Last Thursday at a Chamber meeting, I met a local woman, Deb Carlin, who is passionate about the book “The Wizard of Oz”; she spoke to us all about Frank Baum, the author, who lived in Peekskill for several years as a teenager in the 1860’s. This is all pretty recent news, and maps from that time period, backed up by historical facts, show there really was an actual yellow brick road, which currently is a parking lot in downtown Peekskill. From these findings, many believe Baum was inspired by the yellow brick road that became the backbone for the story.
I really love this stuff, but I had to go see for myself, and today I did. West Street comes up if you Google it, but there isn't a sign; if you go down Hudson Ave. towards the river, make a right on S. Water Street, drive maybe 50 ft and look to your left. It is behind Dylan's Wine Cellar (another great find!), you cannot miss it.
Awesome stuff, eh? Recently CBS did a piece on the many locals who would like to see a commemorative memorial to be home along the Peekskill Riverfront.
I did a little research and found out that John Curran, a Peekskill City Historian, wrote a piece about his findings which were published in The Wall Street Journal:
"In 2005, a Fulbright scholar and artist persuaded John Testa, who was the mayor of Peekskill at the time, to conduct an authenticity study on the road. Mr. Curran uncovered maps showing that West Street, which leads from the steamboat dock up a hill to the military academy, was indeed made of Dutch pavers, a common yellow-hued brick in the Dutch-settled area. The maps showed Mr. Baum had to have walked along the road to get to school, Mr. Curran said."
Since then many people are coming together to make this project a reality. Plans have been made to create a yellow brick road along the riverfront with life-size sculptures of the book’s famous characters and to be sculpted by Richard Masloski; you can see his work at the Peekskill Lincoln Depot and Rip Van Winkle for the town of Irvington. Google him, very impressive.
The City of Peekskill is supportive but the funds are just not there, there is talk of a fundraiser where one can "buy a brick", as I get more info I will be sure to share it with you. This could be another reason to come to the lower Hudson Valley; sculptures of everyone’s favorite film characters along the riverfront. And, Toto, too!