Preservation, Road Trips

The Wilson Bridge

This graceful structure is one of my favorite stops along the National Road in Maryland.

Wilson's Bridge

The Wilson Bridge carried the National Road and US 40 over Conococheague Creek west of Hagerstown, Maryland for 117 years. (Check out this remarkable photo of the bridge while it still carried US 40.) A marvel of engineering in its day, few stone bridges were so long and had so many arches when Silas Henry built it in 1819.

Even though a new bridge was built 100 feet away along a new alignment of US 40, the Wilson Bridge carried local traffic until 1972 when flooding caused by Tropical Storm Agnes severely damaged it. (Photos here, here, and here.) It stayed in that condition, narrowly averting the wrecking ball, until it was restored in 1984. This photo shows the rebuilt section.

Wilson's Bridge

Today, the bridge is open for anyone to explore, as long as they’re on foot.

Wilson's Bridge

The builder and restorer deserve to be remembered for their work!

Wilson's Bridge

This is the 1936 bridge that carries US 40 today. It’s a beauty, too.

Wilson's Bridge

The new bridge and accompanying road alignment straightened out US 40, making it easier to navigate. The map below highlights US 40 in yellow and the original route, over the Wilson Bridge, in green. The portion of this alignment south of current US 40 to where it turns west again is said to be barely a trace it’s so heavily overgrown, but the rest of the alignment still exists. Just before the old road meets US 40 to the west stands the tiny village of Wilson, after which the bridge was named.

wilsonbridgemap

Even with busy US 40 so close, the Wilson Bridge was peaceful and quiet. I was ready to spend a couple hours here with this bridge, leaning on the railing and listening to the creek flow by under me. I would have liked to explore the old alignment, too. But my sons were ready to move on, and we needed to reach Wheeling before dark.

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8 thoughts on “The Wilson Bridge

  1. Nice report. This bridge is a favorite of mine, too. I guess much of the old alignment south of the current US-40 is overgrown but enough remains to reach Wilson’s Store which isn’t all that much newer than the bridge (1840s). The store is a real treat. In little more than a week, on May 16, the bridge will be open briefly for a wagon train that is part of the National Pike Festival.

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    • My research suggests that you can’t drive the section south of 40 to where it turns west again; the road emerges from the brush there. I would like to visit Wilson’s Store on a return trip someday.

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  2. Lone Primate says:

    Another phenomenal post, Jim! Some really great shots, especially juxtaposed with the older shots you found on Flickr. Do you know if it was already closed to traffic when the storm damage occurred?

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