They say this Ohio National Road S bridge is crumbling, but it held up my car just fine

About four miles east of Old Washington, Ohio, I came upon the only S bridge on the entire National Road that you can still drive. (Or could, at the time; it has since been closed.) US 40 bypassed it somewhere along the line, and later I-70 bypassed them both. Out here, old US 40 is Bridgewater Road.

Here’s the bridge on the ground. Check out that graceful S shape.

Salt Fork S Bridge

Here’s the bridge from the west. A plaque above the keystone reads, “1828 1936 In memory of the pioneers who built this S bridge – The Ohio Society Daughters of the American Revolution.”

Salt Fork S Bridge

As I researched this bridge, I discovered that a photographer for the Historic American Engineering Record favored the same angle. The record at the Library of Congress suggests that this photo was taken after 1933, but the plaque from 1936 isn’t present. So this photo is very likely from between those years, and my guess is that it still carried US 40 then.

Here’s a closer look at the arch and the plaque.

Salt Fork S Bridge

My research also revealed that this bridge is in poor shape and needs considerable work to restore it to full stability. But still, it was great to be able to drive over this bridge. I understand that the construction of I-70 led to the demolition of other S bridges in the area. I have read that the S bridge in this postcard was one of the unlucky ones. Notice that the caption says it was in Bridgewater, Ohio – given that I’m on Bridgewater Road, this bridge must have been nearby, but I can’t find the first hint of a town called Bridgewater. Did I-70 take both the bridge and the town? Perhaps an Ohio expert will read this and chime in.

Ohio may be the world’s epicenter of S bridges, but I also found one on the National Road in Pennsylvania. Check it out.

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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14 responses to “They say this Ohio National Road S bridge is crumbling, but it held up my car just fine”

  1. roadgeek6570 Avatar

    I think the postcard is wrong. There is indeed a Bridgewater in Ohio, a very small place near Pioneer just north of US 20. It’s at 41°39’31.76″N 84°37’40.84″W. I got to thinking that maybe the S-bridge was on US 20 instead. Look at what I found at 41°38’35.51″N 84°34’8.34″W; this looks like there may have been an S Bridge at this looking (see County Road 030)

    1. Jim Avatar

      The site you point out may have once hosted an S bridge. And certainly my research into a Bridgewater on the National Road was inconclusive. I based it on this page at the Ohio National Road Association’s site.

  2. Scott Palmer Avatar

    Beautiful stuff. It gives you an almost tangible sense of history. How far is that bridge from Indy?

    I’m glad that the bridge didn’t collapse under you. We would have missed another great blog post. :-)

    1. Jim Avatar

      This bridge is not far from Cambridge, Ohio, which is about a 5-hour drive down I-70 from Indy. Four S bridges still stand on Ohio’s National Road. I wrote about the one at Blaine several posts ago; I’ll write about the other two in an upcoming post!

  3. ryoko861 Avatar

    Funny you should mention the building in the other post still being there. I wondered that also as I was reading it and you answered my question! I noticed that the telephone (or telegraph) poles aren’t present in the picture above. Some of the trees are gone as well.

    I pictured the river running through. I wonder how they re-routed it? Usually they don’t like to do that because it disrupts the natural run off of the land. Sad to see a dry river bed. Those bridges are so graceful and lend themselves to the beauty of their surroundings. Now there’s a straight and narrow bridge just cutting across the land. Nice to see some have survived (amazing,no graffiti!).

    If I’m ever out that way I’ll definitely make a note to check it out!

    1. Lone Primate Avatar
      Lone Primate

      I think the river does still go through; the S-curve still crosses the river in the aerial shot. I think it’s just that the bank hides the river at the angle from which Jim took the shot. :) Jim will correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s how it looks to me…

    2. Jim Avatar

      Irene, it’s amazing how much a scene can change in 80 years, isn’t it? I don’t think the stream here was dry, but it wasn’t a raging waterway to be sure.

      This is a very rural scene, and a house stands very close to the bridge, so I guess I wasn’t surprised to find the bridge untouched by graffiti!

  4. Lone Primate Avatar
    Lone Primate

    Man oh man, you’re really becoming king at finding these old reference shots. I love stuff like that! :)

    1. Jim Avatar

      I have the Historic American Engineering Record and the Library of Congress to thank!

  5. Denny Gibson Avatar

    “Perhaps an Ohio expert will read this and chime in.”
    I’ll chime in because I read it and know an Ohio expert. I asked Doug Smith and he says that, yes, I-70 did take both the bridge and the town. They were just a tad east of Middlebourne and locals have told him that the bridge was actually used as fill for the interstate. He has also been told that the building at the end of the bridge was a toll house.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Denny, thank you very much for asking Doug for that information! It blows my mind that this S bridge was used as fill for I-70. I get that roads can’t always be preserved and that modern transportation needs sometimes take precedence, but what a sad end for that particular bridge.

      1. Doug Smith Avatar
        Doug Smith

        Jim, it’s Doug Smith, and a group of members of the Ohio National Road Association, including me, met with the Guernsey County Commissioners two days ago (10/2/2013), asking them to close this evermore deteriorating S-bridge before it succumbs to the weight of trucks associated with timbering, gas and oil operations in this area: This article will give you the details leading to our decision. Keep up your great work and interesting perspective on our historic byways. We “Road Geeks” appreciate you, ’cause you’re one of us!

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Hi Doug! I’m sad that the bridge must be closed, but I’m sure you had little other choice. I’m just glad that I got to drive it in ’11 on my trip across Ohio on the NR!

  6. […] With roads, like U.S. 40, obviously the case is a bit different. Roads must be upgraded and maintained, and so it’s not practical (nor necessarily safe) to keep a road as it looked 50 or 100 years ago. However, the actual pavement itself isn’t what makes a “road” a “Road,” although unique construction methods in some stretches to add to the road’s character, like the National Road’s remaining “S-bridges,” which Jim Grey writes about here and here. […]

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