This graceful structure is one of my favorite stops along the National Road in Maryland.
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.
Today, the bridge is open for anyone to explore, as long as they’re on foot.
The builder and restorer deserve to be remembered for their work!
This is the 1936 bridge that carries US 40 today. It’s a beauty, too.
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.
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.
I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.
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