Searights Tollhouse

In the early 19th century, funding for the National Road’s construction and ongoing maintenance was a significant challenge for governments. To overcome this, the concept of toll roads was introduced. Toll houses were erected at strategic points along these roads, where travelers had to stop and pay a fee in exchange for using the road. These fees varied based on the type of traffic and how much damage they would do to the road’s surface. The collected tolls were then used to finance road maintenance and improvements.

The Searights Tollhouse, like many of its time, was built in a style that reflected its practical purpose. Constructed in 1835, it is a two-story brick structure with a distinctive octagonal tower. The toll collector and his family often lived on the second floor, while the ground floor served as the toll booth and office. A small gated area in front of the toll house allowed for the collection of fees and ensured that travelers paid their dues.

The Searights Tollhouse is a testament to the nation’s commitment to improving transportation infrastructure in the early 19th century. As the years passed and transportation methods evolved many of the toll houses along the National Road were abandoned or demolished. However, the Searights Tollhouse has been preserved as an interpretive site, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.

Today, the toll house is part of the National Road Heritage Corridor and is maintained by the Fayette County Historical Society with support from Fayette County Commissioners, GO Laurel Highlands, and other community partners. It has been restored to its 19th-century appearance and is open to the public seasonally and by appointment, offering visitors a unique opportunity to step back in time and learn about the history of toll roads in America.

The Searights Tollhouse is a remarkable piece of American history that stands as a tribute to the ingenuity and determination of the people who built and maintained the early transportation infrastructure of the United States, connecting the nation and facilitating westward expansion. The next time you’re traveling the National Road, don’t miss the chance to visit this charming piece of the past and explore the stories it has to tell.

Sculpture Tour

The Whiskey Rebellion


In 1791, responding to the first federal tax ever laid on an American product, gangs of rebels began to attack federal officials in a revolt that become known as the Whiskey Rebellion. To the hard-bitten people of America’s new western frontier, the tax paralyzed their local economies while swelling the coffers of greedy creditors and industrialists. To President George Washington, the uprising threatened American sovereignty and deployed the newly-established federal Army to defeat the public revolution.

Off to Market


After 1838, when the Federal Government no longer appropriated funds for National Road maintenance. Pennsylvania and other states commissioned and built tollhouses and began collecting fees based on the type of vehicle traveling the road and the type animals that were being led to market. Stagecoach drivers, wagoners and rovers crowded the inns and taverns along the route and traders hauled produce from frontier farms to the East Coast, returning with staples such as coffee and sugar for the western settlements

Jefferson & Gallatin


In 1803, as President Thomas Jefferson realized that in order the United States to reach its full potential, it must expand westward and be facilitated by the central government, he turned to his Treasury Secretary, Albert Gallatin, who formulated the plan to construct the National Road. Working behind the scenes, Gallatin devised a workable solution where the states would exempt federal land sales from taxation and earmark a percentage of the proceeds for road building.

Letters from the Road


Letters written by early pioneers, historic figures, and travelers along the National Road have documented the route’s revolutionary history and provided a view of life in early America and its challenging, often treacherous and dangerous western expansion. Several of these letters and diary excerpts have been reproduced in a permanent outdoor exhibit in the front lawn area of the Historic Summit Inn.

The Toll Keeper


The Old Petersburg Toll House, located in Addison is authentic reflection of what domestic life was like for the toll collector and his family In 1841, Toll Collector William Condon, who lived the house with his family, reported receiving a total of $1,758.87 in tolls for that year. His salary was $200.00 plus free living quarters.

Family Activities Along the National Road

School is finally out for the summer! This season is a great time for kids and teens to enjoy time off with their family and friends. It is also a great time to plan a family trip along the National Road. Whether you live in the keystone state full time, or plan to visit western Pennsylvania for a short while, you can look to this 90-mile corridor to provide you with fascinating recreation for all ages.

The National Road offers amenities to help your family appreciate the great outdoors, stay physically healthy, and explore the rich history of our nation. Here are some of the best activities to try, including places to plan your trip:


The many trails along the National Road in Pennsylvania allow travelers and locals alike to explore the beauty of the outdoors, while staying physically and mentally healthy. Hiking, like other physical activities, can reduce the risk of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, anxiety, osteoporosis, and arthritis. Your brain can also benefit from take a hike along the trails: exercise releases neurotransmitters, which allows brain cells to strengthen their lines of communication.

