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Watkins Glen Iron Foot-Bridge

   


Watkins Glen Iron Foot-Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: May 28, 2007
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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Watkins Glen State Park Trail Over Glen Creek
Location
Watkins Glen: Schuyler County, New York
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1870 By Builder/Contractor: Unknown and Engineer/Design: John L. Foreman

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
90 Feet (27.4 Meters)
Structure Length
90 Feet (27.4 Meters)
Roadway Width
10.6 Feet (3.25 Meters)
Spans
1 Main Span(s)
NBI Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

View Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) Documentation For This Bridge

HAER Drawings, PDF

This bridge is a cast and wrought iron bridge and as such is a member of an elite group of historic bridges that are among the most important in the country. One survey found around 70 such bridges in the country, and it is likely that today there are fewer than that remaining.

Fortunately, this bridge is in use as a pedestrian bridge in a park and as such its future is not threatened. It crosses Glen Creek and the deep valley it has cut through the park. As a result, this bridge has some serious clearance between deck and the creek below... it is quite a thrill to look down from on this bridge!

It is Watkins Glen State Park's own loss that they do not publicize the importance of this bridge. There is no interpretive plaque located near the bridge to describe how ancient this c. 1870 iron bridge is, nor how uncommon the bowstring truss design is. Many different companies designed their own bowstrings in the 1870s and each had its own distinctive style. This bridge is the only known remaining bridge with this particular design. The iron on the bridge was fabricated by the Phoenix Iron Company. However, none of this is presented to park visitors. Indeed, the park has instead fueled confusion by describing this bridge as a suspension bridge. The only place the bridge is mentioned in the park is on a sign detailing what the area looked like long ago. The sign mentions that "the suspension bridge in the center of this picture stands to this day." While it is possible that this bridge may have been known as "the Suspension Bridge" by locals of the time, the wording of the above sentence implies that the structure type is a suspension. One might have a good academic argument over whether a bowstring is more like an arch bridge or a truss bridge, but it is NOT a suspension bridge! If the bridge was historically called "The Suspension Bridge" it might be appropriate to continue to give the bridge this title, but any signage that discusses the bridge should more clearly outline that the structure is an c. 1870 iron bowstring bridge. Indeed, the bridge should be more prominently featured as a park attraction, since it is a nationally significant structure.

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