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Bellevue, Newport to Commemorate Former Location of Toll Gate

A team from the East Row Garden Club of Newport and the Bellevue Neighborhood Association, are collaborating on the beautification and expansion of the site of a tollgate once located on the city's joint boundary under the overpass of I-471 on Donnermeyer Drive (6th Street).  

You can see it now in beginning form.

The purpose of the marker is to commemorate a period in our history when roads between cities were privately owned and tolls were charged to use the roads. The roads at that time being dirt, not paved, and crossing private properties, a toll was charged (such as 6 cents!) by the road’s owner, collected by the person manning the tollbooth, in order that the road might be maintained in navigable condition for horse-drawn wagons.  

Toll gates were located approximately every five miles.  

Privately owned roads were integral to the development of the today’s state and county road system. For example, U.S. 27 and Rt. 9, which traverse all of Campbell County, were first privately financed roads. By 1916 there were 62 miles of toll roads in the county.

What caused their demise? Tolls added to the price of goods. Traffic jams at the gates! If one lacked the price of the toll, one had to turn back. In the 19th century in this rural area, cash was not something everyone had, as barter governed much commerce. Seasonal paid work such as stripping tobacco in the fall may have given residents the only cash they would have all year.

The roads were not always well maintained, so  complaints, leading to fines and court cases, ultimately led to a Resolution passed by the Campbell County Fiscal Court to condemn the highway in 1923.

Bellevue in particular had a compelling reason to push for the abolishment of the toll. At the time the city ended at the Covert Run intersection, and there were approximately 2,200 building lots available for development in the southern part of the city! Abolition of the toll road would open a corridor to this land and allow for its development.  

However, it was new technology that killed the toll roads. With the coming of the automobile, pressure was exerted to incorporate these roads under municipal control and add them to the taxable benefits to citizens. On November 7, 1929, 86 years ago, a huge parade of motorcars celebrated the opening of “the Fill,” as it was called, connecting the 3 towns. Bellevue Mayor Clem A. Wiethorn, (1926–1933) teamed up with Mayor C.A. Wissel of Dayton and Mayor Fred McLane of Newport to celebrate this event, uniting the three cities with an event so important that Mayor Wiethorn ordered traffic lights in Bellevue to be turned off.

Today, an informative exhibit on the tollgates is displayed at the Newport branch of the Campbell County Library. Next spring, when all marker elements are in place, there will be a dedication ceremony held at the Tollgate Marker beneath the highway on Donnermeyer and Riviera Drive, perhaps involving a ‘parade’ of vintage automobiles.  

The City of Newport, in addition, has pledged to lay new sidewalk from the Marker to the garden at the southeast corner of OneStop Liquors’ property by the guardrail—a garden created by John Adams of the Bellevue Neighborhood Association. The East Row group also plans to work with the City of Newport to remove the (damaged) guardrail at the project site, and install a more authentic wooden guardrail. Also planned is the installation of lighting.

The committee thanks Mike Whitehead of Newport, the project’s inspiration. Born in Newport, serving the city as Alcoholic Beverage Control Administrator for 26 years, Mr. Whitehead retired in 2008, when he began the research that has resulted in the Tollgate Marker. Rebecca Walker of the East Row group has spearheaded the project, creating the alliance with the Bellevue Neighborhood Association, and coordinating all project elements.  

The committee wishes to thank Campbell County Cooperative Extension Service for their grants for 2014-15 and 2015-16, for Color in Our Community grants, and all committee members meeting beneath the highway in snow, sleet, rain and darkness over the past two years to create the reality of this interesting feature of our town.

-Story contributed