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16th Street Bridge

David McCullough Bridge

16th Street Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Bridge Documented: June 12, 2004 and July 16, 2011

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
16th Street Over Allegheny River
Location
Pittsburgh: Allegheny County, Pennsylvania: United States
Structure Type
Metal Tied Braced Ribbed Through Arch, Fixed and Approach Spans: Metal Stringer (Multi-Beam), Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1923 By Builder/Contractor: Fort Pitt Bridge Works of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Engineer/Design: H. G. Balcom of New York, New York

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
2003
Main Span Length
437 Feet (133.2 Meters)
Structure Length
1900 Feet (579.12 Meters)
Roadway Width
38 Feet (11.58 Meters)
Spans
3 Main Span(s) and 30 Approach Span(s)
NBI Number
27301000020150

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

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

View a historical missing person article about the superintendent of construction for this bridge.

This is a stunningly beautiful arch bridge and arguably one of the most beautiful bridges in the city. The center arch is the largest span, with the other two being slightly smaller. This bridge has an extensive approach system of stringer spans. Large, decorative stone pillars at each end of the main spans of the bridge act as visual portals and have substantial decoration.

Fort Pitt Bridge Works is listed as a contractor for the bridge as well as Vang Construction Company of Cumberland, Maryland. Warren and Wetmore were the architects for the bridge and they were in charge of designing the architectural appearance of the bridge under the guidance of Pittsburgh's Art Commission which had significant power at the time to influence the design of bridges in the city. The controlling power that aesthetics had in the design of this and a number of other bridges in Pittsburgh is something so nearly unheard of in modern bridge construction that it seems almost mythical, the idea that not only should a bridge be beautiful, but that beauty should be one of the primary design factors for the bridge. The modern Veterans Memorial Bridge, located immediately downstream from the 16th Street Bridge contrasts typical modern bridge design where aesthetics and beauty are not given any consideration whatsoever.

Morris C. Sparks was, at least until December 6, 1921, the superintendent of the Vang Construction Company in charge of the construction of the 16th Street Bridge. An article in the March 1922 edition of the Baltimore and Ohio Magazine reports that he went missing on December 9th, 1921 and had not been found. An interesting description of the man notes that he had a tattoo of a truss bridge on his arm, although it doesn't say if it was a specific bridge. Dave Gray contacted HistoricBridges.org with some insight into his fate as follows. Sparks' death certificate states that he died on December 6, 1921. Another later news article from April 1922 indicated his body was found in the Ohio River and it was thought he has been murdered and robbed. His funeral was held on April 4th, 1922  and he was buried in Druid Ridge Cemetery in Pikesville, Maryland.

Today, the historic integrity of the 16th Street Bridge is excellent with little to no alterations of the superstructure or substructure noted. During a 2011 photo-documentation, HistoricBridges.org was deeply disappointed to see an extremely distasteful and distracting advertisement for the Pittsburgh Zoo hanging on the portal bracing of this bridge's main spans. This advertisement is an ugly scar on the otherwise perfect photos HistoricBridges.org was able to take of this bridge. The 16th Street Bridge is like a work of art. Would it be appropriate to tape an advertisement for McDonalds onto the Mona Lisa? The placement of advertisements on this bridge defaces the visual integrity of the bridge. Allegheny County has done an excellent job maintaining the structure and its historic integrity, and it makes little sense to detract from the visual qualities of this spectacular bridge that they have so carefully maintained over the years. If the county does insist on placing advertisements on this bridge, HistoricBridges.org suggests that signposts could be erected for this purpose on the stringer approach spans for this bridge some distance away from the main spans where they would not detract from the main spans of the bridge which are the visual focus of the bridge. Further, any profits made from display of advertisements on the bridge should be exclusively used for the preservation of the existing historic bridge.

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Photo Galleries and Videos: 16th Street Bridge

 
View Photo Gallery
Structure Overview
Original / Full Size Photos
A collection of overview photos that show the bridge as a whole and general areas of the bridge. This gallery offers photos in the highest available resolution and file size in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
View Photo Gallery
Structure Details
Original / Full Size Photos
A collection of detail photos that document the parts, construction, and condition of the bridge. This gallery offers photos in the highest available resolution and file size in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
View Photo Gallery
Structure Overview
Mobile Optimized Photos
A collection of overview photos that show the bridge as a whole and general areas of the bridge. This gallery features data-friendly, fast-loading photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
View Photo Gallery
Structure Details
Mobile Optimized Photos
A collection of detail photos that document the parts, construction, and condition of the bridge. This gallery features data-friendly, fast-loading photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
View Photo Gallery
2004 Bridge Photo-Documentation
A collection of overview and detail photos, taken Summer 2004. This photo gallery contains a combination of Original Size photos and Mobile Optimized photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
View Video
Southbound Crossing
Full Motion Video
Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.

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