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Woodfern Road Bridge

   


Woodfern Road Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Bridge Documented: July 11, 2008
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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Woodfern Road Over South Branch Raritan River
Location
Rural: Somerset County, New Jersey
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1902 By Builder/Contractor: J. W. Scott of Flemington, New Jersey

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
2006
Main Span Length
99 Feet (30.2 Meters)
Structure Length
187 Feet (57 Meters)
Roadway Width
15.4 Feet (4.7 Meters)
Spans
2 Main Span(s)
NBI Number
18B0511

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

View Archived National Bridge Inventory Report - Has Additional Details and Evaluation

Similar to the nearby Higginsville Road Bridges, the bridge inventories consider this to be two distinct bridges rather than a single two-span bridge. While the reason for considering the two Higginsville Road Bridges separate is clear (different bridge builders, and bridge separated by an earthen pier/island), the Woodfern Road Bridge spans are less distinct from each other. In fact, they are so closely identical, that for the purposes of HistoricBridges.org, the Woodfern Road Bridges are both included on the same bridge page as a single bridge, one span being described as the North Span, the other as the South Span. Their used to be a 1916 concrete arch bridge just south of these bridges, but it had been demolished by the time HistoricBridges.org made a trip to New Jersey.

The crossing is immediately recognizable as a bridge which is very unusual and noteworthy because it makes a sharp turn at the pier, so the two spans are not lined up. This makes for some unique photo opportunities at this bridge.

The two spans are nearly identical, and are built by the same builder, although under two different contracts. However, there are small differences between the spans. The North span is skewed, while the South span is not, and the South span is also shorter than the North span with a span of 82 Feet (25 Meters) while its roadway is wider at 15.4 Feet (4.7 Meters). The North span has more alterations than the South span, although today both have alterations to some extent. The North bridge is slightly newer than the South bridge. The decision to construct the North span was made two weeks after the South span was replaced. The previous bridge at both spans was to the best of everyone's knowledge, a wooden covered bridge. What was likely the case is that the South span of this covered bridge was in worse shape than the north span, so the original plan must have been to just replace the South span and continue using the North span. However something must have made them decide to also replace the north span after the South span was completed. Perhaps the condition of the span had further worsened, or their might have been flood damage, etc. One can only speculate.

 Both spans are in good structural condition due to rehabilitation, although this good condition comes at the cost of some loss of historic integrity. As the Historic Bridge Inventory mentioned below, some alterations were present on this bridge from long ago. However, the 2006 rehabilitation made some further changes like new pins and floorbeams.

Overall however, these bridges retain decent integrity all things considered and they remain important both for their unusual arrangement and histories, and also because they are examples of an almost unheard of bridge builder. These bridges are a memorial and a record of J. W. Scott, who might have otherwise lone forgotten in the fog of the past.

Information and Findings From New Jersey's Historic Bridge Inventory

Discussion of Surrounding Area

Two single-lane thru truss bridges that carry a country road over the river. The setting is sparsely developed rural with fields and pastures and some 19th- and 20th-century residential development. The two bridges share a common earth-filled masonry pier. Immediately south of the pair of trusses is a third span, a concrete arch (18B0510), constructed in 1916.

Discussion of Bridge - North Bridge

Summary: The skewed single-span Pratt thru truss has masonry abutments. Built in 1902, the bridge and its companion span (18B0512) are the youngest of 4 surviving Pratt thru truss highway bridges built in the county between 1885 and 1902. John W. Scott was a local bridge builder from Flemington, and Joshua Doughty, Jr. was Somerset's first county engineer. The upper portion of the bridge has been modified, but it is significant as part of the 2-span crossing.

Bibliography: Comp, Allan, and Donald Jackson. A Guide to Dating and Identifying. Nashville, TN: American Association for State and Local History, 1977.
Condit, Carl W. American Building Art: The Nineteenth Century. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1960.
Map of Hillsborough Township. Collection of Somerset County Library, Somerville, NJ. 1860.
Snell, James P. Compiler. History of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties, New Jersey. Philadelphia: Everts and Peck, 1881.
Somerset County. 7th Book of Minutes of the Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Somerset. 1899-1902. __________.
County Engineer Records and Plans. 18B0511.

