Be sure to read the nomination form for this bridge since it contains a detailed historical narrative for the bridge. A traditionally composed structure, the Chandler Mill Bridge is an excellent representative example of a through plate girder in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania was a state that built a significant number of highway plate girders. Not all states embraced plate girders for their highways. Other states, such as Michigan, hardly built any at all. Among the surviving examples, the Chandler Mill Bridge stands out for being in the group of earlier examples of plate girders in the state, as well as for its extremely high level of historic integrity. Historic integrity includes the retention of original pole railings mounted on top of the girders, as well as no alterations to the design and original materials of the girder itself. While an asphalt wearing surface has been applied to the deck surface, this is a cosmetic alteration and the original deck design remains in place underneath. Thanks to usually large and handsome stone abutments for a bridge of this size, as well as stone parapets on those abutments, the bridge is also a noteworthy example of stone construction. Typical of many historic bridges in southeastern Pennsylvania, an original marble plaque is present on the abutments describing the construction date and other information about the bridge.
Thanks to a well organized local grass roots effort as well as support from the involved federal agencies, the Chandler Mill Bridge is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places despite an original finding of ineligibility on the Historic Bridge Inventory that was strongly supported by the involved state agencies. This bridge is thus a wonderful example that shows that sometimes preservationists can triumph over big government agencies in Pennsylvania like PennDOT who openly said they were strongly against listing the bridge as historic and did not support the nomination. While the bridge remains at risk for demolition and replacement, this is a significant accomplishment. It shows that big government agencies in Pennsylvania like PennDOT do not always have to get their way, especially if people concerned about historic bridges organize and work hard for the recognition and preservation of these bridges.
It is important to note that the bridge remains at risk for demolition and replacement. Listing a bridge on the National Register of Historic Places does not prevent demolition and replacement. Listing the bridge does however trigger Section 106 historic protections so that there will be increased consideration of alternatives to demolition and public involvement as required by federal law. As such, the fight to save this bridge from demolition goes on.
HistoricBridges.org has long attempted to raise awareness of the fact that more rare and unique historic bridges are demolished... and fewer preserved as well... in Pennsylvania than in any other state. This is due to a number of factors, but one of the main problems is that agencies like PennDOT do not display a willingness to commit to the preservation of a many historic bridges, and the government agency that is supposed to promote the preservation of historic structures, the Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission, more frequently supports PennDOT than preservationists. This is further complicated by a state Historic Bridge Inventory that writes off entire categories of historic bridge types as not eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, such as state standard plan riveted truss bridges and riveted plate girders. Even bridges that are good representative examples of bridge types that have not been built for decades are written off as "common technology" lacking "innovative or distinctive details." HistoricBridges.org views this philosophy to be flawed: other states do not write off so many bridges, and and there are existing National Register listings that contradict Pennsylvania's findings. It certainly isn't feasible or sensible to list all old bridges as historic, but the best representative examples of different bridge types from different periods in history should at least be selected for eligibility.
One of the most neglected historic bridge types, both by the Historic Bridge Inventory and the general public as well is the metal riveted plate girder. Riveted plate girders are a structure type no longer built today, nor are rivets used in any form of modern highway construction. While there are a relatively large number of plate girders remaining on Pennsylvania's highways, they are rapidly disappearing as they age and deteriorate and are replaced with new bridges. Nearly all riveted plate girders were written off by the Historic Bridge Inventory as not eligible for the National Register, a finding that PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission strongly continue to support. However, in the case of the Chandler Mill Bridge, democracy and grass roots support prevailed over the power of big government agencies. Hopefully, the listing of the Chandler Mill Bridge will help show PennDOT and the PHMC that the recognition and preservation of a wider variety and larger number of historic bridges is something that a significant number of people desire.
It should be noted that among the arguments against the listing of this bridge in the National Register that the various involved agencies concurred with, was that they disagreed with the statement that the asphalt wearing surface was a cosmetic alteration because it changed the design of the bridge and increased the dead load. While it may increase the dead load, it is not noteworthy or significant from a historic integrity standpoint. What is often the first thing to be replaced in a historic bridge rehabilitation, and what is the most common part of a historic bridge that is not replaced "in-kind" in a rehabilitation? Certainly the deck! This is because bridge historians and scholars agree that the deck is not a historically significant part of most historic bridges. This is because the deck is not a structurally unique or noteworthy aspect of the bridge, and furthermore, decks were frequently replaced over the life of many bridges.
Information and Findings From Pennsylvania's Historic Bridge Inventory
Discussion of Bridge
The single span, 47'-long, thru girder bridge built in 1910 is supported on stone abutments. The wingwalls have stone parapets and the built-up girders have pipe hand railings. The bridge with floorbeams has a concrete deck.
Discussion of Surrounding Area
The bridge carries a 2 lane road over a stream in a rural area with scattered 20th-century residences. Near the bridge are several residential subdivisions. The setting does not have historic district potential.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: No
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