Road Trips
Addison Toll House

My sons and I continued our 2009 National Road/US 40 tour from Maryland into Pennsylvania and West Virginia. I’ve just freshened up those posts, adding a little detail and improving the photographs. Here are all of those posts:

We intended to continue our trip across Ohio, but just as we entered the state we had an automobile accident that totaled my car. Fortunately, we were physically unharmed. Read about it here.

Updated: Posts about the National Road and US 40 in Pennsylvania and West Virginia

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Addison Toll House

Addison Toll House
Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom
2009

Shortly after the old National Road enters Pennsylvania from Maryland, you come upon this odd little building. It was a toll house, built in the 1830s when the government turned the road over to the states through which it passed. They had to pay somehow to maintain the road, and so Pennsylvania tolled it.

A tollkeeper lived in the toll house rent free, and was paid a salary for his work.

The toll rate depended on what you were driving. And I use that term broadly: either you were driving a vehicle, usually beast-drawn, or you were driving herds. But if your vehicle had wheels wider than eight inches, it was free, because it helped compact the road.

Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Addison Toll House

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Road Trips

Scenes from the National Road in 1920

Long about March I’ve been cooped up so long that I start to itch for my first spring road trip. The guys over at the American Road forum have been talking about the National Road a lot lately. One fellow there has started an ambitious online project to capture the road’s history. It has me coming out of my skin to hit the old alignments!

I won an eBay auction recently for a stack of little cards, printed in 1920, showing scenes from the National Road in Maryland and Pennsylvania. They reminded me of my trip last spring along the same route, and only made me want to get out on the road even more!

This card shows the Wilson Bridge, my favorite bridge on the Maryland portion of the road.

National Road, 1920

This bridge isn’t as white today, but she’s still a real beauty. I took the photo below from the shore at about the center of the card’s right edge.

Wilson's Bridge

The road has been rerouted several times over Polish Mountain since 1920. This is what it looked like then.

National Road, 1920

This is the view from the old road on Polish Mountain now. I-68 certainly wasn’t part of the view in 1920!

The view from Gilpin Road

Maybe it was because Maryland was a tough act to follow, but I wasn’t very impressed with the views in Pennsylvania. This card makes me want to give that state a second chance.

National Road, 1920

You can check out all eight of these cards in my Flickr space.

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History, Preservation, Road Trips

This post about the National Road in Pennsylvania is brought to you by the letter S

S bridge

I have this writer/artist friend who tries to get my engineering-school-educated roadgeek goat by saying things like, “Bridges are named after people who stir the soul, the poets and the artists! That’s why you never see bridges named after engineers!” In response, I usually make pshh noises and say things like, “Seeing his design built is more satisfying to the engineer than any plaque with his name on it might be!”

It’s only been in the past 100 years or so that engineers have figured out cost-effective ways to build a strong bridge at an angle across a creek or river. It has always been easier and cheaper to build them straight across the water. Check this out:

S-bridge

That’s US 40, the old National Road, six miles west of Washington, Pennsylvania. Notice the creek on the left and the two bridges over it – the current US 40 bridge just south of the old, abandoned, S-shaped National Road bridge. Some 19th-century engineer certainly faced limited funds when he was hired to span this gap. So he said, “Let’s build this sucker straight across the creek, and twist the road at either end where it approaches the bridge. That will bring this thing in within budget.” Okay, I wasn’t there, so I only assume he said that. But since “within budget” has been the engineer’s constant companion and, often, nemesis across the ages, from before the Roman aqueducts were designed, I’m pretty comfortable asserting the claim.

Only a few S bridges remain in the nation, and for some reason almost all of them are in Ohio. This is the only one in Pennsylvania. This westbound photo shows the bridge’s curve and includes a reproduction National Road milestone. (Many original cast-iron milestones still stand along the road. This reproduction is made of fiberglass.)

S bridge

What I don’t understand is how there’s one arch on the bridge’s south side and two on the north side. Maybe the other arch is covered up on the other side.

S bridge

I can just hear the state highway worker when his wife asks him about his day. “Oh, I mowed a bridge this afternoon.”

S bridge

While researching this post, I found this 1894 image of the bridge still in use. If only I had seen this photo before my trip, I’d have taken a shot from the same angle. Notice the house in the center of the photo, which partially appears at the edge of two of my photos above.

1894-s-bridge

This bridge does not appear to be named for anyone. Even if it were, I’ll bet everybody would just call it “the S bridge” anyway. I think the next time my friend tries to get my goat, I’ll point out how many bridges are named after politicians. Stir the soul indeed. More like clench the gut.

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Road Trips

Addison Toll House on the National Road in Pennsylvania

Because roads are expensive to maintain, and because the railroad became a better way to move goods across this young nation in the mid-1800s, the government became anxious to hand the National Road over to the states through which it passed. As that happened, the states pretty shortly erected toll houses and collected tolls to pay for maintenance. A few of those toll houses still stand: LaVale, Maryland; Searights, Pennsylvania; and this one, in Addison, Pennsylvania, just 2.5 miles west from where the road leaves Maryland.

Addison Toll House

Just left of the toll house’s door is a sign listing the toll rates. Toll roads charge by the axle today, but in those days you paid for every living thing that walked on the road and for every carriage, wagon, or cart that rolled over the road. So if you were driving a herd of cattle along the road, you paid 12 cents for every 20 head. Hogs and sheep were less expensive at six cents per 20. The toll for wagons depended on the width of the wheels, with wider wheels generally leading to a smaller toll. If your wagon’s wheels were eight inches or wider, it and the attached horses passed for free! Maybe they thought that wheels that wide would help compact the road, a maintenance task that had to be done anyway.

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