Wheeling, West Virginia, is well known for its suspension bridge that carried the National Road across the Ohio River. It delivers westbound travelers onto Wheeling Island, and from there they must cross the Ohio River’s backchannel to finally enter Ohio at the little town of Bridgeport. That, of course, involves another bridge. This map shows them both:
That bridge is a modern slab that utterly lacks romance. But check out the bridge that stands next to it.
This is the Bridgeport Bridge, named after the town at its west end. It was built in 1893 of wrought iron with a wooden deck, atop piers that originally carried a bridge built here in 1837. A new deck of steel grate was laid in 1950. Subsequently, time (surely aided by lack of maintenance) was not kind to this bridge, and safety became a serious concern. In 1987, additional trusses were installed to temporarily shore up the crumbling substructure. In 1998, a new bridge was completed alongside, and this old girl was abandoned.
My old buddy Jeff was along for this segment of the trip, and he noticed a sign hanging from one of the cross braces. “I want to know what’s on that sign,” he said, and quickly we found ourselves, um, trespassing. Stepping out onto the adjacent walkway (as the bridge’s deck had been removed) we soon had our answer.
The walkway railing was in nice shape, despite the branches growing through.
I wish the same could be said about the bridge’s substructure.
This bridge is a basket case if I’ve ever seen one.
Rumors have persisted for years that this bridge would soon be demolished, but now a television station in nearby Steubenville reports that it will come down in July, 2011. They say that the bridge’s railing and finials, as well as that Ohio State Line sign, will be given to local historical societies. I suppose that’s better than nothing.
Here’s a video of its sad demolition.
I was a little nervous to visit this bridge because the last time I did, I wrecked my car. Read that story.
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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