This is one of the oldest metal bridges in Pennsylvania, and a rare example of a Whipple truss. On these facts alone, the bridge is highly significant. However it is also significant for unusual design details. It is also noteworthy as being built by T. and S. White of New Brighton, Pennsylvania. The "T" is for Timothy B. White whose biography is available in a link above, which also includes brief mention of the "S" in the name which is Samuel P. White. This company which earlier was a builder of wooden bridges and had switched to iron bridges by the time this bridge was built, later became the Penn Bridge Company of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. The Penn Bridge Company was a small company, but they built a substantial number of bridges in western Pennsylvania. This bridge is therefore important as an early example of work built by the people who later formed the noteworthy Penn Bridge Company. Research found a patent for an iron bridge given to Timothy White, however the patent is for a bridge that is very dissimilar to this Whipple truss.
The bridge is pin-connected, but also has threaded rod with nut type connections on all top chord connections except at the ends of the top chord, where the unusual detail of there being two pins, one for the hip verticals and the other for the diagonal members is present. This unusual two pin detail can also be found on early Penn Bridge Company bridges. The bridge has decorative portal bracing, which includes some cast iron elements. The bridge's bottom chord is formed from up-set eyebars with unusual rounded rectangle heads.
This bridge is abandoned. It would be nice to see it restored, perhaps for pedestrian use, either here, or in a new location. Because of its high historic significance, it should be given a high preservation priority. Sadly, for the time being, the bridge appears to be mostly forgotten. People who live in the area may be unaware how rare and significant this bridge actually is. After demolishing one of the only remaining cast iron truss bridges in the entire country, it seems Franklin County should owe the country the preservation of this bridge!
This bridge is next to a historic railroad bridge.
Information and Findings From Pennsylvania's Historic Bridge Inventory
Discussion of Bridge
The one-span, 119'-long, wrought-iron, pin-connected, double-intersection Pratt thru truss bridge has built-up verticals and upper chord, and eye-bar diagonals, counters and lower chord. It is supported on stone abutments. The lattice portals are topped by builder's plaques that read "T. & S. White, Builders, New Brighton, PA." Mounted at the top corners of the inclined end posts are cast-iron shields with the date "1876." The bridge has been altered by replacement floorbeams, stringers, deck, railings, and welded repairs to the end-panel floorbeam hangers, but the trusses themselves are otherwise complete. It one of fewer than 10 identified double-intersection Pratt thru truss highway bridges dating from ca. 1870 to 1900 in the state, and one of no more than four from the 1870s. Builders T. & S. White began building bridges in 1868 and went on to incorporate the Penn Bridge Company in 1879. The bridge is technologically significant as an early, rare, and relatively complete example of the its type and design, fabricated by a noteworthy Pennsylvania builder. It would also contribute to a potential Williamson historic district.
Discussion of Surrounding Area
The one-lane bridge over a tree-lined stream is currently closed to traffic. It has been closed since at least the mid 1980s. It is located in the rural village of Williamson. To the north of the bridge is a stone mill (ca. 1870) with machinery. Parallel to the bridge is an abandoned railroad bridge (pin-connected Pratt truss, ca. 1900), part of the former Pennsylvania Railroad branch line from Marion to Mercersburg. Williamson retains its railroad depot (ca. 1910) and 19th to early 20th century commercial and residential buildings located two to three blocks to the northwest of the bridge. The setting appears to have the integrity and cohesiveness of a potential historic district.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes
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