Many visitors to New York assume that the the five boroughs, especially Manhattan, “are” New York. Why shouldn’t they? Many who reside here think the same way as well. New York State has a rich heritage dating back nearly four centuries, longer of course when one factors in Native American history. That so few people are aware of this history is largely the state’s fault. In the early years of the twentieth century Virginia and Massachusetts rigorously advertised their roles in the American storyline. New York was slower to do so and has been paying the price ever since. That’s why schoolchildren learn about Bunker Hill and Appomattox but not the Battle of Long Island or Evacuation Day. Hopefully an initiative announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo this past Thursday will do something to rectify that. The “Path Through History” will bring together prominent historians to identify points of interest along the New York State Thruway where heritage tourists can get more than a cup of coffee and a fill up. The program is similar to the Journey Through Hallowed Ground that traces the Old Carolina Road through parts of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The wife and I have taken the road less traveled many times and have always been rewarded by the experience.
No timeline has been set for the identifying and marking of historical points to interest along the nearly 600 miles of the New York Thruway, but my guess is that they will start popping up later this year or in 2013. There is certainly much to identify; a short list might include spots along the Underground Railroad, the William Seward home, John Brown’s farm, and Grant Cottage where the general and president died. This is a worthwhile endeavor that will highlight New York’s rich history while also bringing tourist dollars to parts of the state that do not always benefit as well as they might. Look for it soon.