This does lend credence to my observation in an earlier post about the possible undergrading of the Old Route.
The AMC chart does suggest how Old Route got to be 5.5, because in that chart AMC 5 corresponds to 5.5-5.6.
Yes! That explains why I couldn't make it 5.5 without going around the obvious crack, and it fits your assumption that Fritz would have preferred that line. I couldn't reconcile the difficulty of the moves with the printed grade despite the route description.
Absolutely fun digging through this historical mystery!
I've been blown away by learning that in the early sixties congress had proposed a study to investigate putting in a scenic highway along the crest of the ridge. It was averted by a letter writing campaign by climbers and hotel guests. Then in the 70's a jetport was proposed near the base of the cliffs. I am guessing this is what became SWF in Newburgh. Add to this the Save The Ridge campaign and you see that the battle to protect this area was on unsure footing more than once!