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.
This bridge is tagged with the following special condition(s): Unorganized Photos
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