The bridge looks like a deck plate girder, however engineering literature for the period comments that the bridge functions as a three hinge arch bridge, or "arch girder" design. This might come as a surprise since the bridge does not have a curved arch shape normally associated with the structure type. Closer visual inspection of the bridge reveals the hinges of the bridge. The unusual bridge design was chosen to maximize the vertical clearance under the deck. A large limestone rock foundation in the area, part of the Niagara Escarpment, enabled the design to work effectively and also provide clearance for boats with minimal blasting of rock. Other structure types which would place the superstructure above the deck would not have been feasible due to the width of the bridge and the angles at which roads intersect on the deck. The length of the bridge varies throughout the width of the bridge, with lengths from just under 117 feet to just over 124 feet.
The bridge's deck appears to have been redone recently. The bridge originally had lattice railings which have been replaced with modern guardrail, diminishing the visual qualities and historic integrity of the bridge. However, the bridge retains integrity of its superstructure, which is highly significant for its very unusual design.
This bridge is noteworthy as a former record-holder for width. When built it was reported to be the widest bridge in the world. The bridge is so wide that it has a parking lot on its deck in addition to multiple roadways.
Interpretive signs are located near this bridge. You can view them in the photo gallery for this bridge as well.
The Erie Canal is one of the most famous and historically significant canals in the United States. Aside from the widely recognized historical significance of the canal as a transportation facility itself, a lesser known fact is that the canal is historically significant for the bridges that have spanned the canal over the years. It was here on the Erie Canal where Squire Whipple found a place to successfully get his "Whipple Arch" bowstring truss bridges constructed in significant quantities in the mid-1800s. The success of his Whipple Arch bridges helped contribute to the nationwide transition from wooden bridges to metal bridges. The period of time from 1905-1918 where the Erie Canal was upgraded and widened to become part of the larger New York State Barge Canal was a time of change for the bridges of the canal. Between the process of widening and upgrading the canal, and the nationwide trend to build more substantial bridges in the early 20th Century, the previous generation of bridges (many undoubtedly those Whipple Arch bridges) were replaced by a series of new bridges. These bridges have proved to be very durable and thanks to a clear commitment to preservation on the part of New York State Department of Transportation and other agencies, the Erie Canal and the New York State Barge Canal system, particularly the western section from Lockport to Spencerport boasts one of the highest densities of historic bridges of any waterway in the country. The vast majority of bridges on this section are maintained in beautiful condition.
Although the new bridges from the early 20th Century took a variety of forms, two forms were by far the most common. In rural or spacious areas, a fixed double-intersection Warren through truss was used, with a dirt approach providing the modest elevation needed for a fixed bridge over the canal. Double-intersection Warren truss bridges are generally considered an uncommon truss type on a nationwide basis. In urban and less spacious areas, a vertical lift bridge was used. The vertical lift bridges are an unusual design. Instead of towers that rise above the bridge in a traditional vertical lift bridge and pull the truss span up using cables, these bridges have vertical endposts which extend below the deck and into the ground. When operated, these extended endposts (called the lifting frame) rise out of the ground. In an engineering sense, these unusual vertical lift bridges might be thought of as bedstead truss bridges. Another unique feature of these lift bridges are the stairways found at each end of the bridge on the sidewalks. These stairways allow pedestrians to continue to cross the bridge when the structure is in the raised position. These vertical lift bridges continue to operate for boats today, so observing these unique bridges remains possible.
Elsewhere, the New York State Barge Canal System boasts other types of historically significant bridges.
View National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for the New York State Barge Canal (Alternate ZIP Version In Sections) - Note this impressive document contains modern color photos of the bridges, some from unique angles, historical photos showing bridge construction, and original plan sheets for some bridges too.
View a HistoricBridges.org photo gallery of the historical photos, modern photos, and original plans contained in the National Register Nomination. This photo gallery can also be found in the Fairport Bridge's page.
View Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) Index - Has a list of structures including bridges that were individually documented for HAER.
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