HistoricBridges.org Menu: HistoricBridges.org Menu:


We Recommend These Resources:
Bach Steel - Experts at historic truss bridge restoration.
Historic Bridge Finder App: Find Nearby Bridges

HistoricBridges.org: Bridge Browser

Walnut Street Bridge

Walnut Street Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Bridge Documented: July 10, 2008

View Photos
and Videos
View Maps
and Links

Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Walnut Street Over Susquehanna River
Location
Harrisburg: Cumberland County, Pennsylvania and Dauphin County, Pennsylvania: United States

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
1996
Main Span Length
240 Feet (73.15 Meters)
Structure Length
2820 Feet (859.54 Meters)
Roadway Width
18 Feet (5.49 Meters)
Spans
15 Main Span(s)
NBI Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

View Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) Documentation For This Bridge

HAER Drawings, PDF - HAER Data Pages, PDF

View The Original Patent For Phoenix Columns

This bridge is the longest known truss bridge remaining that includes the use of the unique (and historically significant) Phoenix columns. As such it is one of the most important historic bridges in the United States. The bridge is listed as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, one of the highest honors bestowed upon a historic bridge in the United States. The bridge has also been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The bridge was fabricated by the Phoenix Bridge Company. According to HAER, Westbrook Bridge Company of New York, New York was the contractor for the bridge. If you do a little research however, you can find that their full name was Dean and Westbrook Company. This explains why the railings have D&W imprinted on them.

 A testament to the utilitarian value of the pin-connected truss bridge, it took just over a single year to erect the entire Walnut Street Bridge, and the bridge was complete by 1890. Despite less automotive equipment available in the late 19th century, pin-connected truss bridges were often erected much more quickly than modern bridges are constructed today because truss bridges could be fabricated at the factory, shipped to the site, and all that had to be done was to put the pieces together. The bridge was constructed and operated under the ownership of the People's Bridge Company as a toll bridge, until it reverted to PennDOT control in 1954. Between 1893 and 1936 a trolley service also operated on the bridge. Amazingly, remnants of these rails are still visible today poking through the asphalt on the island park between the two sections of the bridge. They are a narrow gauge design.

Unspecified damage occurred to the bridge in 1972 when 15 inches of rain caused by hurricane Agnes fell, causing the Susquehanna River to flood, and vehicular use of the bridge ended.  In January 1996, three feet of snow fell on the area, and soon after melted creating a massive flood of ice and debris filled water. Three of the spans on the western half of the bridge were lost in this event. HAER photos show the truss spans did not just get pushed off... indeed the stone pier itself literally was pushed away from its correct location a considerable distance. Photos taken after the storm show one of the stone piers clearly offset from the other piers by many feet, and also leaning. This suggests the incredible pressure that was placed on the piers and bridge. Following this, the eastern half of the bridge which survived intact was rehabilitated for pedestrian use. The western spans remain abandoned and offer a good view of the historic integrity of the bridge prior to this most recent rehab of the eastern spans.

There has been some recent talk and a Peoples Bridge Coalition has even tried to raise money to restore the western spans of the Walnut Street Bridge. This project should include not just rebridging the missing section with a modern bridge, but should include creating replicas of the original spans, including replica Phoenix columns and use of riveting. All of this is possible, as replication of metal historic bridge elements has been accomplished in Michigan and Ohio largely due to the efforts of Vern Mesler. HistoricBridges.org recommends that any project to reopen the western spans include replicating the trusses for the missing spans.

The bridge today retains the level of historic integrity that is to be expected of a bridge dating to 1890 that has been well used (and abused) in an urban environment. There are many parts of the bridge that have been altered and repaired over the years, several of them insensitive to the original design of the bridge. However, given all that the bridge has been through, and given that most of those repairs were made for utilitarian purposes and not historic preservation purposes, the bridge actually is in remarkable condition. The majority of the Phoenix columns and the unusual associated connection details that give the bridge its character and significance remain intact. Most alterations include welds, added materials, and some replaced tension members.


This bridge is tagged with the following special condition(s): Phoenix Columns

Divider

Photo Galleries and Videos: Walnut Street Bridge

 
View Photo Gallery
Structure Overview
Original / Full Size Photos
A collection of overview photos that show the bridge as a whole and general areas of the bridge. This gallery offers photos in the highest available resolution and file size in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
View Photo Gallery
Structure Details
Original / Full Size Photos
A collection of detail photos that document the parts, construction, and condition of the bridge. This gallery offers photos in the highest available resolution and file size in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
View Photo Gallery
Structure Overview
Mobile Optimized Photos
A collection of overview photos that show the bridge as a whole and general areas of the bridge. This gallery features data-friendly, fast-loading photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
View Photo Gallery
Structure Details
Mobile Optimized Photos
A collection of detail photos that document the parts, construction, and condition of the bridge. This gallery features data-friendly, fast-loading photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer

View Maps
and Links

Divider
 
Home Top

Divider

About - Contact

© Copyright 2003-2019, HistoricBridges.org. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer: HistoricBridges.org is a volunteer group of private citizens. HistoricBridges.org is NOT a government agency, does not represent or work with any governmental agencies, nor is it in any way associated with any government agency or any non-profit organization. While we strive for accuracy in our factual content, HistoricBridges.org offers no guarantee of accuracy. Information is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied. Information could include technical inaccuracies or errors of omission. Opinions and commentary are the opinions of the respective HistoricBridges.org member who made them and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone else, including any outside photographers whose images may appear on the page in which the commentary appears. HistoricBridges.org does not bear any responsibility for any consequences resulting from the use of this or any other HistoricBridges.org information. Owners and users of bridges have the responsibility of correctly following all applicable laws, rules, and regulations, regardless of any HistoricBridges.org information.

Divider