Amenities along the National Road allow travelers to participate in rigorous walking activities including Ohiopyle State Park, where you can hike and bike along the 135 mile Great Allegheny Passage. The whole family can also hide out from the heat this summer by visiting the Laurel Caverns on a tour. There are 3 miles of underground caves to explore — and even spelunking and rappelling, if you decide to find a babysitter that day. Soon, you will also be able to hike and bike along the Sheepskin Trail, a 34-mile recreational amenity in Fayette County, Pennsylvania.


Whether kayaking or canoeing, paddling activities are some of the greatest ways to explore the outdoors with your family. Paddling offers a low impact workout that works muscles throughout body, building muscle definition and burning major calories in the process. Bringing children along for the ride can be a great way to introduce them to the importance of Pennsylvania’s local waterways.

In a recent blog, you learned about the history of western Pennsylvania’s rivers, specifically the Monongahela River, which intersects with the National Road. The “Mon” as locals refer to it has much to offer the surrounding community — so much, in fact, that it was named Pennsylvania’s River of the Year in 2013. Renting a boat for the day is relatively inexpensive and our partner the River Town Program offers sample trips, including maps and descriptions for easier trips, to help your family get started on a paddling adventure along the National Road.


While spending time on the trails and paddling down the Mon can be healthy activities for the entire family, it is also important to keep the mind active all summer long. With school out until September, sightseeing is the perfect way to teach children through hands-on lessons. Historic places have powerful stories to tell, especially when those stories are so integral to the history of our region and our nation. Places along the National Road can help children connect the history all around them with national events, providing lessons and experiences that will be remembered for many years to come.

The Historic National Road was this nation’s first federally funded highway. The 90-mile corridor that cuts across the southwest corner of Pennsylvania is the site of many of the most important revolutionary events in U.S. history. By taking a tour of Fort Necessity Battlefield, your family can learn more about the French & Indian War, which set the stage for the American Revolution. Learn history through art on the National Road Sculpture Tour. Experience some of our nation’s finest architectural achievements at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob. Learn more about the history of Pennsylvania’s famous Whiskey Rebellion at the David Bradford House. And finally, sit down after a full day of historical and cultural exploration to dine at the Historic Summit Inn.

Explore all of the magnificent sights and activities that Pennsylvania’s Historic National Road has to offer with your family. Click here to view the full list of historical and cultural attractions and plan your trip today.

Photo Courtesy: River Town Program

National Road History: The Vagabond Camping Trips

The National Road has served as the site of countless important historical events. Some of the most unique were what are referred to as the “Vagabond” camping trips of the early 20th century.

Between the years 1915 and 1924, a team of prominent historical figures embarked on a series of summer camping trips. The “Four Vagabonds” as they called themselves were none other than Henry Ford, American industrialist and the founder of the Ford Motor Company; Thomas Edison, the famous inventor and businessman; Harvey Firestone, the founder of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company; and John Burroughs, American naturalist and nature essayist.

The original idea for these adventures was initiated in 1914, when Ford and Burroughs visited Edison in Florida to tour the Everglades together. The following year when Ford, Edison and Firestone were in California for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, this idea began to take shape.

In 1916, Edison asked Ford, Burroughs and Firestone to accompany him through the New England Adirondacks and Green Mountains. Ford was unable to join the group, but in 1918, Ford, Edison, Firestone and his son Harvey, Burroughs, and Robert DeLoach of the Armour Company, traveled through the mountains of West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia.

The Vagabond camping trips were a wonderful success for all of the men involved. Subsequent trips were made over the nine years they travelled together, including the journey during the summer of 1921 where Edison, Ford, and Firestone camped out at multiple locations along the National Road, traveling from one campsite to the other, east to west along the Road.

All of the trips were very well organized and equipped, including several large passenger cars along with vans to carry the travelers, household staff, and equipment. But, after 1924, the trips attracted so much public attention that they were discontinued. Though these adventures lasted less than a decade, all of the men involved were undoubtedly changed by the experience.

Learn more about the history of the National Road by checking out our timeline! Help continue the preservation and research of historical events by becoming a Friend of the Road to show your support.

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