SCHENECTADY — A former Schenectady County Historian hit the road last year to produce a new YouTube series detailing the hidden history of small towns throughout New York.
Don Rittner, the author of more than 50 books and the current Executive Director of the Warren County Historical Society, explored the Great Western Turnpike for 11 episodes of his recently released series “History on the Road.”
Teaming up with his traveling colleague Justyna Kostek, the director of Just More Theater in New York City, traversed 52 miles of the Great Western Turnpike from Albany to Cherry Valley for the show’s first season, uncovering the hidden history of the region along the way.
“What I was trying to show is that when you study history in school it’s always about the big events and about the big urban areas, when in reality most of American history was created by people in small villages,” Rittner said. “So we thought we would find the earliest highways of America and travel those and stop at the oldest villages and see who was from there and what kind of contributions they had made to American history.”
The 11 episodes in the show’s inaugural season includes stops in Duanesburg, Guilderland, Esperance, Sharon Springs and Cherry Valley.
Rittner notes that Duanesburg has a rich history, as the town was named in the late 1700s after founder and former New York City Mayor James Duane.
“In 1794 he bought thousands of acres because he wanted to make it the capital of New York State,” Rittner explained. “So Duanesburg could have been the capital of New York and I thought that was kind of interesting. There’s quite a bit of history in Duanesburg.”
Rittner says the show discovered revelations about each stop on the hosts’ journey.
“These are communities where you blink your eyes and you’re through them,” he said. “You drive through and you don’t think much is going on. As we find every time we go to a place, there’s always somebody who made some kind of major contribution to American history that nobody ever heard of.”
Rittner, the former Schenectady County and city historian, said he would like a potential second season to focus on the Adirondacks.
Rittner said he hopes a second season could receive a television deal, with public television a preferred destination.
“We thought we would end up with three episodes but there was so much material that it ended up becoming 11 episodes,” he said. “So we want to continue doing that and we’re looking for a partner, maybe a TV network or something to continue doing it.”
Rittner says he plans on doing a GoFundMe campaign to obtain enough funding to do the next season of shows.
The first episode of “History on the Road” has received over 1,400 views, with the entire season available now at youtube.com/@historyontheroad.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: Email Newsletter, News, News, Schenectady, Schenectady County