Monthly Archives: February 2012

Mile 37 – Petersburg/Addison Toll House, Addison, Pa.

The Petersburg Toll House, Addison, Pa.

Not too far after crossing the Mason-Dixon Line, the National Road reaches Addison, Pa., which is home to the Petersburg Toll House, the first of an original six such buildings in Pennsylvania. Built in 1835, the toll house and its five other brethren  were constructed in response to the federal government handing the road over to the individual states, thus allowing for the National Road to be tolled. The first tolls in Pennsylvania were collected that same year, continuing until 1906. The Petersburg Toll House was so-named simply because at the time, Addison was called Petersburg (sometimes spelled Petersburgh). Today, the building has also been called the Addison Toll House, so either name references the same building.

After falling into disuse, the toll house was purchased from the state of Pennsylvania by the Great Crossings Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in the late 1940s, and full restoration was completed in 1997. Today, the toll house looks much the same as it did in the 19th Century, and the interior is supposed to have its original flooring and furniture unique to the time period.

A replica of the toll rates on the outside of the Petersburg Toll House

In part because the DAR has been active in hundreds of historic restoration and preservation projects all over the country, the Petersburg Toll House is open to the public by appointment. For contact information, visit the Great Crossings Chapter’s Petersburg Toll House website, which also contains a wealth of historic background of the toll house; visit the GCC’s own website; or call the chapter at 814-233-5238 (that number is listed on the Laurel Highlands Visitors’ Bureau website here).

It’s also important to note that the toll house isn’t on present-day U.S.-40 like the LaVale Toll Gate House and the Searights Toll House. Instead, follow the signs that direct you to into Addison, which is on the southern side of U.S.-40. Parking is available across Main Street (Old National Road) in a park off Reservoir Road. My previous National Road post discussed how Addison was bypassed by present U.S.-40. That post includes a map, which may be helpful.


Changing a Road’s Path

Today, I briefly drove through Addison, Pa., to try to get some shots of the Addison Toll House. While I was in town, I found it interesting that although the interstates and expressways have the notorious reputation for keeping people off Main Street, older, two-lane roads do the same.

In Addison’s case, the National Road/U.S. 40 originally went through the center of town, and the toll house is located on this segment. But at some point, 40 was re-routed to go north of Addison, taking all but local traffic out of town. Its not all bad, since drivers now have a wider and more level road, and people living in Addison don’t have to worry about heavy traffic or people speeding through the middle of town. However, the potential for business seems lost, since there isn’t regular traffic to support many hospitality-oriented businesses.

Obviously, Addison isn’t the only place along the National Road that has been sliced off the main drag by a newer alignment. Especially in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, newer (and likely safer) paths for U.S. 40 were carved around small towns and neighborhoods, rather than through them, as before.

This maps shows the two alignments of the National Road in Addison, Pa. The blue line is the current route, and the red line is the original route.

Jim Grey has a great series of posts on this subject, two of which deal with the National Road near Reelsville, Ind, here and here.


Mile 25 – The Casselman Inn, Grantsville, Md.

The Casselman Inn, Grantsville, Md.

When the National Road was first built, taverns and inns sprang up along the side of the road, catering to long distance travelers, who, in the 1800s, could only travel a limited distance each day. Many of these inns are still standing, but have since been converted into private residences or other uses. The Casselman Inn in Grantsville, however, still operates the same way it has for nearly 200 years – as both a place for food and a place to sleep.

The Casselman is unique in that it blends two facets of Americana – a historic inn and Mennonite culture, which is especially strong in eastern Garrett County. The modestly-decorated dining area has the look and feel of a large family dining room, complete with a fireplace. Staff is typically dressed in either a modest, plainer clothes or sometimes even  more traditional Mennonite attire (think head coverings, for women). Every person a diner encounters – regardless of wait staff, hosts or bakers – is friendly and hospitable, making the restaurant feel even more less like a restaurant and more like a family’s home.

The hot roast beef sandwich at The Casselman.

The food is extremely well-priced, and many of the features are cheaper than a meal at a fast-food chain. Many of the ingredients are made-from-scratch on-site, and the bread is freshly made in a bakery in the basement (again, a traditional Mennonite connection). The menu pulls together traditional American, Mennnonite and local (seafood) cuisine. Despite the more or less “plainness” of the food, everything has rich flavor. For myself, I had the hot roast beef sandwich, which was served on Casselman Inn-made bread. Should one visit for dinner, bread and butter are included with just about everything on the menu. Just to point out a difference between the Casselman and many other inns still operating on the National Road – no alcohol is served (there are just Mennonite connections everywhere!). On the way out, there is the opportunity to buy many of the Casselman-made foods, notably bread, apple butter and desserts. See the menu here.

For overnight accommodation, the Casselman has two options: the first is a 40-room motor inn directly behind the original building that was built a few decades ago. The other option is one of four guest rooms in the old building – upstairs above the restaurant part.

