The Oregon Trail


East of Westfield, US-20 trucks through cherry orchards, vineyards, and dozens of U-pick fruit stands before ebbing into the center of neatly maintained Fredonia (pop. 10,501), possible namesake for the Marx Brothers’ beloved Duck Soup homeland. Site of the first natural gas well in the United States (1821), Fredonia was also—ironically, for a town in the heart of the western New York Wine Belt—the home of one of the earliest chapters of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

Downtown Fredonia boasts the gracefully shaded New England-style town square, bordered by a restored opera house and a host of Greek Revival, Italianate, Victorian, and Gothic 19th-century commercial buildings. A stroll down tree-lined Central Avenue to the north of Main Street (US-20) reveals an equally diverse array of turn-of-the-20th-century homes, which stand in marked contrast to the sterile modernity you encounter up the road in the several I. M. Pei-designed buildings that define the State University of New York (SUNY) Fredonia campus.

East of Fredonia, the vineyards vanish, replaced by the thick stands of scruffy pine trees, used car lots, and cheap-cigarette stands that crowd the roadside along US-20’s 2-mi (3.2-km) passage through the northeastern corner of the Cattaraugus Reservation.


US-20 bumps up north along the lakeshore through several miles of scraggly forest, and you won’t miss a thing by taking the I-90/NY Thruway to exit 57A, which lands you on a two-lane back road bound right for sleepy downtown Eden (pop. 7,688). Eden, a make-your-own-music lovers’ paradise is home to the one-and-only Kazoo Factory, Museum and Gift Shop (8703 S. Main St., 716/992-3960, Mon.-Sat., free). Established in 1916 as the Original American Kazoo Company, it boasts the world’s only still-operating metal kazoo factory (most of the ones now made in China and Hong Kong are plastic). A restored two-story clapboard house contains a gift shop and museum offering an up-close-and-personal view of the factory’s belt-and-pulley metal kazoo production line and the opportunity to sign a petition aimed at getting the kazoo declared America’s national instrument.

After viewing a video extolling the virtues of one of the few musical instruments invented in the United States, visitors can gaze at a display of antique kazoos, ranging from an original wooden model to the bottle-shaped kazoos churned out to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition. A large sign chimes in with some fascinating kazoo-related trivia, describing the most popular kazoo (the slide trombone), the largest kazoo ever made (the 43-pound Kazoophony), and the number of kazoo bands registered in the United States (15,000 and still counting). You can pick up an adenoid-popping nose flute, a trombone kazoo, and a variety of noisemakers in the gift shop on your way out, or grab some wax paper, rubber bands, and an empty toilet paper roll and create your own kazoo.

New York Maps

Map of the Oregon Trail through Pennsylvania and Upstate New York.
Map of the Oregon Trail through Pennsylvania and Upstate New York.
Map of the Oregon Trail through Eastern New York.
Map of the Oregon Trail through Eastern New York.

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