PENNSYLVANIA KING BRIDGES–A SPECIAL REPORT
By Allan King Sloan
Thanks to some excellent research by Matt Hamel, PennDOT’s Regional Architectural Historian, we have a much better picture of the status of King bridges in Pennsylvania, one of the important markets for the King Bridge Company despite the fact that many of the company’s major competitors were based in Pennsylvania. Most of the bridges listed below have been deemed to be of historic importance and documented in the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) or in the Pennsylvania Historic Bridge Inventory and Evaluation of 1998 (prepared by A.G. Lichtenstein & Associates for PennDOT). Some of these bridges have been preserved or are in the process of being saved in some fashion, other have been or are being removed, while still other while still in place are scheduled to disappear in the near future.
BRIDGES STILL STANDING
The Belmar Railroad Bridge on the Allegheny Rail Trail in Venango County – This spectacular 1,361 foot steel truss bridge was built in 1906 for the Franklin & Clearfield Railroad by the King Bridge Company in collaboration with American Bridge under subcontracts to the Thomas McNally Company of Pittsburgh. The Allegheny Valley Trails Association acquired the bridge which now serves as part of a nine mile long hiking-biking trail. (See also RAILROAD SPECIAL and the link to http://www.venengoil.com/bridgesbelmar.html
North Hyndman Bridge, Baltimore & Ohio Railroad spanning Wills Creek, Hyndman, Bedford County As noted in HAER “This bridge was built by the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio, one of the nation’s leading nineteenth-century bridge manufacturing concerns. King Bridge was one of the few large bridge building companies to survive the merger movement of 1900-01 when the giant American Bridge Company, a subsidiary of the U.S. Steel Corporation, was formed. The B&O’s bridge at Wills Creek is likely one of the last King Bridge Company spans erected in Pennsylvania.” Apparently this bridge is still in place!
The Slates’ Mill Bridge spanning the South Branch of Tunkhannock Creek, Lackawanna County- As noted in the HAER documentation, this bridge “typifies the Pratt through truss for moderate spans in rural contexts constructed during the 1880s by the King Iron Bridge Company. It marks the site of rural industry that has disappeared due to profound changes in land use. Although the King Iron Bridge Company erected thousands of these metal truss bridges in such contexts, a small percentage survive. Despite its present state of deterioration, it remains basically unaltered and retains much of its original decoration. It is an excellent example of an endangered bridge that could be rehabilitated for pedestrian use as a public amenity in a state recreational facility.” It is reported to be part of Lackawanna State Park controlled by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The three bridges noted above are either structures built for railroads and/or are in a location protected in some fashion by their current ownership status, ie organizations that are interested in preserving the bridges rather than removing them. The fate of most remaining bridges are in the hands of PennDOT, either as owners or as responsible for safety and inspection issues on highway bridges in all jurisdictions in the state.
The two bridges below have been protected to date by the fact that local interests are exploring ways to protect them.
The Seventh Street Bridge -1883- Coudersport, Potter County
This bridge is interesting because the original King Pratt truss has been reinforced by a bowstring arch without removing the original structure so it could still carry vehicular traffic. Thanks to the efforts of the town fathers, the bridge is slated to be relocated to another site across the Allegheny River channel in the town’s historic district if it has not already been moved.
The Yellow Creek Bridge #4 Bedford County, Pennsylvania — A restoration feasibility study is underway by the County for this 104 foot Pratt truss built by the King Bridge Company in 1884. This bridge is included in the PenDOT Historic Bridge Inventory as eligible for historic status. It has received much discussion in the local press of late, including an article in the Altoona Mirror of August 26, 2007. We will update the progress and findings when available.
The Pennsylvania Historic Bridge Inventory and Evaluation of 1998 has the following comment on this bridge.” The 104′ long, pin connected Pratt thru truss bridge fabricated in 1889 by the King Iron Bridge Co. of Cleveland is supported on ashlar
abutments with wingwalls. The light trusses are traditionally composed, but they are complete. The lower chords were post tensioned to strengthen the bridge and add redundancy at an unknown date. The bridge is historically and technologically significant as an early and complete example of the important bridge type. It is also the work of an important early national bridge building company.”
BRIDGES REMOVED OR IN DANGER
The following historically important King bridges are either in a more tenuous status or have already been removed even though they were included on the Pennsylvania Historic Bridge Inventory and Evaluation of 1998 or have been documented by HAER. Many are or were under the jurisdiction of PennDOT.