So why all the Mennonite connections? The answer stems from both the heavy presence of Amish/Mennonite adherents in Garrett County and Somerset County, Pa. (many of whom used the National Road to move to this area), and the current owning family, the Millers. The Casselman was built in 1824 as “Drover’s Inn.” Over the decades of its existance, the name and owners have switched several times, until Ivan and Della Miller bought the property in the 1960s. Since Ivan was a Mennonite bishop, it only made sense for the Millers to operate their business in accordance with their beliefs. Although both patriarch and matriarch have died, the Miller family continues to operate the business in the same manner. (Small world note: my journalism professor at Huntington University in Indiana was Kevin Miller, who is a direct descendant of Ivan and Della. Yes, he is also a strong Mennonite).

One of the shelves of available food for sale at The Casselman.

The Casselman Inn is located at 113 E. Main St. in Grantsville – right in the heart of the town. The inn is open for three-meal service Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Everything but the lodging side of the business is closed on Sunday (need I say more about Mennonite connections?). The restaurant can be reached at 301-895-5266, and the number for overnight accommodations is 301-895-5055.

For those who are also interested with the National Road (like me), right in front of the Casselman is a mile marker with two historic-information signs.

The Casselman Inn on Urbanspoon


Mile 24 – Casselman River Bridge S.P.

The original Casselman River Bridge near Grantsville, Md.

Just outside the town of Grantsville, Md. is Casselman River Bridge State Park, a small, four-acre site that preserves a stone bridge that served as the original crossing of the National Road over the Casselman River. The 80-foot bridge was built in 1813, and underwent a significant restoration in the 1970s. At the time of its construction, it was the longest single-span stone arch bridge in the country.

The current U.S. 40 bridge and the I-68 bridge from the original Casselman River Bridge.

Interestingly, this crossing was in use as part of the National Road until 1933, when the modern bridge that carries ALT-U.S. 40 was built. And in the 1980s, Interstate 68 was completed slightly farther upstream. In lobby of the Penn Alps restaurant, which lies just beyond the eastern end of the old bridge, there is an aerial shot of all three bridges crossing the Casselman River, which to me is an interesting juxtaposition of transportation history in the U.S. In fact, even from ground level, it’s possible to get photos of all three bridges together.

The park is free, but unstaffed, and is located at 10240 National Pike, Grantsville. A recently-completed walking path and crosswalk enables visitors to walk to the park and Penn Alps from Grantsville. There are picnic tables and plenty of room to walk around and fishing is allowed in the Casselman River. For more information, visit the Maryland DNR’s web page for the park here.

The deck of the Casselman River Bridge


A New Monument in Cumberland and those Historic Mile Markers

In recognition of the 200th anniversary of the National Road, the City of Cumberland is working to construct a small National Road monument at George Washington’s headquarters along Greene Street downtown. The monument is planned to be a replica of a mile marker (see a rendering here), and the Times-News reports that the monument may be finished by July 4. Update: the monument will be dedicated at the city’s Heritage Days Festival on June 10 at 3 p.m.

Originally, “America’s Main Street”  ran along the modern MD-49 over Haystack Mountain, but was later re-routed through the Narrows north of the city. So, the location of the monument is supposed to mark the start-point of the original routing of the National Road.

The Cumberland city council is currently in the process of awarding the contract for the monument after opening bids on Jan. 25. To help finance the estimated $86,000 project, the city is selling small, 8-inch replica wooden mile markers that were made for the 2011 National Road bicentennial, and engraved bricks that will be placed at the walkway to the monument. The mile markers are $20 and the bricks are $50. The deadline for brick purchases is Feb. 15, and can be made using this form or by contacting City Planner David Umling atdumling@allconet.org. See Times-News links here and here for more information.

A stone mile marker in Grantsville, Md.

Speaking of mile markers, these structures were unique to the National Road versus other early famous highways in the United States is the establishment of mile markers along the northern side of the road. Each marker gives the distance to Cumberland, Md., as well as closer cities and towns. The shape and size of each marker varies along the road, as the design changes based on where the markers were made. For examples, mile markers from Brownsville, Pa., to Cumberland were made in Connellsville, Pa., and are all similar, as are markers from Brownsville to Wheeling, W.Va., which  were produced in Brownsville.

These mile markers were made of stone or cast iron, and while some originals do exist, most that currently stand are full or partial replicas. Some portions of the National Road have had better luck preserving the markers than other areas, such as a series of six markers in eastern Ohio County, W.Va., which are on the National Register of Historic Places (see the original application here). Nevertheless, each is still a historic and unique feature for this highway. I don’t know of a database which has a listing of all currently-existing mile markers, but such a site would be great for researchers.

A stone marker in rural Garrett County, Md.


Mile 11 – Princess Restaurant, Frostburg, Md.

The Princess Restaurant in Frostburg, Md.

