The old military academy.
Military academy in 1890.

Original Yellow Brick Road (Claimed)

Field review by the editors.

Peekskill, New York

In the film The Wizard of Oz Dorothy follows The Yellow Brick Road to the dreamy Technicolor metropolis of Emerald City. But the street that may have inspired the optimistic canary-colored route actually led to the depressing hulk of a military academy in Peekskill, New York.

In 1868, 12-year-old Frank Baum (later to pen the Oz series of children's books) was sent away to Peekskill's military school. At the time there was a road named West Street that led from the waterfront uphill to the school. It was made of stone blocks that definitely have a lemony hue. The theory goes that young Baum arrived via steamboat, asked someone the way to the academy, and received the catchy reply, "Follow the Yellow Brick Road." Since Baum did not enjoy his time in Peekskill -- he wrote home complaining that the school staff "were about as human as a school of fish" -- perhaps he fantasized about following the road down the hill and straight out of town.

Some Peekskill citizens recognize the historic importance of their road -- now reduced to a weed-grown 50-foot-long alley behind a wine shop -- and hope to memorialize it. Plans were floated by one particularly passionate believer in the Yellow Brick Road origin to erect bronze statues of Dorothy, Toto, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, and Scarecrow along the waterfront, but they didn't advance beyond the imaginary stage.

At least some people appreciate the landmark; according to the owner of the wine shop, a few occasionally come by and try to steal a brick.

July 2014: Former Peekskill mayor John Testa writes to us: "Frank Baum spent about 18 months at Peekskill Military Academy when he was 12-13 years old. That is the history. There was never any conversation for him 'to follow the yellow brick road to PMA.' The railroad was in place by the time he came in 1867, so there was no road to the dock. He probably arrived by train anyway. Yes, we have a connection to Baum and therefore can claim his time here. Yes, we can say we hope the roads of Peekskill (of which there were many with those bricks) had some influence. However, many if not most areas of the country that Baum lived or frequented had similar bricks."

And there are other towns claiming Y.B.R. primacy. Even Baum's great-grandson Roger S. Baum has said that "the Yellow Brick Road was named after winding cobblestone roads in Holland, Michigan."

Also see: Yellow Brick Road | Land of Oz | Dorothy's House

Original Yellow Brick Road (Claimed)

Directions:
On the west side of S. Water St., just north of Hudson St., behind the landmark Standard House (a square brick building with "Standard House" on the front) at 50 Hudson St.

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August 21, 2014

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