When the turnpike was like an arrow through the head

Old logo for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority

You oldtimers will remember when the turnpike had giant toll cards featuring a grinning Pilgrim with an arrow through his head, sitting atop a map of the turnpike. I haven't been able to find a copy of one of those, but yesterday, while walking into the North End to take another photo, I happened upon what looks to be an original brick turnpike tollbooth (UPDATE: Supervisor booth, see the comments), in front of the old tunnel administration building on North Street.

By itself, it's kind of an interesting little building, but it also sports the turnpike's two original logos - one showing Paul Revere ("The Nash Ramblers are coming! The Nash Ramblers are coming!"), the other featuring this green arrow through the Pilgrim hat that was allegedly how founding turnpike honcho William Callahan (our version of Robert Moses) chose to stick it to the Brahmins.



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I was once told that

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the "arrow in hat" logo, which was simplified in later years (the "Massachusetts Turnpike Authority" text was removed - but the arrow was retained), was eliminated because the arrow was confusing drivers who thought it indicated which direction to go in to enter the highway.

Callahan ? Moses

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I think the comparison of Callahan to Robert Moses is not the best one. I think that the better comparison would be Ed Logue to Moses, and even then, you have a difference of several orders of magnitude.

That said, I know that people love to hate on Robert Moses, particularly since Caro's unflattering biography "The Power Broker", but you have to at least acknowledge that the New York City metropolitan area would not be the huge economic engine it is today had it not been for Moses. I know, I know - the highways led to sprawl, etc., but the economy there would have been a fraction of the size that it is today without them. Whether it was worth it is another question.

One thing I should point out in defense of Moses, however, is that the oft-repeated charge that he built roads only on the backs of poor people is an oversimplified exaggeration and not wholly accurate. Certainly, he was responsible for obliterating serveral, even many low income neighborhoods (the Cross Bronx Expressway project comes to mind) and displacing a lot of people in the process. He also, however, built several parkways on Long Island that went straight through the treasured polo clubs and other properties of some of the most powerful people in the country (and the story about the overpasses on said parkways being intentionally constructed as too low for buses, and therefore, as the logic goes, preventing poor people from going there, is a distortion). He is also responsible for the construction of Jones Beach, one of the country's premiere beach/recreation facilities, and if you take a trip down there on any hot summer weekend, you will see that it is not a playground reserved for the rich.

Moses was certainly not what we today would call a champion of the downtrodden, but he worked in a very different era and one that preexisted environmental permitting procedures as we know them. Last thought: the PBS American Experience series produced a piece called "The World that Moses Built". If you can find it (and that is not easy), it is worth watching, as it is much more evenhanded than Caro's book.

As somebody who grew up in Moses's New York ...

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First, there really isn't a comparison to Moses, I'll grant you. Callahan built roads. Logue redeveloped downtown Boston. Nobody really had the amazing breadth of titles - or impact - Moses did.

But let's not beat around the bush: He hated people. Period. You could see it in New York City playgrounds, which greeted you with large signs reading "NO" followed by a long list of things you couldn't do. Playgrounds that were sterile expanses of concrete and asphalt - no trees would be allowed to sully his perfect swaths of sterility (I don't know, were they like that up here? It's the "NO" signs I especially remember).

He built his parkways through rich people's yards on the North Shore because they pissed him off (Caro discusses the exact reason), not because there was something particularly better about his proposed routes.

In short, he was really the Mr. Potter of New York, a mean, nasty man who helped prove what happens with too much power.


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The good Moses did was often by happenstance or sheer accident, particularly later in his career when he was incensed that people dared to actually fight back against his decrees. The guy was a Class A knobhead.

There's a recent biography of Moses' longtime nemesis Jane Jacobs, WRESTLING WITH MOSES, that again is much more even-handed than Caro's takedown, but still sheds light on some of his foibles.

It wasn't a toll booth

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But it was a booth for an official to observe traffic and direct it if necessary, or call other officials.

The nearby Traffic Tunnel Administration Building was built by the City of Boston, at the same time the city built the Sumner Tunnel -- note that the building is connected to the old Printing Department building.

The Administration Building, and the Sumner Tunnel were transferred to the Turnpike Authority when it built the Callahan Tunnel. This little booth dates from about the same time.

The toll booths were always at the East Boston end of the tunnels.

Thanks for the info

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I'd been picturing a little toolbooth out in some remote Berkshire place, with just a single collector whiling away the hours, and wondering why they'd transport that to Boston, but it's good to know the truth sometimes :-).


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It must be awesome to be unemployed! You get to walk around, take photos and live off the state! I will be sure to write my senator about the great use of extended unemployment benefits and how people consider making snarky remarks on other people's stories and history a job!!



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It must be awesome to be so obsessed with me. I've never had a stalker before.

I think I collected my last unemployment check a year ago. But by all means write your senator.

Jealous much?

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I'm pretty sure I don't have the skillz to support a family from my blog. Most of us don't.

i love this blog!

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im an anon, and I just wanted to show some support.


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how did this Herald reader get in here?!