The infamous yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz was based off of the yellow brick road that led from the Peekskill waterfront to the Peekskill Military academy in the late 1860s, says Peekskill Historian John Curran. Author L. Frank Baum attended the Academy from 1868 until 1870.
And for the last ten years Curran has been dedicated to preserving the collection of yellow bricks behind the Standard House and erecting a bronze statue of the main characters of the iconic book. Curran has lobbied politicians and held lectures around the area educating the public on the whimsical 50-foot piece of history located in Peekskill’s riverfront area.
According to the Peekskill historian, who has studied the topic extensively, Baum was sent to Peekskill Military academy in 1868. Curran believes that the 12-year-old Baum must have taken a steamboat down the Hudson and was told to “follow the yellow brick road” from the Hudson up to the Academy. Letters from his time there have been documented and he often reported that he was miserable at the Academy.
Curran told the Wall Street Journal’s Shelly Banjo that Baum’s dissatisfaction with the Academy revealed itself in the Wizard of Oz. “Whenever the characters get off the yellow brick road, they get into trouble,” Curran said.
The small section of yellow brick behind the Standard House is all that remains of the original road, but a study conducted under John Testa’s mayoral administration shows that the bricks that remain are Dutch pavers, a common yellow-hued brick in the Dutch-settled area.
The WSJ reports that last year Curran teamed up with a Westchester resident, Deborah Polhill and sculptor Richard Masloski and tried to get the city to designate a piece of public land to a life-size bronze cast of characters – the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, Toto and Dorothy. The price is $225,000 and the city said it is supportive of the project, but has not moved forward with designating any land.
Curran’s battle for the bricks was featured in Banjo’s Wall Street Journal article this morning. Leading up to Oz-Stravaganza festival in Chittenango, NY to be held this Friday, the WSJ talked to Curran and others who are working to commemorate this piece of history. Read the full article here.
Editor's Note: This article originally summarized the Wall Street Journal's report that the city of Peekskill would not pay for bronze statues. The Wall Street Journal was inaccurate, no one ever asked the city to pay for the project, Curran, Polhill and Masloski only suggested to the city that it donate a piece of public land. Mayor Mary Foster said she and her staff is supportive of the idea, but the city has not yet designated any land as of July, 2011.