Tucked neatly into the row of shops, bars and restaurants that line Main Street in Frostburg is the Princess Restaurant, one of the city’s oldest continually-operating dining establishments. In 1939, George Pappas, Sr., opened the Princess as a confectionery and luncheonette, and by the 1940s, the business evolved into the restaurant that it is today. The restaurant has been in continuous ownership of three generations of the Pappas family. Keep in mind that this restaurant has existed before, during and after the construction of the interstates, and until I-68 was built late in the 20th Century, the Princess Restaurant was on the main highway.

The plaque at "Truman's Booth."

The inside of the restaurant arguably looks and feels like a diner from the 1950s or 60s. Small booths line one wall of the main room, while a bar-type set-up occupies the other side. A more modern dining room also exists next to the older one. At each booth, a old-style jukebox is at the end of each table. Although most have “out of order” signs, it appears that some may still work. And, an additional novelty of the Princess is a booth in which former President Harry Truman and his wife, Bess, dined on Fathers Day 1953.

As for the food, the Princess is exceptional, quite possibly due to over 70 years of refinement. The restaurant has breakfast, lunch and dinner items. The list of 40-plus different types of sandwiches alone out-preforms many chain restaurants. For dinner, patrons can choose from a wide selection, from steak to pasta dishes to seafood to chicken.

"Broiled Cod Loin with Crab Meat," Princess Restaurant.

I ordered the broiled cod with crab meat, plated with fries and corn. In case the name doesn’t make it evident, my dinner was just a cod filet surrounded by seasoned crab meat and covered in butter and garlic and then broiled. The entire dinner was cooked perfectly and thorough. I also liked the portion size at the Princess. In my opinion, a lot of the larger chain restaurants tend to serve huge portions (with a higher price tag!), but at the Princess, massive portions seem to not be the case, which I think is great. In no way was I left hungry or wanting to eat later, but I also didn’t have the “I ate too much that I can’t move” feeling.

Being from Allegany County, I almost feel ashamed saying that this was the first time I had ever been to the Princess. And after having visited, I think I’ve been missing out on great, more-than-reasonably-priced food! On a larger note, my visit also reminded me of the point of this blog – to find places like the Princess that remain independent and unique along U.S. 40. Like I said, this was the first time I had been to the Princess, but I also remember the dozens of times I have eaten at chain restaurants in Allegany County, all the while missing out on good, local food.

The interior of the Princess Restaurant.

The Princess Restaurant is located at 12 W. Main St., Frostburg. Hours: Monday through Saturday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.; closed Sunday. Phone: 301-689-1680; Fax: 301-689-9029. Take-out is available.

Princess Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Mile 11 – Frostburg, Md.

Main Street in Frostburg, Md.

Welcome to coal country. After a steep ascent up the Allegheny Front, the National Road reaches the small city of Frostburg. Frostburg was built for two primary interests: travel along the National Road, and coal. at various points in the late 1800s and early 1900s, several local railroads, including, but not limited to, the Georges Creek Railroad, the Cumberland and Pennsylvania and the Western Maryland all ran through or near Frostburg, ferrying coal from the mines around Frostburg and the Georges Creek communities to Cumberland and subsequent transportation methods to larger cities.

Today, evidence of Frostburg’s past is found throughout the small city of about 9,000 people per the 2010 Census. Main Street, which is also ALT U.S.-40 (the National Road) runs straight through town, and Frostburg’s older, multi-story buildings line this street.

Right off Main Street near the center city area is the appropriately-named Depot Street, which winds down a short hill to the former Western Maryland Railroad depot. This is the western terminus of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, which makes round trips from Cumberland to Frostburg, and lets travelers spend a few hours in Frostburg before returning to Cumberland. Also, the Great Allegheny Passage trail passes by the depot on its journey from Cumberland to Pittsburgh, Pa. The trail follows the WMSR to Frostburg, and then continues on the empty bed of the Western Maryland Railroad into Pennsylvania.

Although much of the accessible coal has already been taken from the hills and mountains around Frostburg, some mines still remain on the outskirts of town (one is visible from I-68 and another is visible from MD-638). For an additional history roadtrip featuring Western Maryland’s coal heritage, drive MD-36 from Cumberland, through Mount Savage and Frostburg, and then south through the Georges Creek Valley to Westernport, Md.

The historic Failinger's Hotel Gunter, 11 W. Main St.

Nevertheless, Frostburg is one of the few areas in Allegany County that grew significantly from the 2000 to 2010 Census, arguably due to the presence of Frostburg State University – the only state university in Western Maryland, having a history dating back to 1898, although it wasn’t called a “college” in any form until 1935. FSU’s presence in town has a significant effect on Main Street, which boasts a host of bars and restaurants, most of which are open late. Other businesses, including a local bookstore and a few clothing boutiques also line Main Street – some geared toward college students, some open to everyone.

It is important to note that when traveling in the winter months, if snow or ice is in the forecast, use caution, especially when traveling east to west! Because Frostburg (and subsequently, Garrett County) is at an elevation of just over 2,000 feet, it has weather that is significantly different than Cumberland, which has an elevation of about 630 feet. This means that in the winter, Frostburg may be experiencing snow when it is only raining in Cumberland or LaVale, which tends to surprise non-local drivers.