Germantown and Perkiomen Turnpike
Toll Booth across from West Rittenhouse Street
Streets Box 1 envelope 1
Germantown Historical Society

Included are undated news columns about:

"The Man on the Corner" 1926 news column:

"Germantown Tollgates Abolished Fifty Years Ago"

"Just fifty years have elapsed since toll gates disappeared from Germantown avenue. On October 29, 1874, the city of Philadelphia made payment for the property of the Germantown and Perkiomen Turnpike Company within the city limits, and the highway was freed.

"Proceedings to condemn the turnpike in the city were begun in May, 1870, and dragged through months and years, a jury holding numerous hearings.

"Apparently the owners of the road did not feel warranted in spending much money on repairs when there was a likelihood that it wood be freed. In 1871 complaint was made before Alderman William J. Murphey, specifying fifty-six defective places in the road, from Wayne Junction to Chestnut Hill, and concluded as follows:
'The whole road is covered with loose stones, some of them weighing several pounds. 'All the stretches of the road put together would not amount to a mile in length.
'The gutters on the sides of the road are filled with dirt and stones.
'The roadbed is utterly worn out, and the water, instead of running down the sides, collects in the center of the road, covering the crossings to the depth of several inches.
'The street is blocked with a disgraceful tollgate house which obstructs the highway and is a public nuisance, and the turnpike as it is now would not be tolerated in any of the interior counties of the state, even though no tolls were collected.'
"In accordance with the state law chartering the turnpike company, the alderman appointed a jury of three men to view the pike throughout the length of the Twenty-second Ward. The jurors were Josiah F. Jones..."

"The Tollgate and Its Keeper"

"The 'disgraceful tollgate house' to which allusion was made in the complaint stood partly on the sidewalk and partly in the gutter on the east side of the pike, opposite West Rittenhouse street. Enos Springer, a Pennsylvania German, was keeper there from 1860 until his death, in 1871. His little shack was the public forum of the neighborhood, a group of social philosophers and political wiseacres being almost constantly in session there, with Springer as their guiding genius.

"Springer was also a tradesman, selling live fowls, tools, wagons, farm products and anything else from which he might derive a profit. He became the owner of considerable real estate. Springer street was named for him.

"The Turnpike Company In Its Early Days"

"The corporation that owned the turnpike experienced many vicissitudes. At one time its stock was almost worthless. At an auction sale two shares were sold for 50 cents each. Then William S. Perot was asked to take charge of the company and rehabilitate it. He did so with the understanding that he should have supreme authority. Finally he was successful in restoring the company to a paying basis.

"The Germantown and Perkiomen Turnpike Company received its charter from the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1901. Two years earlier a charter had been granted to the Germantown and Reading Turnpike Road, for the construction of a turnpike from Front street over Germantown road, through Germantown and Chestnut Hill, to Reading. This corporation did not function, but the Company organized in 1801 built the turnpike on the bed of Germantown road, from Vine and Third streets to Perkiomen Creek.

"Germantown at that time was a village with a population of about 3200. There were 300 dwellings scattered over a distance of two and a half miles along Germantown Road.

"Farmers Opposed to Road Improvement"

"Among the farmers in the upper end of Germantown Township there was considerable opposition to the construction of the turnpike, and some of the residents armed themselves to resist the surveyors who came to lay out the lines. The sheriff came to the aid of the surveyors with a posse.

"A conference of the progressives and the conservatives was arranged. The farmers explained that they objected to the pike because it would enable farmers living farther up the state to bring their produce to Philadelphia and thus compete with the Germantown farmers. Finally, however, they were persuaded to permit the road to be built.

"Before the turnpike was constructed Germantown road was almost impassable during part of the year. Traveling from Philadelphia to Germantown, wagons were caught in quagmires and horses sometimes succumbed to the hard pull. Germantown was practically isolated for several months each year.

"There is a familiar tradition that Reuben Haines, living at Wyck, at Germantown avenue and Walnut lane, would saddle his horse and mount it to cross the road to visit the Littell house, at Germantown avenue and High street.

"Regulations for Building the Road"

"The commissioners to sell the stock of the turnpike company, as named in the act chartering the company, were Benjamin Chew Jr., Caspar W. Haines, Matthew Huston, Samuel Betton, John Fromberger and Joseph P. Norris. Stock was sold for $100 a share. Each subscriber paid $15 on subscribing.

"The road was to be not less than fifty nor more than sixty feet wide, and at least twenty-eight feet thereof was 'to be an artificial road, bedded with wood, stone, gravel or any other hard substance, well compacted together and of sufficient depth to secure a solid foundation to the same; and the said road shall be faced with gravel or stone pounded, or other small, hard substances in such manner as to secure a firm and, as near as the materials will admit of it, an even surface, and so nearly level in its progress as it shall in on place rise or fall more than will form an angle of four degrees with a horizontal line, and forever keep the same in good repair.'

"Rate of Toll on the Turnpike"

"Toll was authorized as follows by the act of incorporation: 6 cents for a score of sheep or hogs, 12 cents for a score of cattle, 3 cents for a horse and rider, 6 cents for a one-horse two-wheeled sulky, chair or chaise, and 9 cents if there were two horses; 12 cents for each chariot, coach, phaeton or chaise, with two horses and four wheels, and 20 cents if there were four horses. For sleighs the charge was 3 cents a horse, and for sleds 2 cents a horse. Carts and wagons were assessed according the width of the wheels.

"Travelers making false statements as to the distance traveled were liable to $16 fine. A penalty of $20 was placed on tollgate keepers who overcharged.

"Vehicles whose wheels had tires less than four inches wide were not permitted to travel over the road between November 1 and March 1 with a greater weight than two and a half tons, and no vehicles were to carry more than seven tons during those months or eight tons at any other time. The charge for two oxen drawing vehicles was the same as for one horse. "The company was required to maintain milestones, and a penalty of $5 was made for defacing milestones. Toll for pleasure carriages was reduced in 1849 to 1 1/2 cents a mile, making the cost of a ride from Germantown to Philadelphia 6 cents."

Undated news column about Enos Springer entitled "Old-Time Worthies of Germantown":

"...Enos Springer was the last keeper of the tollgate in the center of Germantown, on the north side of Germantown avenue opposite Rittenhouse street. While he kept the gate, his little house, which stood in the street, was the resort of the community's philosophers, wiseacres and humorists, and all the problems of the times were discussed and settled there. Springer himself was recognized as the chief philosopher and humorist.

"Besides collecting toll, Springer was also a merchant, dealing in all sorts of odds and ends, such as live fowls, shovels, tools, wagons, farm produce and anything else capable of producing a profit. He is said to have become the owner of considerable real estate in Germantown, the opening of Springer street being attributed to him.

"Springer was born in Sellersville, Bucks County, in 1809, and all his life he spoke with the strong Pennsylvania German accent of his native region. In his youth he was employed as a millwright. He came to Germantown in 1835, and opened a shop on Rittenhouse street, where he made arbors, trellises, sleds and various small articles of wood, being a skilled worker in wood. Later his shop was on the second floor of the building occupied by Coulston's blacksmith shop, now belonging to the Young Men's Christian Association.

"...Springer died on August 2, 1871...."

Back to the page for this location

|| Home || Germantown || Addresses || Texts || Maps || Key ||