2020 Update: This historic bridge has been closed to traffic and its future is uncertain. A group has been formed which is working to raise support for preservation of the bridge. They are looking for donations to support the effort. Please visit their page at https://savesheepfordroadbridge.org/ to learn more and donate.
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This bridge is one of two highly rare and highly historically significant Phoenix column through truss bridges on Yellow Breeches Creek. This one is noted for the use of cast iron portal bracing knees. This bridge retains good historic integrity aside from the apparent replacement of the floor beams and loss of original railings. Any bridge that survives today with Phoenix columns is rare and should be given the highest possible preservation priority. Phoenix columns are historically significant as a unique, patented type of built-up beam. Patented built-up beams and columns did not enjoy use for many years because the use of standard non-patented built-up beams quickly proved both cost-effective and functionally useful as well.
Information and Findings From Pennsylvania's Historic Bridge Inventory
Discussion of Bridge
The single span, 114'-long, pin-connected, Pratt thru truss bridge built in 1887 is supported on stone abutments that have been repaired and coated with concrete. The top chords and verticals are patented Phoenix column sections, with eyebars and rods for the pin-connected tension members. Cast iron connecting pieces are used for the compression fitting Phoenix column section members. The floorbeams, stringers, and open steel grid deck were replaced ca. 1975, but the U-shaped hanger floorbeam connections were not changed. The bridge has portal bracing with decorative brackets and builders plaque. The bridge was fabricated by the Phoenix Bridge Co. of Phoenixville, PA, and erected by their agents Dean & Westbrook of New York. The company was instrumental in refining and popularizing metal truss bridge technology during the last half of the 19th century. The Phoenix column, patented in 1861, was one of the first successful attempts to substitute built-up wrought iron sections for cast iron for use with compression members. Truss bridges with Phoenix column members were used widely by railroads through the mid 1880s and for highway applications through the mid 1890s. It is mostly the later highway examples, such as this 1887 bridge, that have survived in small numbers in Pennsylvania. The bridge is historically and technologically distinguished.
Discussion of Surrounding Area
The 1 lane bridge carries a 2 lane road over a stream in a sparsely developed, rural area with scattered 20th century residences. The setting does not have the cohesiveness or integrity of a historic district.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes
This bridge is tagged with the following special condition(s): Phoenix Columns
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