The first federally funded road in the U.S. was constructed in 1811. With the new National Road the town of Cumberland, Maryland became the “Gateway to the West,” establishing the first toll house at mile marker one. There the road cuts through the Narrows in LaVale, a spectacular 1,000-foot breach between Will’s and Haystack Mountains that is one of the most picturesque sites in Maryland.
LaVale’s Toll Gate House was first built after the state took over ownership of its section of the National Road in 1835. The federal highway originally ran from Cumberland through Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana, eventually ending in Vandalia, Illinois, then the capital of Illinois Territory.
The LaVale toll house is a two-story brick structure built with seven sides, with a columned porch extending around the five outer sides of the polygonal portion. At the top is a small, non-functional cupola. The building was the first toll house structure to be erected on the road, as well as the last structure of its kind still standing on the old National Road route, as fate would have it.
Visit the site of the toll house, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places, and you will see the list of toll costs as well as the pylons that used to house the gate. You’ll also see the original mile marker displaying the distance to the next towns in opposite directions.
Know Before You Go
The Tollgate House is not always open, but you can get good photos through the windows. It's a charming spot to see. Stop at one of the many fast-food restaurants a mile to the east first and bring your lunch to the picnic grounds on the Tollgate House site.