This bridge is an extremely rare example of a pin-connected Warren truss bridge. Warren truss bridges nearly always have riveted connections. The bridge also includes unusual design details. There are unusual built-up beams including v-lacing composed of rectangular bars instead of bars with rounded ends, as well as built-up diagonal members that use cover plates. The connections for the overhead lateral bracing rods are unusual as well. Finally, the portal bracing is design such that the top portal of the portal bracing is identical to the sway bracing, with an a-frame-like bracing added below that beam.
National Bridge Inventory lists a 1928 construction date for this bridge. This bridge appears to be older than 1928 because of its pinned connections, unusual details, narrow deck width, and relatively lightweight member size. 1928 may indicate a relocation of this truss, a rehabilitation of this truss, or it may be an error. One newspaper article suggested the bridge was built ca. 1900. The bridge may in fact be even older than that. It could potentially be as old as from the 1880s. Pin-connected Warren truss bridges were never common, and they tend to show up in this earlier era of metal truss construction when more experimentation was going on. By the 1890s, the Pratt had been generally accepted as the best design for pin-connected truss bridges. Therefore, while building a pin-connected truss bridge in the 1890s or later would not be outside the realm of possibility, it certainly would have been unusual.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) demolished this bridge simply for the sake of demolishing it on August 29, 2012. This demolition was not done to make room for a replacement bridge. It is bad enough to demolish and replace a historic bridge that could have been rehabilitated. However, to demolish a historic bridge simply to demolish it, with no replacement structure planned at all: nothing could be more wasteful of taxpayer dollars. Nothing could be a more pointless destruction of our nation's transportation heritage.
Because of its design, this bridge would be considered extremely rare and highly significant in states with relatively large truss bridge populations like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. In those states, which are blessed not only with a large number of truss bridges, but also with a number of very old and rare bridges such as exceedingly old and rare 1870s bowstrings and cast iron truss bridges, this bridge would still stand out as a significant and rare historic bridge. In South Carolina, a state with very few metal truss bridges of any type, and located in the southeastern United States, a region whose lack of surviving historic truss bridges is surpassed only by states in the area of the Rocky Mountains, the Hampton Avenue Bridge is... or was... easily one of the most significant historic bridges in the entire state. There are no other pin-connected Warren truss bridges in South Carolina. As such, there are no opportunities for South Carolina to remedy what it has done by reducing this bridge to scrap metal. The state is condemned to forever join a large number of states which do not have even a single example of such a truss bridge.
It should also be noted that the demolition of this bridge was not supported by a majority of the people who lived near this bridge. The Public Sociology class at Furman University conducted a survey of adults in the Southernside neighborhood under the direction of Ken Kolb, Ph.D. The survey found that 71% wanted the Hampton Avenue Bridge to stay in place! It also appeared that one of the major concerned among the minority who wanted the bridge removed were crime and safety. A restoration would have made the bridge safer. Issues of crime could have been improved by installing lighting, removing trees around the bridge, and as an extreme measure, even installing a police camera like those big cities use. Any of these options likely would reduce crime more than blaming an innocent historic bridge. Many people used this bridge as a pedestrian crossing. One person's walk was increased by an hour with the removal of this bridge. People with such a drastic increase in walk time are more likely to drive instead of walk. This will reduce the health and well-being of the community. Restoring this bridge for pedestrian use would not have been costly, and was certainly feasible. Bridges in far worse condition have been restored.
SCDOT should be ashamed of itself. Rather than spending tax dollars to restore this bridge and make it safe and usable for the majority of local residents who wanted the bridge to stay, they wasted tax dollars and demolished a last-of-its-kind historic bridge in the state. Demolishing this bridge instead of restoring it for non-motorized use shows that SCDOT is still living in the 20th Century and does not see the benefits that providing alternative non-motorized transportation facilities brings to a community.
Another aspect of SCDOT's failure, was that even if there was a national emergency unfolding that demanded the immediate removal of this bridge, the bridge could have been taken apart and put into storage for future restoration and reuse. The bridge's trusses could be lifted off of the abutments with a crane and set on the ground, a process which may have been required for demolition anyway, given that the bridge crosses an active railroad and cannot simply be "dropped" or "imploded" like a bridge over a river might be. Once on the ground, the only difference between demolition and dismantling is that instead of cutting the members up with a cutting torch and putting them in a dumpster, the bolts on the pins are removed, the pins driven out, and the parts stacked into a pile onto a truck and taken to the storage location. Pin-connected truss bridges are easy to disassemble in a non-destructive manner. They can then be stored on DOT property, such as a maintenance yard, where they take up surprisingly little space in a dismantled format. Furthermore, restoration is easier to do on a dismantled truss, since the parts can be individually cleaned and repaired in a shop setting. The end result is usually of higher quality too, since inaccessible areas of a fully assembled truss, like the ends of eyebars normally sandwiched into a pin connection, can all be totally cleaned and repaired. Storage of the bridge also allows for additional time to find funding for restoration.
In the future, this bridge could possibly be replaced with a pedestrian or vehicular bridge. However, time, and time again such projects have been proven to be more expensive than it would have been to rehabilitate the historic bridge. Additionally any potential replacement bridge would lack beauty and heritage value, which was irreplaceably destroyed with the demolition of this bridge.
A YouTube documentary was created by the community discussing the bridge. View the video here.
HistoricBridges.org currently only has a few photos of this bridge, and had hoped to visit the bridge for a full photo-documentation. However, thanks to SCDOT, this is no longer possible. The unique construction details of this bridge have been destroyed and lost forever thanks to a shortsighted and wasteful decision.
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