The No. 2 Tollgate House that stood along old the plank road from Lansing to Howell is the only remaining plank road tollhouse in Michigan. Built around 1850, this preserved structure now offers visitors a fascinating insight into a short-lived craze in travel and transportation: plank roads.
For a brief time starting in the 1840s, plank road mania swept the United States. These wooden roadways were pitched to rural residents as a smooth alternative to the bumpy dirt roads that connected the countryside to the new railroads and canals crisscrossing the American cities. More than 7,000 miles of plank roads were built, mostly in upstate New York and the Midwest in the region around the newly opened Erie Canal.
Unfortunately for investors, the life-changing promise of these new roads proved overly ambitious. Within a decade came the bust, as the wood boards could not withstand the heavy loads and were rotted and warped by wet and hot weather. The turnpike companies that built the plank roads built tollbooths along the route, charging a few cents per horse. But the revenue wasn’t enough to cover maintenance costs and turn a profit, and by the late 1850s, the bubble had burst.
The No. 2 Plank Road Tollgate House was one of seven such tollhouses constructed by the Lansing Central Plank Road Company between the cities of Lansing and Howell in Michigan. It was originally located approximately two miles southwest of its current location, on the south side of Grand River Avenue near Dawn Avenue. To preserve the historic structure for future generations, it was moved to the Meridian Historical Village in 1974, where it has served as a unique educational component of the village ever since.
Know Before You Go
The Meridian Historical Village is accessible throughout the year, though the buildings are only open during specific times and events.