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Views of Narberth Past

Old Lancaster Road toll house, about 1910

Image source: "Taking Toll," Montgomery Ave., Narberth, Pa. Postcard by Philip H. Moore, 6646 Germantown Av., Philadelphia Lower Merion Historical Society

Addresses in view: 346 Meeting House Ln.

modern view of the historical image seen from the same viewpoint
20 May 2017

The toll house, pictured here in its last years of operation, was part of a practice that had existed in America since the 1790s, of private road ownership with maintenance financed by tolls. Old Lancaster Road (Montgomery Avenue) was controlled by the Philadelphia, Bala and Bryn Mawr Turnpike Company. It became "old" when the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike (Lancaster Pike) opened in 1794 as the first engineered toll road in the nation. Several Old Lancaster Road sections in Bala and Bryn Mawr, still extant, connected present-day 54th Street, Montgomery Ave. and Conestoga Road as "The Lancaster Road", visible on the 1777 layer of the Narberth History Map.

In 1876 the Pennsylvania Railroad bought the Lancaster Turnpike from 52nd street to Paoli for $20,000 to suppress competition from streetcar lines. In 1913 the state bought both toll roads, in 1917 made them free, and within the next decade Lancaster Pike was incorporated into the national highway system.

Cream colored 3-story house with a peaked roof
46 Meetinghouse Lane in 2017

All the toll houses were put up for auction with the stipulation that the winning bidders remove them by January 1, 1918. This toll house on Montgomery Avenue across from Merion Meeting House was moved to its present location at 346 Meeting House Lane in Narberth.

newspaper clipping
Our Town July 19, 1917, page 2 (PDF)



The Lancaster pike, from Overbrook to Paoli, was freed from tolls on Monday one day late. Joseph W. Hunter, Deputy Commissioner of State Highways, and John S. G. Dunne, superintendent of the turnpike company, traveled along the famous old roadway shortly after noon in an automobile and closed all the toll houses—nine of them.

The tollgate keepers packed up and quit, and as soon as possible the old houses, some of which are used as dwellings by the keepers, and the little sentry boxes guarding the side roads, will be removed.

It was a distinct surprise to the motorists, as previous reports had indicated that the closing would be delayed for some days, and for hours automobilists were slowing up at the deserted posts of the tollgate keepers to pay their way, only to brighten up and speed away joyously when the news broke upon them.

newspaper clipping

Bryn Mawr Home News September 14, 1917


Toll Houses at Public Sale

The Toll Houses on the Line of the Lancaster Turnpike Road from the Philadelphia City Line to Paoli, recently purchased by the State, will be sold at Public Sale on

Tuesday, October 2nd, 1917

The Sale will commence at the toll house at or near City Line at One o’clock P.M., and will be proceeded with until the last toll house at St Davids is disposed of.

Each toll house contains six rooms and is in fair condition. They will be sold on the following terms: — The highest bidder to be the purchaser. The purchase money to be paid in cash at the time of sale. Each toll house must be removed by the purchaser thereof from off the right of way of said turnpike road on or before January 1st, 1918. Any toll house not so removed will be removed by the Department and the material disposed of to pay the costs of such removal.

By Order of The State Highway Commissioner, WARREN F. CRESSMAN, Assistant Engineer.