East Bloomsburg Bridge, Spanning Susquehanna River in Columbia County. This major bridge has been removed. As noted in the HAER documentation, “the East Bloomsburg Bridge consist(ed) of six equal pin-connected through-truss spans of 190 foot length with two feet between end bearings at the piers for a total length of 1150 feet. The truss spans (were) of the “Pennsylvania” (Petit) type with 10 equal panels of 19 feet each. The truss members (were) made of steel and wrought iron, and the pins were made of steel. The significance of the structure is twofold; one, that it was constructed prior to 1900 and, two, that it was built by the King Bridge Company, one of the most important truss bridge manufacturing companies in the United States in the 19th century. The bridge also exhibit(ed) a high degree of its original integrity.
Knight Bridge over Catawissa Creek, Mainville vicinity, Columbia County – This bridge also documented by HAER has been removed. (See http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hhh.pa3530)
The Hogback Bridge in Lawrence, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania –This 215 foot span built in 1893 was removed in 1989. This spectacular, often photographed single span Petit truss bridge crossed the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. Clearfield County is in the process of losing its second historic King bridge.
The Greenwood (Bell’s Landing) Bridge in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania – This bridge was built in 1892 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as well as in the PennDOT inventory. However, it is in the process of being replaced by a new bridge and the plan calls for the contractor to remove this fine old structure once the new bridge is completed despite its historic status and its potential to serve as a pedestrian facility and local historic amenity. The local community was notified of the PennDOT plan to remove the bridge in the spring of 2007 after all the plans and contracts for its removal had been prepared. A “Save the Bridge” campaign was stopped in its tracks after meetings between PennDOT and local officials determined that in order to save the bridge, all the studies and contracts would have to be redone and someone would have to come up with over $300,000 to maintain the old bridge! The substantial value of the bridge for scrap had been included in the price awarded to the winning contractor. Apparently historic preservation and community values rank low in PennDOT’s list of priorities.
There are a number of other King bridges that are included in PennDOT’s Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) for removal in the near future. Local bridge historians and interested citizens will have mobilize soon to save these bridges from the fate of the Bell’s Landing bridge. These include:
ON THE ENDANGERED LIST
SCHEDULED FOR REPLACEMENT IN NOVEMBER 2008
The Crooked Creek Road Bridge in Franklin, Adams County, Pennsylvania (68 feet) 1889* — This Pratt pony truss is one of the oldest remaining in Adams County. Local bridge historians will have to act fast to save this bridge from the fate of the Bell’s Landing bridge. The Pennsylvania Historic Bridge Inventory and Evaluation of 1998 has the following comment on this bridge.”The one span, 68′-long, pin-connected Pratt pony truss bridge built in 1889 is supported on stone abutments. It has built up compression members, eye bar tension members, U-shaped floorbeam hangers, and built up floorbeams. Angle knee braces are placed to the inside of the verticals. Steel stringers and an open steel grid deck were placed in 1972. Plates have been welded to the floorbeams to provide a greater bearing area for the stringers. According to the state bridge card, the bridge was fabricated in 1889 by the King Bridge Co. of Cleveland, a nationally prominent bridge building firm. The bridge is a traditionally composed example of the pin-connected Pratt truss type and design that dominated highway bridge building in the last decades of the 19th century. Once common in the region, they are now increasingly rare with this being one of the two oldest identified examples from 1889 to 1896 in Adams County, and among the oldest pre-1890 pin-connected pony truss highway bridges in the region. The bridge is historically and technologically significant as an example of its type and design by an important fabricator.”
CTY: ADAMS OWNER:PA DOT
MUNICIPALITY: FRANKLIN LOCATION:NORTH OF SEVEN STARS
FACILITY CARRIED:TR 310 (CROOKED CREEK ROAD)
NAME/ FEATURE INTERSECTED:TR 310 OVER MARSH CREEK
TYPE:PONY TRUSS DESIGN:PRATT MATERIAL:METAL
#SPANS:1 LENGTH:68 (20.7 m)WIDTH:15.5 (4.7 m)
YR BUILT:1889 ALTERATION:1972 SOURCE:INSP FILE
DESIGNER/BUILDER:KING BRIDGE CO
SCHEDULED FOR REPLACEMENT IN FEBRUARY 2010
The Fourth Street Bridge, North Irwin, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania–(145 feet) 1900* — This three span bridge still carries traffic across the former mainline of the Pennsylvania Railroad and is important because of it association with the railroad. The Pennsylvania Historic Bridge Inventory and Evaluation of 1998 has the following comment on this bridge. “The 3 span, 145′ long and 26′ wide, built up deck girder bridge has a 61′ long span over the railroad tracks and 38′ long approach spans. The substructure consists of ashlar abutments and built up steel column bents. The floorbeams are built up, and the stringers and deck are wood. The original 4 rail high metal pipe railing remains on the west side. It has been replaced with beam guiderail railings between the road and the sidewalk and a chain link fence on the sidewalk’s other side. The builder’s plaque is in the original railing end post. Although an example of a common bridge type, the bridge is historically and technologically significant for its association with the Pennsylvania RR main line.”
