The Original Yellow Brick Road
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 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 have been floated to erect bronze statues of Dorothy, Toto, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, and Scarecrow along the waterfront, but they have not advanced 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.