In June, 1791, a private turnpike company was formed ‘for making an artificial road from the City of Philadelphia to the Borough of Lancaster‘ — a distance of sixty-six miles. It was the first stone paved turnpike of substantial length in the country, and the most costly and ambitious public works project undertaken up to that time. One thousand shares of stock were offered for sale at $300 each and they were so heavily oversubscribed in an almost riotous contest that 2276 shares spoken for were placed in a wheel and reduced to 1000 by lot. The legislature authorized the incorporation in April, 1792, with the right to erect gates every seven miles, levy tolls, fix the width of wheels and the number of horses to a wagon, and take over property by eminent domain.
The argument for building a turnpike in Pennsylvania was compelling. Roads in America were notoriously bad, and the old dirt road between Philadelphia and Lancaster was one of the worst. Coaches and wagons were overturned, their riders hurt or killed, their horses ruined by the strain. Because of this, farm produce of the Susquehanna Valley was being shipped by water to Baltimore not to Philadelphia even though it was much closer.
Construction began, in the spring of 1793 and as anyone who has ever driven this road will attest, it has NEVER ended. The road, though not completed, was opened for use in 1794. A stagecoach carrying ten passengers and luggage was now able to leave Philadelphia at five o’clock in the evening and reach Lancaster at five the following morning. Within a short time there were sixty-one inns and taverns along the road, bearing such names as Red Lion, Rising Sun, Cross Keys, and White Horse.