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This bridge is one of the most important and rarest bridges in western Pennsylvania, which given the rich diversity of unusual historic bridges in western Pennsylvania, is really saying something. It is also the oldest bridge in Greene County. It is historically and technologically significant in several different areas.
First, as a pre-1880 metal bridge, it is among a small and elite group of bridges that are among the oldest metal bridges in the country. These bridges often have either parts of whole structural members made of rare cast iron. The Whites Ridge Road Bridge's main members are all wrought iron and do not use cast iron for structural members, however the portal bracing does contain cast iron.
Bridges built in this period also usually display unique and creative design details that were so prevalent during the experimentation that took place with metal truss bridge construction from 1850 until 1880. Indeed, this bridge does display unique design details associated with its builder, Massillon Bridge Company. As with most early Massillon Bridge Company truss bridges, the company's unique cast iron pole truss-work / lattice is present on the bridge, in this case, being used to compose the built-up portal bracing. Massillon Bridge Company used this iron truss-work design for a number of bridge applications including fabrication of built-up portal bracing for through trusses, as well as top chords for bowstring trusses, and even used them to create entire pony truss bridges for short crossings.
The bridge also has unusual built-up sway bracing beams that follow a loosely defined style that is extremely rare and has only been seen on a handful of bridges. The design consists of four rolled angles riveted together with very strange rivets that have odd spacers that keep the angles separated. In addition, the connection detail for the sway bracing knees is also unusual.
Finally, the most significant feature of this bridge is its extremely rare truss configuration. The main diagonals follow the Pratt configuration, with the counters following the Whipple configuration. The design of this rare truss is illustrated in the diagram above. It is unknown how or why this truss configuration was attempted, or if it was given an official name. However, it may have been "stolen" from a patent that competitor Wrought Iron Bridge Company filed in 1876. The patent claimed several things, among them a Pratt truss configuration with counters spanning two panels. Whether Massillon Bridge Company really was trying to violate Wrought Iron Bridge Company's patent, or if they came up with this design independently and unknowingly is not known. However given that the two companies were highly prolific and were based in cities that are located adjacent to each other, it would be a rather curious coincidence. The bridge companies did compete against each other and patent violations and conflicts did occur. Making matters more suspicious is that The Whites Ridge Road Bridge and some other early Massillon pin-connected Whipple truss bridges display built up vertical members that are also strikingly similar to another Wrought Iron Bridge Company patent for a vertical member with a double-intersecting (Whipple) diagonal. Whether or not the Whites Ridge Road Bridge is an example of a patent violation or not remains speculation, but the fact remains that this bridge's unusual truss configuration is the same as what is seen in the Wrought Iron Bridge Company patent diagram and description. The Bertram Road Bridge in Iowa is the only example on HistoricBridges.org of Wrought Iron Bridge Company employing these patents, and also the only other documented example of a truss bridge following this hybrid truss configuration. Other examples may exist, but HistoricBridges.org has yet to find them. Be sure to check out the Bertram Road Bridge since links and drawings of the Wrought Iron Bridge Company patent are available on the page.
This bridge is not listed in the National Bridge Inventory so HistoricBridges.org assumes the bridge's ownership has been abandoned by any former government agency and that it is now privately owned. Either way, this bridge should be acquired by someone who is able and willing to restore this bridge. Assuming the bridge is on private property and cannot be preserved in place, the best option would be to relocate and restore the bridge for use in a park or non-motorized pathway. Any work done on this bridge should be of the highest restoration quality such that the maximum amount of original material is not removed or altered, and anything that is replaced be replaced with an exact replica.
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