New Hartford lies on the route from Hartford to Albany, the Old North Road, also known as the Farmington River Turnpike or the Albany Turnpike. This road gradually developed from a path to a road to a turnpike during the early 1700′s. From New Hartford it continued on up the Farmington to Pleasant Valley and Riverton in Barkhamsted. This early link between the two towns is slightly obscured today because the stretch of road between the North Village of New Hartford and Pleasant Valley in Barkhamsted has long been abandoned. This is because the Greenwoods Turnpike, now Route 44, was built on the other side of the Farmington River in the late 1700?s and was a slightly better route.
As the area was colonized, the side roads developed. A more direct road to Barkhamsted’s nominal center from New Hartford’s North Village took off along the route of Holcomb Hill Road, branching off of the turnpike at the ford for the North Village. The Holcomb hill road was laid out in 1756, with New Hartford voting to clear the road if: “they can do it with pooting the Town of New Hartford to but little caust.”
Barkhamsted’s second road was established in the 1760”s. This road branched off from Town Hill along Burgoyne Heights. It followed this low plateau above the swamp and river valley across Rust Hill. It dropped down to Fancher Road on Route 44 and then headed up Wallens Hill on what is now Old North Road past the Sterling Engineering buildings. This road was an alternate to the section of the Farmington River Turnpike that ran through Pleasant Valley and Riverton. While never a competitor for freight traffic, it was an important alternate during the Revolutionary War and it was along it that portions of Burgoyne’s Army marched as prisoners following their defeat at Saratoga in 1777. It had the advantage of being a more direct route between Town Hill, then New Hartford’s center, West Hill, and western Barkhamsted than going down into the North Village. There were also no major fords or bridges between Town Hill and Pleasant Valley, with only one minor river crossing at Fancher Road.
The third New Hartford-Barkhamsted road was the short connection between the Farmington River Turnpike up to the North and South Hollows, which lay in the east branch of the river. This road, now under the reservoirs, connected Granby to the Albany Turnpike as well.
Anne Hall grew up in New Hartford, studied abroad and is now happily living in New Hartford again. Anne works as an architectural historian and general history researcher. As a volunteer, she writes a weekly article for the Blog section of the the New Hartford Historical Society. You may contact Anne by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and writing “History” in the subject line.