A Bicentennial Review of Parma’s Most Traveled Highway
Joe Reinschmidt, Author
As Parma’s Bicentennial Year draws to a close, it seems appropriate to see what effect 200 years have had on this travel/commercial corridor and its people. Whether you call it Ridge Road, West Ridge Road, Ridge Road West, Ridge Road East, or Route 104, it is a formidable highway that extends from the Niagara frontier to the foothills of the Adirondack area. About six miles of it are located in southern Parma.
The history of the Ridge began long before white settlers arrived and long before Native Americans frequented the area. Historians have accepted the geological conclusion that the Ridge runs substantially along what was the southern shoreline of a pre-historic lake.
It has been named Lake Iroquois in honor of our Native American brothers and sisters.
As the glacier that created that lake receded, rich soil was deposited, providing generally good soil for agricultural purposes, except for the first half mile to one mile north of the Ridge, where the topsoil is thin and bedrock near or in some areas at the surface. Lake Ontario is the remainder of Lake Iroquois, which in its day extended about 8 miles further south than the current shoreline in Parma.
One legacy of that old shoreline was the abundant deposits of cobblestone, which ultimately were used in building construction in the area. Cobblestone buildings are somewhat unique to Western New York and a large number of them are located on, or within a short distance of the Ridge. Parma is lucky to still have a few.
As Native Americans began to inhabit the area, a trail was established along the prehistoric shoreline. It was the forerunner of today’s Ridge Road. Other than being a traveled way, it bore little resemblance to today’s asphalt pavement. It’s also doubtful there were any moccasin or bow-and-arrow shops along the way. A second trail, running North and South, crossed the Ridge trail at what eventually became known as Parma Corners. It was called the Canawaugus Trail and essentially was where NY Route 259 is located. Some early maps actually called that roadway Canawaugus Road.
In 1808, when the State Legislature accepted the petition for creation of the Town of Parma, and in 1809 when it became official, the hamlet of Parma Corners was the only location on the Ridge in Parma that contained some concentration of population and services.
While there were several other mill-sites elsewhere on the Ridge, Parma Corners seemed to be the location of choice for entrepreneurs. Apparently the modern real estate adage of location-location-location was also embraced by the early settlers. The first tavern in Parma was built at Parma Corners in 1809 by Hope and Elisha Davis who had arrived there in 1805. Perhaps it was felt that having been established as a Township, more travelers and settlers would be coming to Parma. There were several stage coach lines that ran regular schedules for travelers. Eating, drinking, lodging and horse boarding establishments catered to their needs and wants. Several distilleries were also operating.
The buildup to the construction of the Erie Canal served to increase traffic and development on the Ridge and many felt this would be an area of rapid and permanent growth. This proved to be false hope as eventually the coming of the canal and the railroads thru Spencerport and Hilton greatly reduced travel on the Ridge and eventually eliminated the need for stage coach service.
That decline would be reversed many years later with the advent of motor vehicles.
Part two of this series will feature information about some unique sights, both old and newer that exist along or near the Ridge. Part three will talk about a few interesting individuals who were part of the neighborhood of Ridge Road in Parma.