America’s First Highway | The National Road, National Geographic: Toll House on The National Road

Car lights streak by today but at an earlier period in history, wagons lined up twenty deep at Searight’s Tollhouse, one of six built in Pennsylvania in the mid-1830s.  When the U.S. turned over the road, and its expense, to the state, tolls charged for traveling on the road were based on the number of animals and type of vehicle. Every score of sheep and pigs cost only 6 cents, but cattle cost 12. A person traveling on horseback was charged 4 cents, and a stagecoach with two horses and four wheels cost 12 cents. Tolls were collected until 1905.

The tollhouse’s namesake, William Searight, owned a prosperous roadside tavern and was a contractor who worked on the National Road who was later appointed commissioner of the Pennsylvania section (but had no connection with the tollhouse itself).Designed by the Army Corps of Engineers, the tollhouses resembled lighthouses. The historic building is lit up at dusk on US-40 west of Unionville, PA.