Physical Description: The skewed, 101'-long, single-span, pin-connected, five-panel half-hip Pratt thru truss bridge, one of a pair of nearly identical spans that share a common large ashlar mid-channel pier, carries a single-lane road over the main channel of the South Branch of the Raritan River. Comprised of rolled sections, the bridge has built-up box member top chords and end posts. The lower chords are paired eye bars. The verticals are angles with lacing, except for the hip verticals which are paired rods. The diagonals are paired eye bars, and the counters are single rods. The portal struts and bracing are angles with decorative lattice and builders plaques. The top struts are back-to-back angles with steel rod lateral bracing. The I-beam floor beams are supported from the lower chord panel points by U-shaped hangers. The bridge abutments, wing walls, and pier are roughly-coursed red sandstone masonry, probably quarried locally. A number of repairs have been made to the superstructure. In 1980 the county removed the original riveted cover plates of the inclined end posts and upper chords and replaced them with welded cover plates. The lattice verticals at the three middle panel points were cut and welded connecting plates added. In addition, the upper lateral struts and top lateral bracing were removed and replaced in an inverted position. The portal bracing, struts and lattice were also removed and rebuilt with new welded connections to the end posts. Other alterations and damages to the truss include a broken vertical with a welded connecting patch; a broken counter with a welded connecting patch; a snapped lower lateral brace; the removal of the original railing and the addition of modern steel guard rail; and rebuilding of the masonry abutment with a reinforced-concrete seat underneath the northeast truss shoe.

Historical and Technological Significance: The Woodfern Road Bridge across the South Branch of the Raritan River is technologically and historically significant as one of a pair of pin-connected thru truss bridges that represent bridge-building technologically from the local perspective at the turn of the century (criterion C). Erected in 1902, the Pratt thru truss with its nearly identical companion truss to the south (18B0512) are the youngest of 4 surviving Pratt thru-truss highway bridges built in Somerset County between 1885 and 1902, and the 9th youngest of 10 surviving thru trusses of all types. The Woodfern Road bridges retain integrity of design and has been in continuous use at the present site since the time of its construction. In the last decades of the 19th century, the Pratt truss type was widely used, and it played a prominent part in the advance of a reliable network of overland transportation. It was well regarded by engineers for its simplicity of design and easily determined structural action, and by the 20th century, the truss type had gained almost universal acceptance for both railroad and highway spans. The Woodfern Road bridges were erected by John W. Scott, a small bridge manufacturer from Flemington. A bridge has spanned the South Branch of the Raritan River at the site since at least the mid-19th century. A 1860 map shows the bridge, and the minute books of the Board of Freeholders record repairs to the bridge as early as the 1880s. The proximity of the Old York Road, Somerset's main east-west road from the 17th to the 19th century, and Neshanic Station, established by the South Branch of the Central Railroad of New Jersey in the 1870s, made the crossing an important link in the rural transportation network. The two trusses at Woodfern Road Bridge were built under two separate contracts by the same builder, John W. Scott. The southernmost truss (18B0512) was completed first in April 1902. Two weeks after the completion of the first truss span, the Freeholders decided to build a second to replace a bridge at the site of the existing northern skewed truss. They voted to build a 100' long span and quickly solicited bids. Bidders for the second truss included Scott, the Dover Boiler Works (Morris County), the Frank R. Long Company (Bergen County), the Berlin Construction Company (Connecticut), the William Kirk Company, and the American Bridge Company. The bids were closely spaced, but Scott received the contract because "his plans submitted were for a heavier bridge than the plans of the lower bidders." The price was $2400. The second truss was finished and accepted in September 1902. Both spans are believed to have replace wood truss covered bridges. J.W. Scott was a bridge fabricator who resided in Flemington (Hunterdon County). In 1899 he appears as a bidder on at least one other bridge project in Somerset County, but he did not receive the contract. Two nearly identical idiosyncratic pony trusses were erected by Scott in Hunterdon County 1900-1903 (100D390, 100D388). Scott appears to be typical of many small bridge builders who remain largely anonymous to history except for the bridge's they built, making the Woodfern Road bridges all the more significant. Because the spans share a common pier, they are evaluated as one structure. Both spans are significant.

Boundary Description and Justification: The two-span bridge is evaluated as individually significant. The boundary is limited to the structure itself, including the superstructures and substructures of both spans.

