This slightly skewed two-span bridge is an example of one of Pennsylvania's state standard plan truss bridges. Pennsylvania had several standard plans for truss bridge, and this particular type is noteworthy for its heavy portal bracing which give the bridges a striking appearance. This bridge, with its attractive white paint forms a beautiful centerpiece for Clearfield, and it highlights the crossing the West Branch Susquehanna River. The bridge is easy to photograph, view, and enjoy. This bridge is an excellent candidate for continued maintenance and preservation. The bridge superstructure retains near-perfect historic integrity, including original sidewalk railings. The bridge sits on a stone pier and stone abutments, which have been capped in concrete. The bridge is well maintained and the paint and superstructure and substructure condition is in excellent shape.
The on-site contractor was Clyde Thomson. The bridge superstructure was fabricated by the Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel Company of Pittsburgh, PA and Des Moines, Iowa. The bridge includes a combination of rolled and built-up beams. Interestingly, while most of the diagonal members are rolled, the first diagonal members at each end of the truss are built-up.
Could it be?! A historic metal truss bridge in Pennsylvania that forms a beautiful centerpiece for a city, owned by PennDOT, and not at risk for demolition? Probably not. The number one rule in Pennsylvania is that no historic bridge is safe from demolition. What is nice about this bridge is that for once this bridge has been properly maintained by PennDOT, at least up to 2008 when HistoricBridges.org inspected the bridge. The deck, superstructure and substructure were all rated as Good (7/10) in the National Bridge Inventory at that time. If only PennDOT would continue to maintain the bridge in the future, and also if only they would treat all of their historic bridges like this. However, knowing PennDOT, more likely than not will decide to demolish even this well-maintained bridge using some unacceptable excuse like the fact that the bridge is fracture critical, or that this 35 foot wide bridge is listed as functionaly obsolete even though that notion is absurd.
This bridge is a state standard plan truss bridge. The Pennsylvania Historic Bridge Inventory dismissed nearly all state standard plan truss bridges as not historic and not eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, regardless of integrity, size, or construction date. Given the rate of demolition and reduction of surviving examples of this bridge type, HistoricBridges.org strongly disagrees with this finding. It is outdated and further disproved by the fact that other states and other historic resource consultants found state standard truss bridges eligible in other states. The Pennsylvania historic bridge inventory operates on the philosophy that historic significant arises only from innovative, prototypical engineering, and that significance does not arise from good representative examples of structures from a period in history. This appears to go against the philosophy of the National Register of Historic Places which has accepted structures from both categories in other states. The information below from the Historic Bridge Inventory is provided for structure information and reference only. HistoricBridges.org does not agree with the findings of the below historic bridge inventory assessment.
The previous bridge at this location was a two-span pin-connected Whipple through truss. A postcard of this bridge can be seen here.
Information and Findings From Pennsylvania's Historic Bridge Inventory
Discussion of Bridge
The skewed, 2 span, 322'-long, rivet-connected Pratt thru truss bridge built in 1938 is supported on concrete-capped ashlar abutments and an ashlar pier that appear to date to the previous bridge. The traditionally composed bridge has built-up upper and lower chords and rolled I-section verticals and diagonals. The concrete bridge deck and the bearings were replaced in 1994. It is an undistinguished example of a state highway department standard design truss bridge that was used with great frequency beginning in the 1920s. It has no innovative or distinctive details, and it is not historically or technologically distinguished by its setting or context. More than 350 Pratt truss bridges from the 1870s to the 1950s have been identified, with approximately 140 of that number standardized examples from after 1925. The bridge is not located in the Old Town Historic District (Clearfield).
Discussion of Surrounding Area
The bridge carries a 2 lane street and 2 sidewalks over the West Branch of the Susquehanna River in Clearfield. One block to the east is the Old Town Historic District (NR-listed 3/15/79), a predominantly residential district of late 19th and early 20th century houses separated from the bridge by a modern library building, a convenience store, and a vacant lot. The boundaries of the district do not include the bridge.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: No
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