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Pelham Bridge

Pelham Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: October 19, 2013

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Shore Road Over Hutchinson River (Eastchester Bay)
New York: The Bronx, New York: United States
Structure Type
Metal Rivet-Connected Pratt Deck Truss, Movable: Double Leaf Bascule (Rolling Lift) and Approach Spans: Concrete Closed Spandrel Deck Arch, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1908 By Builder/Contractor: Unknown and Engineer/Design: Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridge Company of Chicago, Illinois
Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
80.0 Feet (24.4 Meters)
Structure Length
838.0 Feet (255.4 Meters)
Roadway Width
39.7 Feet (12.1 Meters)
1 Main Span(s) and 6 Approach Span(s)
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Bridge Documentation

This bridge's future is at risk!

Bridge Status: This historic bridge is slated for demolition and replacement!

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

Built in 1908, this noteworthy bridge has two components. It has concrete arch approach spans that have 125 foot span lengths. These lead up to a tiny 80 foot double-leaf bascule bridge. As such, this is an odd case where the main span is not the longest span on the bridge.

The concrete arch spans appear to have been shotcrete or gunnite applied to them at some point. Despite this, they are noteworthy as early surviving examples of a concrete arch bridge in New York State. An unusual detail is that the piers and abutments for the concrete arch spans are either stone or are stone-faced concrete.

The bascule span is also an early surviving example of its type, specifically a Scherzer type rolling lift bascule bridge. This bridge was designed by the firm that invented the type, the Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridge Company. The bascule trusses have a lightweight look to them, composed of only plate and angles. However, there are four truss lines on this bascule instead of the more common two truss lines. The additional truss lines make up for the lighter weight trusses. The bottom chord of the trusses do not have a polygonal shape like many deck truss bascules. Instead, the bottom chord simply runs at a straight angle to produce a truss with lesser depth at the center of the bascule span.

Aethetics appear to have played a role in the design of this bridge. This is most apparent in the bridge tender houses, with there being four when usually only two were needed. Moreover, these bridge tender houses have substantial architectural detailing that enhances their appearance including decorative towers that rise above the rooflines of the actual buildings.

Unfortunately, this bridge is listed on a demolish and replace list by New York City. It is disappointing that the city is apparently not open to considering rehabilitation of this historically significant bridge.

The 1904 Report of the New York State Bridge and Tunnel Commission described the previous bridge at this location as follows.

The old bridge consists of two iron Moseley arch trusses of about 125 feet span, and one draw span about 140 feet long, with causeway approaches about 900 feet long. It is of antiquated type, and was in need of repair when the Department of Bridges took charge. The two fixed spans have been reinforced by pile bents under the trusses, the drum and turning gear of the draw have been strengthened and repaired, the roadway on the causeway approaches have been macadamized and about 800 feet of new sidewalk have been laid on the approaches. The bridge will be adequate for traffic until the new arch bridge is finished, and meantime serves the purpose of a temporary bridge.

The report describes the previous bridge as a "Moseley arch truss" which likely means it was a bowstring truss built by Moseley Iron Bridge and Roof Company of Boston, Massachusetts. The Hares Hill Road Bridge is an example of a bowstring arch/truss built by this company.

Historical Information Courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives

Discussion of Bridge

The Pelham Bay Bridge is a four-lane bascule bridge that carries vehicular and pedestrian traffic over where the Hutchinson River and Eastchester Bay meet. It connects one part of Pelham Bay Park with another and further provides one of the means by which residents of, and visitors to, City Island can get to the Pelham Bay neighborhood and vice versa.

The Pelham Bay Bridge replaced an older bridge that had been erected near the site. That span was in such disrepair that maintaining it was very costly with construction almost a constant.

There were some difficulties encountered in the course of the construction and completion of the Pelham Bay Bridge. The water main that supplied City Island residents and all of Pelham Bay Park, East of the Hutchinson River, crossed under the stream at the site of the new span. This supply was interrupted when construction began. The city made arrangements with the New Rochelle Water Company at a cost of $5,323.93 to provide water to those areas temporarily.

The old bridge remained open to traffic while construction on the new one proceeded. To save the increasing costs of repairing that bridge, the new one was opened to traffic when it was safe to do so and before it was fully completed. The old span stayed in place because the city did not appropriate the money to remove it, despite the fact that the federal government, which controls navigable waterways, stipulated that all parts of the old span, except those that formed the approach roads to the new bridge, had to be destroyed.

After the main part of the bridge and its approaches were completed on February 17th, 1909, another contract was awarded for building the towers, installing the electrical equipment and machinery and furnishing the ornamental work. Work on these aspects of the bridge began on October 4th, 1910, and was completed on December 23rd, 1911.

The city held back on removing the old bridge till 1911, when the federal government indicated it would deep end the Hutchinson River channel and remove the ledge of rock on the site of the original span. Work began on removing the old bridge on September 1st, 1911, and was completed July 25th, 1912, at a cost of $10,352.44.

By then, the McAdamized pavement of the approaches to the Pelham Bridge were worn out, and they were repaved with asphalt. The repaving work began on November 15th, 1912, and was completed December 16th of that same year at a cost of $6,310.36. With this, the Pelham Bay Bridge and its approaches took on the aspect it retains to this day.


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