CTY: WESTMORELAND OWNER:N IRWIN CONN W/M
MUNICIPALITY:NORTH IRWIN LOCATION:NORTH IRWIN BOROUGH
FACILITY CARRIED:FOURTH STREET (SOUTH SIDE STREET BRIDGE)
NAME/ FEATURE INTERSECTED:FOURTH STREET OVER CONRAIL (PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD) TYPE: DECK GIRDER DESIGN:SIMPLE MATERIAL:STEEL
#SPANS:3 LENGTH:145 (44.2 m)WIDTH:26 (7.9 m)
YR BUILT:1900 ALTERATION:SOURCE:PLAQUE
DESIGNER/BUILDER:KING BRIDGE CO., CLEVELAND, OH
SCHEDULED FOR REPLACEMENT IN OCTOBER 2011
Shaw’s Landing Bridge -1897- Fairfield, Crawford County – This bridge is well known to bridge historians and is one of a number old bridges of this design built by King in western Pennsylvania and neighboring Ashtabula County Ohio, a county which is making some progress in efforts to save its old bridges.
The Pennsylvania Historic Bridge Inventory and Evaluation of 1998 has the following comment on this bridge. “The 1897, pin connected, single span, 80′-long, Pratt thru truss bridge is supported on ashlar abutments with concrete wingwalls. The five panel trusses are traditionally composed. The bridge was built by the King Bridge Company, one of the largest and most diversified bridge fabricators of the late 19th century. Crawford County is rich in pin connected, metal truss bridges. A total of 35 ranging in date from 1870 through the early 20th century remain in the county population. This bridge stands out as a complete example of metal truss bridge built by a prominent manufacturer. It is historically and technologically significant. The bridge appears to be complete.”
CTY:CRAWFORD OWNER:CRAWFORD COUNTY
MUNICIPALITY:FAIRFIELD LOCATION: .7 MI NW OF SR 285
FACILITY CARRIED:TR 620 (WIGHTMAN ROAD)
NAME/ FEATURE INTERSECTED:TR 620 OVER CONNEAUT OUTLET
TYPE:THRU TRUSS DESIGN:PRATT MATERIAL:METAL
#SPANS:1 LENGTH:80 (24.4 m)WIDTH:14 (4.3 m)
DESIGNER/BUILDER:KING BRIDGE COMPANY
SCHEDULED FOR REPLACEMENT IN OCTOBER 2010
The Pennsylvania Historic Bridge Inventory and Evaluation of 1998 has the following comment on this bridge. “The one-span, 116′-long, pin-connected Pratt truss bridge built in 1902 is supported on ashlar abutments. The trusses are traditionally composed with the upper chords being built up box sections, the lower chords and diagonals being eye bars, and the verticals being channels with lacing. The lattice portal struts have plaques and quarter-circle brackets with star-shaped cutouts. Rolled floorbeams with U-shaped hangers support steel stringers and an open steel grid deck (1953). Verticals, diagonals, and upper lateral bracing have been irreversibly altered with welded splices and/or plates at all of the panel points. The bridge is a late example of a bridge type/design that had reached maturity in the mid 1890s. It has no unusual or noteworthy details. There are more than 120 truss bridges in the region from the 1880s to 1940s, and many are earlier and more complete. The King Bridge Co.was a prolific builder, which was especially noteworthy for its innovative work from the 1860s to 1880s, but by 1900 had settled into the role of fabricating mostly standardized truss bridge types/designs, such as this example. There are many earlier and more distinguished examples of the company’s bridges in Pennsylvania. The bridge is not historically or technologically distinguished by its setting or context.
OLD CTY:UNION OWNER:C PADOT
MUNICIPALITY:GREGG LOCATION:1 MILE WEST OF ALLENWOOD
FACILITY CARRIED:SR 1012 NAME/ FEATURE INTERSECTED: SR 1012 OVER WHITE DEER HOLE CREEK TYPE:THRU TRUSS DESIGN:PRATT MATERIAL:STEEL
#SPANS:1 LENGTH:116 (35.4 m)WIDTH:16 (4.9 m) YR BUILT:1902 ALTERATION:1953 SOURCE:PLAQUE DESIGNER/BUILDER: KING BRIDGE CO (CLEVELAND, OH)
OTHER KING BRIDGES NOT YET ON THE TIP
The Township Road 412 Bridge near Sunbury?, Northumberland County
The Township Road 802 Bridge near Sunbury?, Northumberland County
The Township Road 771 Bridge near Kittatinny?, Armstrong County
The Farm School Road Bridge, Bucks County
The McLaughlin Run No.5 Beam Girder-1905- Bridgeville, Allegheny Co.
This 1905 bridge has a plaque citing the King Bridge Company as the builder.