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Article Archive >> Autumn Tourism

Historic Bridges in Washington County

Historic Bridges in Washington County

Bridges mark different eras in our national history. The first bridges were spans made of wooden logs or planks, then stones, using a simple support and crossbeam arrangement.
The arch for a bridge was first used by the Roman Empire for bridges and bodies of water--some are still standing today. The Romans also used cement, reducing the variation of strength found in natural stone. Brick and mortar bridges were built after the Roman era, as technology for cement was lost.
Hans Ulrich and Johannes Brubenmann created many modern designs using timber (or wood) for bridges during the 18th century.
With the rise of the Industrial Revolution, (machines replacing manual labor) in the 19th century, truss systems (a structure consisting of straight slender members connected at joints) of wrought iron were developed for larger bridges, but iron did not have the tension strength needed to support large loads. With the advent of steel, which has a high tensile strength, much larger bridges were built, many using the ideas of Gustave Eiffel, French engineer and architect of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.
The history of bridges is fascinating.
There are many historic bridges in Washington County...many dating back to the early 1800s. Load up the car...grab the family and go on a historic bridge tour of Washington County.
(BOLD)Wilson's Bridge (END BOLD) over Conococheague Creek: Erected by Pennsylvanian Silas Harry, Wilson Bridge is the oldest as well as one of the most graceful of Washington County's 19th century stone bridges. This five-arch span was built in 1819 as a step in extending the National Road (Route 40) westward from Hagerstown. Today a larger bridge designed for 20th century traffic bypasses it.
(BOLD)Devil's Backbone Bridge (END BOLD) over Little Beaver Creek: Located at the mouth of Little Beaver Creek at the spot where Braddock and his redcoats crossed the Little Beaver in 1755, this one-arch span was built by Jabez Kenny in 1824.
(BOLD)Broadfording Bridge (END BOLD)over Conococheague Creek: An impressive five-archer located on Broadfording Road, this bridge's length was dictated by the fact that it was to span the Conococheague-literally-at a "broad" fording. Built by the Lloyds of Pennsylvania in 1829, its center arch and next adjacent westward are considerably higher than the other three, even though the bridge itself does not rise with corresponding sharpness at it center.
(BOLD)Conococheague Bridge (END BOLD)over Conococheague Creek: This four-arch span was built in 1829 at Williamsport by Charles Wilson & Co., agents of the Lloyds of Pennsylvania. It has survived two major remodeling projects-entailing addition of cantilevered concrete aprons to widen its roadbed-but still rests as soundly on its original arches as when it was first built.
(BOLD)Booth's Mill Bridge (END BOLD)over Antietam Creek: Built in 1833, by Charles Willson, who previously had built the Conococheague Bridge at Williamsport as an agent to the Lloyds of Pennsylvania, this two-archer replaced a wooden bridge near the site of a powder mill.
(BOLD)Burnside Bridge(END BOLD) over Antietam Creek on Antietam Battlefield: Built in 1836, just 26 years before the Battle of Antietam, this beautifully proportioned three-archer has been known ever since the Civil War by the name of the Union general who commanded the troops that used the bridge as the pivotal point for their flanking attack on the southern edge of Sharpsburg. Perfectly restored to its original condition today-even to the wooden coping that tops its walls-this gem of bridge construction is a monument to the engineering skills and artistry of Master Bridgebuilder John Weaver, who erected it for the budget cost of $2,300.
(BOLD)Hager's Mill Bridge (END BOLD)over Antietam Creek: This two-arch span, built on the site of the first mill established in Washington County, is the only stone bridge within Hagerstown's city limits. Economy is believed to have dictated the design of this unusually narrow, shallow-arched structure. Built in 1738 and later extended with two concrete arches, it is today a garish example of the incompatibility of two eras, rather than the picturesque landmark it could have been.
(BOLD)Old Forge Bridge(END BOLD) over Antietam Creek: The last of Washington County's dated stone bridges, Old Forge Bridge narrowly missed destruction shortly after being erected in 1863. According to reports, when Lee crossed it on his retreat from Gettysburg, he decided not to destroy it only after ascertaining that the creek itself was fordable at that spot.
(BOLD)Cool Hollow Culvert(END BOLD) over a branch of Little Beaver Creek: This little bridge is located over a stream that flows only after prolonged rainfall. Its high centered arch perforates parallel stone walls that terminate in modified columns. Only one of its stone faces is visible today, the other having been obscured with concrete when the structure was widened.

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