Don Rittner, newly appointed Executive Director of the Warren County Historical Society and a filmmaker and author of more than 50 books, has launched a new Youtube series, History on the Road.
Rittner and his traveling colleague Justyna Kostek, Director of Just More Theater in New York City, have embarked on an adventure series traveling over the oldest highways of America, stopping at historic communities, interviewing historians and interesting people, and even trying to solve local history mysteries along the way.
Rittner says he began the concept back in 2012 but wanted a different format and reorganized the show in 2018. The series released today is the new format and contains eleven episodes featuring the Great Western Turnpike, one of the oldest turnpikes in America that went from Albany, New York To Cherry Valley, New York, a distance of 52 miles. It is now part of Historic Route 20, said to be the longest road in America.
The eleven episodes feature stops and interviews in Guilderland, Duanesburg, Esperance, Sharon Springs and Cherry Valley. In those communities, Rittner and Kostek interview an Irish Pulitzer Prize winning poet and his NY Times bestseller wife, the last of the Beat Poets, a former famous San Francisco Jazz Singer, and they explore the famous medicinal springs and abandoned hotels in Cherry Valley.
In one episode they learn that the residents of one village ganged together, forged a silver bullet, and shot a woman dead because they thought she was a witch. Another community features a woman who gave birth to a “Stone baby.” One episode features an 18th century city of New York mayor who wanted to make Duanesburg the Capital of New York.
Rittner says he wanted to show that major historical events and fascinating people were not just confined to large urban areas but that rural areas and small villages also had people that made major contributions to the American experience.
You can watch the first eleven episodes on the Great Western Turnpike on YouTube.
Photo of Don Rittner and Justyna Kostek provided.