Discussion of Bridge - South Bridge

Summary: The single-span Pratt thru truss has masonry abutments. Built in 1902, the truss and its companion span (18B0511) are the youngest of 4 Pratt thru-truss highway bridges built in the county between 1885 and 1902. Builder John W. Scott was a small, a local fabricator from Flemington. Joshua Doughty was Somerset's first county engineer. The bridge is a well-preserved example of a historically significant type. It is the more complete of the 2 truss bridges at the crossing.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: The 84'-long, single-span, pin-connected, five-panel half-hip Pratt thru truss carries a single-lane road over the South Branch of the Raritan River and its flood plain. It is the southernmost of two nearly identical spans at the crossing. Comprised of rolled sections, the bridge has built-up box member top chords and end posts. The lower chords are paired eye bars. The verticals are angles with lacing, except for the hip verticals which are paired rods. The diagonals are paired eye bars, and the counters are single rods. The portal struts and bracing are angles with decorative lattice and builders plaques. The top struts are T-beams with steel rod lateral bracing. The I-beam floor beams are supported from the lower chord panel points by U-shaped hangers. The bridge abutments, wing walls, and pier are roughly-coursed red sandstone masonry, probably quarried locally. The bridge shares its northern pier with a similar skewed Pratt thru truss (18B0511). The bridge retains its integrity of design, although a number of minor repairs have been made to the superstructure. In 1980 the county cut the lattice verticals at the three lower-middle panel points and added welded connecting plates. Steel angles were welded to the floor beams at the intersection with the stringers. Other alterations included the removal of the original railing (railing hangers still extant) and the addition of modern beam guide rails; the shifting of the southeast truss shoe from the roller plate; and a welded patch on the riveted cover plate of the southeast inclined end post. This span is more complete than the northern span.

HISTORICAL AND TECHNOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE: The Woodfern Road Bridge across the South Branch of the Raritan River is significant for engineering and method of construction (Criterion C). Built in 1902, the Pratt thru truss with its nearly identical companion truss to the north are the youngest of 4 surviving pin-connected Pratt thru-truss highway bridges built in Somerset County between 1885 and 1902, and the 9th youngest of 10 surviving thru trusses of all types. The Woodfern Road bridges retain integrity of design and has been in continuous use at the present site since the time of its construction. In the last decades of the 19th century, the Pratt truss type was built widely, and played a prominent part in the advance of a reliable network of overland transportation. It was well-regarded by engineers for its simplicity of design and easily determined structural action, and by the 20th century had gained almost universal acceptance for both railroad and highway spans. The Woodfern Road Bridge was constructed by John W. Scott, a small, locally-active bridge manufacturer from Flemington (Hunterdon County). A bridge has spanned the South Branch of the Raritan River at the site since at least the mid-19th century. A 1860 map shows the bridge, and the minute books of the Board of Freeholders record repairs to the bridge as early as the 1880s. The proximity of the Old York Road, Somerset's main east-west road from the 17th to the 19th century, and Neshanic Station, established by the South Branch of the Central Railroad of New Jersey in the 1870s, made the crossing an important link in the rural transportation network. The two trusses at Woodfern Road Bridge were built under two separate contracts by the same builder, John W. Scott. In July 1901 the Freeholders viewed the bridge and carried a motion to replace the southernmost truss (18B0512) with a new iron bridge "to be 80 ft. between abutments with 18 ft. roadway and of sufficient capacity to carry a 15 ton roller." Action was taken quickly: bids were advertised, prepared, and received within two weeks. Bidders on the project included Scott, the Easton Foundry and Machine Co., the Canton Bridge Co., W. Kirk, and the Berlin Construction Co. Scott was the low bidder on the project and received the contract at a price of $1600. In April 1902 the southernmost truss was completed. Two weeks after its completion, the Freeholders decided to also replace the northernmost span at Woodfern Road with a 100'-span bridge (18B0511). Scott again received the contract because "his plans submitted were for a heavier bridge than the plans of the lower bidders." The second truss was completed and accepted in September 1902. John W. Scott appears as a bidder on at least one other bridge project in Somerset County in 1899, but did not receive the contract. He is documented as having fabricated two idiosyncratic pony truss spans in Hunterdon County in 1901-1903 (100D388, 100D390). Scott appears to be typical of many small bridge builders who remain largely anonymous to history except for the bridge's they built, making the Woodfern Road bridges all the more significant.

Boundary Description and Justification: The two-span bridge is evaluated as individually significant. The boundary is limited to the structure itself, including the superstructures and substructures of both spans.

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes

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