Bridgewater is a village within the town of Bridgewater. It comprises just about one of its twenty-some square miles, and includes its main highway intersection, all town offices, and close to half the population. Voters recently decided that little was to be gained by continuing the overlapping jurisdictions of such small units of government, and so the village (with its included hamlets) will cease to be separately administered at the end of 2014.

Photo: Lake Chalet; we took almost no photos during our Bridgewater getaway
As with our 2010 visit, we found ourselves in Bridgewater in connection with picking up our daughter from her home-away-from-home camp in the Adirondacks. This time, however, we decided to spend a couple of days in the area (a bit south of the area, actually) for a few days. When making a plan, we eschewed the urban temptations of Utica (that is, brewery tours) and chose a pet-friendly get-away with our blog dog, most of whose adventures are vicarious at best. It did not take us long to realize that the perfect place to go would be Lake Chalet, just north of the village center.

This family-run and family-friendly property surrounds a stocked, six-acre lake and provides every level of rusticity. Visitors can choose to camp, hookup their own campers, rent a cabin, rent a motel room, or rent an efficiency. We chose the last of these options, enjoying the convenience of cooking for ourselves in a very comfortable room with a view of the lake and nearby mountains. Just perfect! We saw people enjoying all of the other options (including the fishing), and we even rented a little boat the second day to keep up my rowing skills!

During our return, we delved into the history of the town just a bit more, though we did not get a chance to visit the local historical society. When we do -- as I am sure we will return some day -- I want to ask about the possible Tory origins of the town. Various online guides mention that it was named for the Duke of Bridgewater, and that it was settled and established in 1788 and 1797, respectively. To be named for a British noble in the early days of the revolution and republic ... well, there must be a story.

One interesting story surrounds the location of the settlement, at the intersection of what would be Route 8 (a regional highway) and Route 20 (a national highway). The former originated as a plank road, which is exactly what it sounds like -- a road paved with boards! Apparently these were common in several states in the decades preceding the Civil War. As Daniel Klein and John Majewski have explained in Plank Fever, such roads were funded by investors who believed exaggerated (and fabricated) claims of the longevity of this peculiar form of pavement. The movement was tolerated -- even encouraged -- because it allowed for private investment in lieu of what really should have been publicly-financed infrastructure. Until it unraveled, that is, almost literally.