Take the 34 bus up Washington Street to Forest Hills and it always announces Tollgate Way. Nobody ever gets off there, though. Except maybe the ghosts.
Across the train tracks, on Hyde Park Avenue, a street sign also announces Tollgate Way:
But there's nothing there, except a small, dilapidated cemetery. Look up, across the cemetery, and you'll see an abandoned pedestrian bridge across the Amtrak and commuter-rail tracks: A bridge to nowhere - there are no longer any stairs leading up to the span.
What's the deal? As Mark Bulger discovered a few years ago, there used to be a public school on Washington Street, roughly where DB&S Lumber and the Tostado sandwich shop are today. The city put in the bridge so kids on the Hyde Park side of the train tracks could get to the school - the bridge led right into its rear yard. City records show that in 1918, the public works department spent $3.55 for unspecified repairs to the bridge.
But with the school long gone, the bridge fell into disrepair. Sometime in the 1990s, the city simply shut the thing down, forcing the few pedestrians who wanted to get between Washington Street and Hyde Park Avenue to walk up to Ukraine Way.
Why Tollgate? Washington Street was originally built in 1803 as the Norfolk and Bristol Turnpike, a toll road that ran from what is now Forest Hills to Rhode Island, with a toll gate (where stagecoach drivers would pay, then turn a pike to enter) near where the train station is today. The arrival of the railroad in 1834 eroded the road's profitability and the city took it over in 1857 and, shocking to our modern sensibilities, removed the tolls.
The cemetery, in turn, was built in the mid-1800s and holds the remains of some of JP's German residents but also a number of Irish-American Civil War veterans. Although it puts out the welcome mat to visitors, and despite some recent efforts by an Irish-American veterans' association, it remains largely a forgotten place, where the number of illegible and broken grave markers is matched by the number of liquor and water bottles strewn around by the fence along the train tracks.
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