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'Wizard Of Oz' Yellow Brick Road Peekskill Tale Is Disproved

The cast of an upcoming Peekskill production of "The Wizard of Oz," at the famed yellow brick road.
The cast of an upcoming Peekskill production of "The Wizard of Oz," at the famed yellow brick road. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Scarlett Antonia

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. -- Could the yellow brick road from the "The Wizard of Oz" really lead to Peekskill?

One of the city's most enduring tales is that when L. Frank Baum, author of "The Wizard of Oz," arrived in Peekskill by boat from his hometown of Chittenango, N.Y., to attend Peekskill Military Academy, he asked someone how to get to the school.

Baum was  told to follow "the yellow brick road" at West Street in Peekskill. The line stuck with him, leading to Peekskill to being the origin of one of the most quoted lines in history.

Unfortunately, it's probably not very true. While Baum did attend Peekskill Military Academy for 18 months, it is not where he got the famous line from.

According to an interview with Roger Baum, Frank Baum's great grandson, the famed yellow brick road was named after a street in Michigan where Baum spent vacations with his family.

"It's a false story promoted for marketing purposes," County Legislator John Testa, a lifelong Peekskill resident who previously served as mayor, said. "Most streets back then had yellow brick. It's nothing unique to Peekskill."

Testa said the bricks were manufactured after 1900, while Baum was in the city in 1868.

"It's a totally contrived story," Testa said. "It's a nice thing to say that he came here, but that's  the only connection he had."

Baum didn't even arrive to Peekskill by boat, but he came via train, Testa said. He said there is no documentation of that conversation ever taking place.

"It's great to imagine him being inspired or influenced by his time here," Testa said. "Peekskill is so rich in history. It's not fair or ethical to promote something that isn't true."

Despite the myth-making, Peekskill's love for "The Wizard of Oz," continues. The play was performed at the Colonial Theater in 1905 and will be performed again at the Paramount on Jan. 16, 17 and 18.

Producer Scarlett Antonia of Antonia Arts said she is excited to bring the show to Peekskill.

"This is something that has to happen," Antonia said. "When it was performed here in 1905, people were lined up down the street."

And as for the possibility that the yellow brick road story is all a myth?

"People can interpret it however they want to," Antonia said.

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