Preservation

National Road news: Wheeling Suspension Bridge closed for at least a year

Suspension bridge

The Wheeling Suspension Bridge closed to vehicular traffic on September 20. It will be closed for at least a year, say officials with the West Virginia Department of Transportation.

Too many vehicles heavier than the posted 2-ton weight limit have been crossing the bridge, according to Secretary of Transportation Byrd White. “People just ignore” the posted weight-limit signs, he said.

Suspension bridge

The bridge was closed for several weeks over the summer after a bus crossed it and then got stuck under a barrier entering Wheeling. The bridge was inspected, and some damage was found to the structure.

The bridge was repaired and new barriers were installed to block large vehicles, but vehicles over the weight limit kept crossing the bridge.

Suspension bridge

The Department of Transportation hopes to rehabilitate the bridge during its closure. They will reevaluate whether to allow vehicular traffic again at that time.

The bridge remains open to walkers and bicyclists.

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Road Trips

A tour of Wheeling, West Virginia, on the National Road

It made good sense to stop in Wheeling overnight as we made our way home on the National Road. It’s just shy of 300 miles from Baltimore to Wheeling, and a bit more than 300 miles from Wheeling to Indianapolis, and that’s about as close to smack-dab-in-the-middle as it gets.

It also made excellent sense to contact Ryan Stanton, of The Bell Rang blog, since he often writes about Wheeling history and architecture (and frequently comments here). [Since I wrote this post, his blog went dark, so no link.] I’ve had great fun meeting bloggers with interests similar to mine when I’m on the road. He was not only glad to meet up, but offered a tour of Wheeling’s sights.

Ryan brought his dad along as we toured downtown and the famous suspension bridge over the Ohio River. I’ll write about the suspension bridge in my next post. There’s enough in downtown Wheeling to crowd it out of this post!

One of Ryan’s favorite subjects is Henry Schmulbach, a brewer key to Wheeling’s growth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He built this 13-story building, which was completed in 1907, to be his headquarters. It remains Wheeling’s tallest building. It’s so tall that I couldn’t get back far enough for my camera’s lens to capture the whole building. I took several photos and merged them in Photoshop.

Schmulbach building

Ryan also writes about this building, the National Bank of West Virginia, and its unusual entrance. This is another multi-photo image merged in Photoshop.

National Bank of West Virginia, Wheeling

Sadly, all in Wheeling is not quite as well cared for as these two great buildings. Many of Wheeling’s downtown buildings have fallen into disrepair. This poor building was the worst I saw – it had recently burned.

Downtown

Before I could get too depressed about Wheeling’s state of decay, we came upon this great theater, its neon sign lit in defiance of the morning sun.

Victoria Theater

Wheeling’s best days may currently be behind it, but its downtown has plenty of potential. Here’s hoping that better days are still ahead.

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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Road Trips

Madonnas of the Trail on the National Old Trails Road

In the 1910s, before the US highway system, a coast-to-coast road was formed to link Baltimore (or New York, some maps say) to San Francisco. Named the National Old Trails Road, it made its way across 12 states. Some of it was new construction, but most of it followed existing roads, including the National Road west from Cumberland, Maryland. In 1928 and 1929, the Daughters of the American Revolution placed one Madonna of the Trail statue along the National Old Trails Road in each of its 12 states. The statues commemorate pioneer women who made the difficult journey west. Along the National Road, the easternmost statue is in Pennsylvania, just east of Beallsville.

Madonna of the Trail

Since each statue is the same, you might think that after you’ve seen one Madonna, you’ve seen them all. I had previously seen the one in Vandalia, Illinois, at the National Road’s very end.

Madonna of the Trail

The next morning I would see the one in Wheeling, West Virginia.

Wheeling Madonna of the Trail

But there’s just something compelling about these old ladies. We had planned to see the ones in Springfield, Ohio and Richmond, Indiana as well on this trip, but fate conspired against us, and we were sorely disappointed.

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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