This bridge is a rare example of a bridge built by the Variety Iron Works. While one floor beam is replaced, the other is original and is the built-up fishbelly style preferred by the company. The iron rod railings also preferred by the company are missing on the bridge, but the holes where they belong remain visible on vertical member battens.
Read the Historic Bridge Inventory comments below for a description of the bridge's local significance, and description of its setting in a living history park and function as a pedestrian crossing. Given this setting and use, preservation of this bridge should be considered essential since the bridge is a functional part of the park both as part of the living history, and also as a crossing for pedestrians. However it has not been maintained at all. The severe buckling noted by the Historic Bridge Inventory has never been fixed. The splice on the top chord has been so badly damaged by pack rust that the entire splice has nearly blown apart with the splice plate nearly completely surrounded by holes formed from complete section loss of the top chord. If this splice breaks (not much is holding it together anymore) therer is a high likihood that the bridge will collapse since this would sever the top chord which is a primary structural element.
Some of the diagonal members have massive section loss at the eyebar heads as well. Finally, long ago the bearings and base of the end posts were encased in concrete. This will have had a devastating effect to the iron, causing rapid deterioration in this area since it traps moisture.
Given the deterioration, restoration of this bridge would on a per-foot cost not be inexpensive compared to other bridges of this type. Moreover because the heavy deterioration means a fair amount of original materials need to be replaced, many engineers and fabricators would fail to replace these areas in-kind and would destroy the historic integrity. However if a company like Bach Steel was allowed to restore the bridge in-kind under direction of a supportive engineer, this bridge could be returned to like-new condition. Even the replaced floor beam could be removed and replaced with an exact riveted replica of the beautiful riveted fishbelly floorbeams, since the surviving riveted floor beam could serve as a pattern.
Information and Findings From New Jersey's Historic Bridge Inventory
The basically unaltered 3-panel 1889 pin-connected Pratt half hip pony truss supported on ashlar abutments is individually eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places and is a contributing element to the National Register-listed Phillips Farm, now the Howell Farm county park, under Criteria A and C. The bridge is one of the most complete examples of its type in the county, and its significance is enhanced by the integrity of its well-preserved pastoral setting. One other Pratt half hip pony truss was identified (1100028), and both are evaluated as eligible.
The bridge is located on Howell Farm, a living history Mercer County park that documents turn-of-the-century agrarian life. Its integrity of setting is extremely well preserved. The bridge was closed to vehicular traffic in 1983, when a crack and buckling on the top chord was discovered. The bridge presently serves as a pedestrian bridge from a parking area to the farmhouse and farm-related buildings.
The 10 degree skew 3-panel pin-connected half hip Pratt pony truss bridge with a plank deck survives in a good state of preservation. With the exception of a floor beam replaced in 1945 and a corresponding outrigger added, the span appears to be unaltered. End posts and the spliced top chord (cracked and buckled because of corrosion and overloading) are built-up box members, and the verticals are channels with both battens and lacing. Eye bars compose the bottom chords while the diagonal and counters in the central panel are rods with loop-forged eyes. The abutments are rusticated ashlar with some concrete repairs to the south end. The one original built-up floor beam is deeper in the middle where more strength was needed. The bridge was closed to vehicular traffic in 1983 by the county. It serves as a foot bridge from a parking area to the Phillips Farm (Howell Farm) farmhouse.
Historical and Technological Significance
Few bridges in Mercer County survive in their original setting as well as the basically unaltered pin-connected half hip Pratt pony truss on the grounds of the Phillips Farm (Howell Farm), individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. The 127-acre farm was donated to Mercer County in 1976 by Inez Howell for use as a living history museum that preserves turn-of-the-century farm life. She was the widow of former New Jersey Senator Charles Howell who died in 1973. The couple had purchased it as their retirement home. The farm, which includes a host of well-preserved farm related buildings and a two-section homestead that dates from both the 18th and 19th centuries, is historically associated with the Phillips family which owned it from the 1730s until the 1880s. From 1920 until 1948 it was the Cromwell dairy farm. While the single-lane 1889 pin-connected Pratt truss (located on a now abandoned section of Hunter Road that is within the National Register-listed parcel) is not rated in the nomination, it clearly falls within the period of significance of the property. The nomination states that the farm is "unchanged since the early 20th century, including the setting" of which the bridge is a major element. The bridge is one of the most complete examples of the once-common Pratt pony truss in the area. Another well-preserved half hip Pratt pony truss is located on the Groveville-Allentown Road over Doctors Creek (1100028). It is larger, wider, and has different verticals.
Boundary Description and Justification
The bridge is located well within a 172-acre National Register-listed property. The bridge is a contributing element to that historic district. The bridge and its setting are significant.
Bibliography: ONJH. National Register of Historic Places File: Mercer Co.; Hopewell; Phillips Farm. Mercer County Engineers Office. File 211.13.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes
Approach this bridge from the north to avoid crossing private property.
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