Transcribed from the Alfred Sun, March 14, 1940.
From the Column, “Peaks of Allegany”, by Hubert D. Bliss
Highways have a “peak” place in the Allegany firmament. Nor have they been left to one of the later chapters of this series through lack of appreciation of their rank. In a sense Allegany’s highways belong to the human relations category of these articles, but their position in relation to Empire State superlatives is such that emphasis sways to elevation facts.
Hence the highways can be identified as “the life-line peak” for tying up the physical and human relations of the series.
Oddly enough, it is as reflected glory that Allegany County gets into the picture labeled: “The highest point on the free state highway system.” Yet it seems necessary to begin the highway resume on the Andover– Greenwood route “peak”, for the very reason that it is the most widely known sectional [altitude] point of any sort among Allegany people.
Actually the hilltop rated as the highest point in the free state highway system is in Steuben County. It is a mile or so over the Allegany County line the road attains its maximum elevation of 2,306 feet. The hilltop marks the divide between the Genesee and Susquehanna River watersheds.
While preparing the series I have talk to scores of county residents. And almost every person has known of the high mark of the state highway system at Andover. Except in the Andover region it was presumed to be within Allegany County.
But Allegany County can well share the claim with Steuben County, and feel that it contributes its part. One massive Allegany range –– the Genesee watershed side— supplies one of the shoulders to uphold this “peak” state elevation. Steuben and Allegany merely get together to emphasize the scale to which the region generally is gauged as regards physical features.
Some persons have qualified their reference to the Andover– Greenwood highway as something eclipsed by the road built a few years ago to the top of Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks. There is no need to alter their Andover Greenwood “peak” claim, in the practical sense of highways. Whiteface is a toll road, a scenic drive, up which motorist drives, turns around and descends. It has no economic value in the excepted transportation sense.
Conversely, the Andover–Greenwood Road is part of Route 17, the state route traversing the entire Southern Tier and the Catskills. It is a major transportation artery; serving local and through traffic and regular intercourse the your around. The land surrounding it is cultivated; the region inhabited. The hilltop figure of 2306 feet is still accurate as regards the free highway system peak.
But Allegany County itself has set up its own “peaks” that rate highway elevation honors. Both town and county roads within this county exceed the Andover– Greenwood top. They are traveled roots, too; important links in the regions economic life.
Since it is one of the highest road –state, county or town– maintained as a free highway in the state, it is proper to site the Alma Hill Road first. This is an Alma town road, listed on the farm–to–market program, that goes right to the top of Alma Hill —highest point in the Empire State outside of the Adirondacks and Catskills.
Alma hill is rated as 2548 feet above sea level by the United States geological survey. The benchmark of this elevation is only a short distance from the road and only a few feet higher. The highway links the arable eastern slope –toward Wellsville– with the wooded western slope, where it takes a southwesterly direction into Alma settlement at the base.
The oil leases in Alma Township make this “peak” road one of the important town roads in the county. It has a gravel base its entire length, and is hard surfaced some of the distance. Alma Township is putting 1 mile of hard-top on each year.
This road is top-notch to travel over-the winter season excepted. Even in winter oilmen, hill residents and school conveyances use it but it does not invite outsiders.
The Adirondacks and Catskills open and up a mighty territory for arrival to Alma Hill as the states “peak” road. The state detail maps do not indicate that the Adirondacks have any rated roads at that elevation, so far as careful perusal could determine. There the roads skirt the high spots and for the most part are state highways; already eclipsed by the Andover–Greenwood route maximum of 2,306 feet.
In the Catskills there are many more county and town roads on the state system than in the Adirondacks. In fact the road pattern of Schohario, Delaware, Ulster and Green counties resembles that of Allegany County, in keeping with the closer approach those sections have to Allegany in respect to arability at high elevations.
Still the town or county roads of the Catskills that touch the high spots appear mighty limited on the state maps. Except for one route south of Margaretsville, routes higher than Alma Hill are not so rated as to indicate that year round traffic is maintained. But in a conservative sense, dictated by the fact that it is a big question open to varying interpretations, Allegany County should rest content with the claim to being one of the highest roads in the state traveled the year around.
Within the county road division also the high points are widely distributed. Yet two routes virtually tie on the County Highway Department records for “peak” honors. One out of Alfred, on the Elm Valley Highway which joins State Route 17 about 5 miles east of Wellsville, traverses the 2,300 foot contour line of the U.S. Geological Survey map. On the Andover– independence route, a mile north of Independence, The same contour line is passed.
The official figures computed from the old route survey notes at the County Highway Department office in Belmont give the edge to the Elm Valley road by seven feet. The high spot located as 2 1/4 miles southwest of Alfred, is 2,314 feet above sea level. The peak on the Andover–Independence highway is 2,307 feet about 125 feet south of the town line.
But Bolivar, Willing, Almond, Birdsall, Wirt, Cuba, Rushford, Centerville and other towns have county routes –or paved town roads- within approximate altitude ranges.
Hence to list Allegany’s “peak” roads one finds:
First –-Alma Hill town road, 2,540 feet; when is the highest year-round traffic roads in the state.
Second––Elm Valley (Alfred) and Andover–Independence routes, rating 2314 and 2307 feet for county road laurels.
Third ––Andover–Greenwood State highway, the Allegany slope upholding the Steuben County maximum of 2,306 feet at the highest point on the free state highway system.
These are only the toppers in their division, however, of an amazing network of roads that serve the Allegany highlands. Roads follow the valleys where there is a ready way out. But they go “up–and–over” most hills either for through traffic or to reach farmlands on top. Many good ridge drive's also provide Allegany folks their own unheralded skyline drive's.
Primarily then one can think of Allegany Roads is going over hills, rather than around them; so that the highest populated region in the Empire State is of easy access. In a scenic sense, the county's vast panorama is spread out over in an incomparable pattern for those who traverse Its highways and by-ways.
More significantly, however does this highway network knit together a country that finds on hillside and hilltop farm and oil lands that cement its economic life with valley hamlets and villages. Indeed the transportation system of Allegany County scarcely can be rivaled in the state, all factors considered. Hence it is that traffic “peaks” that rate among the highest in the state unite its people in economic and social pursuits of real distinction.
Copyright 1940 by H D Bliss.