This structure is listed as a curved t-beam but the depth of its curves are so deep that it also has the visual appearance of a shallow ribbed arch bridge. The bridge has nine t-beams and they have a five foot rise. The total weight of the original structure is 1,350 tons. The bridge opened in November, 1912. This beautiful structure is historically significant as an early t-beam, and among early t-beam bridges is even more unusual for its curved beams. It is also significant for its association with a local builder who advocated for the construction of concrete bridges the first decade of the 20th Century, relatively early in the history of concrete bridge construction. Despite its age and location on a major road, the bridge is in amazingly excellent physical condition, while at the same time showing no signs of any noteworthy alteration. The bridge is an exceptionally beautiful example of its type. While the curved beams alone create a graceful appearance, additional decoration comes in the forms of beams which have patterns of parallel incised vertical lines, while the upper portions of the abutments have patterns of horizontal parallel incised lines. The lower portions of the abutments, below the beams, have incised lines arranged to simulate the patterns that would be created by stone abutments. This detailing creates a visual separation between the portion of the bridge abutments that supports the beams, and the portion that merely acts to hold the approach and act as a retaining wall. On the top, the bridge has attractive balustrade railings which are flared at the ends. At the ends of the railing are detailed stone plaques. Another interesting detail is the top surface of the railing has a special white aggregate in the concrete, which gives the top of the railing a whiter color than the rest of the railing. This appears to be an intentional detail, presumably for aesthetic purposes. It may also have been to provide a more comfortable texture for people who might run their hands on the railing, or lean on the railing. The white aggregate has smaller, round pebbles as opposed to the larger crushed rock found in the rest of the concrete.
Today's highway agencies think they are so clever with their high-tech (but extremely ugly) pre-stressed concrete box beam and girder bridges. In Pennsylvania, PennDOT has come up with a bunch of different designs, specifications, and plans for new bridges that they think will provide the "100 Year Bridge Life," despite the fact that pre-stressed concrete bridges, based on all available evidence (as seen in contracts for bridge replacements), are falling apart after only 50-60 years of service life. To PennDOT, designing and building a bridge that would last 100 years would be a big deal and it requires high-tech materials like pre-stressed concrete to make it happen. However, consider that the historic Broad Street Bridge turns 100 in November 2012. This bridge has effortlessly cruised through 100 years, with no major rehabilitation. The bridge today remains in decent condition. With a comprehensive rehabilitation, another 50 years of service life is a reasonable expectation. The reality is that this historic bridge is of better quality construction, and is designed to last longer than any modern bridge built today. Although the Broad Street Bridge is in unusually good condition, the same can be said for many historic bridges: the quality of construction exceeds that of modern bridges built today. The only reason so many bridges are deteriorated today is because they have not been cared for by their owners. The lesson to be learned is that the preservation of historic bridges not only preserves heritage and beauty, but it also makes economical sense, because a bridge of better quality construction is being retained. Additionally, if a new bridge is built, perhaps pre-stressed concrete should be cast aside in favor of the concrete designs and formulas Will Dickinson used.
"I have built 28 concrete bridges. I am thankful today that in every one of those 28 bridges my heart was in the work. From the start I saw the necessity of giving concrete its utmost good, taking the highest grade of concrete that could be made, if it was going into bridge construction." - Will Dickinson, 1911
Will Dickinson was the designer and builder of this bridge. He appears to have been a local contractor who took great pride and care in building a bridge that not only looked attractive but would stand the test of time. Indeed, the Broad Street Bridge seems to have weathered time much better than the average concrete bridge of this age on a busy highway. The bridge has never undergone any major rehabilitation, yet it remains in decent condition with remarkably little spalling noted. The bridge certainly has lasted longer than the vast majority of concrete bridges built after 1950 could ever dream to. In a short article that Will Dickinson wrote for publication in Municipal Engineering, Dickinson mentions that the Broad Street Bridge was the 26th Bridge he had built. This explains the otherwise mysterious 26 found at the bottom of the bridge's plaque, which is framed by a capital "D," the initial of his last name. The 1913 article mentioned that Dickinson had built 28 bridges total at that time.
Another interesting piece of information that research revealed about Dickinson was a short article mentioning that he had modified a hand-powered concrete mixer so it could run on a motor instead, a creative way to improve efficiency, while perhaps also avoiding the purchase of an all-new motorized concrete mixer.
Information and Findings From Pennsylvania's Historic Bridge Inventory
Discussion of Bridge
The 1912, single span, 70'-long, reinforced concrete T beam bridge with haunched beams and concrete balustrades is supported on concrete abutments with wingwalls. The bridge is stylistically similar to two other T beam bridges designed and built by Will Dickinson in 1911-1912. He was a local engineer and contractor, who introduced reinforced concrete bridge types to Elk County beginning about 1907. The long span, haunched beam bridges are not a common early variation of the T beam bridge type, which usually was not haunched, and more often applied to span lengths of less than 50'. There are over 2,300 pre-1957 T beam highway bridges identified in the state with the earliest documented example dated to 1905, and about 30 to before 1916. It is the early examples that represent the importance and contribution of the technology to the improvement of local, county and state roads. The 1912 bridge is historically and technologically significant as an early, long, and complete example of a T beam bridge with haunched beams.
Discussion of Surrounding Area
The bridge carries a 2 lane state highway with sidewalks and parking lanes over a channelized stream in the borough of Ridgway. A single active Conrail railroad track crosses the road at grades just north of the bridge. At the northwest quadrant is a handsome, late 19th century train station, but immediately to the south is an undistinguished collection of early to late 20th century commercial buildings, and one frame residence with modern siding at the southwest quadrant. The bridge is not within the boundaries of the PHMC-determined eligible Ridgeway Historic District (DOE 12/15/97), which recognizes Ridgeway's commercial downtown. The boundary is located approximately three blocks south of the bridge. The boundary is appropriate.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes
This historic bridge has been demolished. This map is shown for reference purposes only.
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