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The Seneca Road Company was formed to improve the main road running west from Utica, New York, the Genesee Road, from Utica to Canandaigua and operate it as a toll road or turnpike.[1] The road was originally laid out in 1794 from Baggs Square in downtown Utica (then Old Fort Schuyler) at the ford of the Mohawk River and followed the Indian trail past Syracuse to Canandaigua. Some accounts say it went to Geneva and Avon originally. There was no City of Syracuse then. The road became known as the Seneca Turnpike, which was 157 miles (253 km) long and, at the time, the longest toll road in the state.[2]

On April 1, 1800, the privately held Seneca Road Company received a state charter with a capitalization of $110,000. This was a stock company with prominent local investors including Jedediah Sanger, Benjamin Walker, John Kirkland, and Wilhelmus Mynderss.

The company received a land grant of a 120-foot (37 m) right of way, but the roadway was 28 feet (8.5 m). The firm was required to clear a road six rods (99 ft; 30 m) wide of all trees. Completed to Canandaigua by 1808, it reached Buffalo in 1813.

Other state stipulations were

  • the fare would be 6 cents per mile (3.7 ¢/km) (equivalent to 89 ¢/mi (55 ¢/km) in 2018[3])
  • four horses be used per coach
  • a maximum of 12 passengers per coach
  • speed of 6 miles per hour (10 km/h)
  • coaches also carry U.S. Mail.

The road quickly led to the building of many hotels and inns along the route and was a catalyst of commerce.

Toll gates were at 10-mile (16 km) intervals. The company was profitable and paid dividends of 10 percent for 30 years. Competition from newly constructed railroads in the late 1830s reduced traffic.

In 1846, with revenues insufficient to maintain the turnpike, the company concluded it could no longer compete and be profitable. It surrendered its charter back to New York State thus ending the private phase of the Seneca Turnpike. The company was dissolved and the roadway reverted to a public road.[4][1] The roadway is still in existence as part of New York State Route 5 and is still called the Seneca Turnpike or Old Seneca Turnpike in some places.


  1. ^ a b Hulbert, Archer Butler (1971). Historic Highways of America. Ams Pr Inc.
  2. ^ Baer, Christopher T. (2005). "Turnpikes". In Eisenstadt, Peter R.; Moss, Laura-Eve (eds.). The Encyclopedia of New York State. Syracuse University Press. pp. 1588–1589. ISBN 978-0-8156-0808-0.
  3. ^ Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved January 2, 2019.
  4. ^ "Seneca Turnpike - Clinton Historical Society".