Sep 19 2012

The Motor Parkway Toll Collection Structures: #1 Nassau Boulevard Lodge In Fresh Meadows, Queens

This is the first of a new series documenting the toll collection structures of the Long Island Motor Parkway. Going west to east, the first planned toll lodge was the Nassau Boulevard Lodge at the Western Terminus located at Nassau Boulevard (later renamed Horace Harding Boulevard) in Fresh Meadows.


Howard Kroplick

One of the myths of the Long Island Motor Parkway’s history was that there were 12 lodges all designed by prominent architect John Russell Pope and built to collect tolls and provide housing for the toll-takers and their families. Overall, at least 20 structures were actually constructed by the Long Island Motor Parkway with the intent to collect tolls. Only the original six lodges were designed by John Russell Pope and only 10 of the buildings had small living quarters for the toll collectors and their families.

From 1924 to 1928, the Motor Parkway was extended three miles from Rocky Hill Road (Springfield Boulevard) to Nassau Boulevard (later renamed Horace Harding Boulevard). This image of a rare 1929 Motor Parkway brochure (courtesy of Robert Harrington) promoted the new entrance at Fresh Meadows.

Note the brochure's illustration of the toll booth crossing the entire road similar to the Rocky Hill Road Lodge.

According to the Motor Parkway's 1929 "Report of Toll Lodge Receipts" (courtesy of the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum), there were two "toll lodges" located in Queens at the entrances of Nassau Boulevard and Rocky Hill Road (Springfield Boulevard).

As described in Al Velocci's wonderful book "The Toll Lodges of the Long Island Motor Parkway, and Their Gatekeepers' Lives", builder Benjamin Haab was contracted to build the Rocky Hill and Nassau Boulevard toll booths for $2,380 each. Al notes the new toll collection structure at Nassau Boulevard was opened on July 1, 1928, but "never manned". Al asked the great question: "Why bother building a tollbooth and assign a lodge designation to that entrance?" In February 2009, I explored this oddity by visiting the photo archives at the New York City Department of Parks and the Queens Borough President's Collection. Here is what I found.

My research focused on the new Queens section of the Motor Parkway from Nassau Boulevard (aka Horace Harding Boulevard and the World's Fair Boulevard in 1938-1939) to the first Motor Parkway bridge over North Hempstead Turnpike. This 1938 Fairchild aerial from the Queens Borough President's Collection did not disappoint. Horace Harding Boulevard runs west to east on top of the aerial. The Motor Parkway runs diagonally to the the North Hempstead Turnpike Bridge. Now take a closer look at the photo.

The entrance to the Motor Parkway is on the left side of the photo. Two structures can be seen; a "large white structure" on the east side of the parkway casting a large black shadow and a "small white dot" in the middle of the Motor Parkway with a mysterious black line (located just to the left of the big X).

As shown for the first time in the book The Long Island Motor Parkway, the "large white structure" was the entrance sign at Horace Harding Boulevard.

This 1938 Fairchild aerial showed the Motor Parkway from Horace Harding Boulevard heading south towards Union Turnpike. Note the Francis Lewis Boulevard to the east of the Motor Parkway had not yet been built.

A closer look of the top half of this aerial showed another excellent view of the Motor Parkway entrance at Horace Harding Boulevard and, also, the North Hempstead Turnpike Bridge and the original Fresh Meadows Country Club at the curve. But, once again, there was no visual evidence of a toll booth straddling the road as seen at Springfield Boulevard.

An even closer look at the entrance showed a small structure in the middle of the road. Note the thin black lines on both sides of this structure. Was this the Nassau Boulevard Lodge?

This 1939 aerial of the western terminus provided another excellent view of the entrance and the mysterious structure on the Motor Parkway.

An opening can be seen to the right of this structure.

This 1938 topographical map showed details of the Motor Parkway Western Terminus before it was handed over to Queens County.

The small structure seen in the aerials was designated as a "booth" and the black lines were a "rustic wood barricade". Note the other Motor Parkway labels in the topographical map including; the sign on the Horace Harding Boulevard corner, the wood guard rails,and the ribbon wire fence.

Based on all this information, in my opinion, the Nassau Boulevard Lodge did not match the large toll booth structure seen at Rocky Hill Road (Springfield Boulevard). The "booth" was a small kiosk surrounded by a wood barricade with an opening for cars. This structure was seen in the background of the Bike Path Opening Day ceremonies held on July 9, 1938. As noted by Al Velocci, this kiosk was never used to collect tolls. Likey the lodge was never manned due to the cost of hiring a toll colletor.

In 2009, I discussed my "toll booth" theory with Steven Rizick, Director of Document Services for the City of New York Parks & Recreation. Mr. Rizick verified that it was highly unlikely that Parks Department built the kiosk less than three months after the 1938 closing of the Motor Parkway. "It was most certainly built by the Long Island Motor Parkway". From 1936 to 1938, the lodge was known as the Horace Harding Boulevard Lodge. It was taken down sometime in the 1940s.


Apr 03 2016 frank femenias 10:14 AM

Guessing, the booth as to why built and left unmanned was the discovery later of potential traffic buildup spilling back into HHB. Though intended as a toll collection device, as with the sign, it also served as a toll road emblem alerting lost travelers to avoid. Regardless, because it was left unmanned made the Rocky Hill Lodge, with its two ramps, a busy place for unintentional toll travelers. But those travelers did get to enjoy a pleasant 2 mile park ride under canopied trees for free.

Jul 20 2017 Gene Perry 7:21 PM

I was always curious about the 1st toll booth location for the motor parkway in Fresh Medows.I walk the motor parkway 3-4 times a week.Thanks for this excellent information.Mystery solved!

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