HistoricBridges.org Menu: HistoricBridges.org Menu:


We Recommend These Resources:
Bach Steel - Experts at historic truss bridge restoration.

HistoricBridges.org: Bridge Browser

Falls Bridge

Falls Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Bridge Documented: May 31, 2010

View Photos
and Videos
View Maps
and Links

Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Falls Bridge Road Over Schuylkill River
Location
Philadelphia: Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1895 By Builder/Contractor: Filbert, Porter, and Company and Engineer/Design: George S. Webster

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
1986
Main Span Length
180 Feet (54.9 Meters)
Structure Length
566 Feet (172.5 Meters)
Roadway Width
26 Feet (7.92 Meters)
Spans
3 Main Span(s)
NBI Number
67730100400004

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
View Information About HSR Ratings

Bridge Documentation

View Archived National Bridge Inventory Report - Has Additional Details and Evaluation

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

HAER Data Pages, PDF

View The Patent For The Original Roller Bearings On This Historic Bridge

This incredible historic bridge was constructed as a double-deck bridge which was designed to carry vehicular traffic on the lower deck and streetcars on the upper deck. However, a streetcar line that was anticipated when this bridge was constructed was never actually built. The double-deck design is why the bridge has the uncommon vertical end posts. The double-deck design of the bridge also resulted in this bridge having very massive members for its age, a factor that has likely allowed this bridge to remain a very strong and functional bridge into the 21st Century, alongside good maintenance and preservation on the part of the city of Philadelphia. Given the bridge was built to carry loads it never actually had to carry, this may also be why the bridge retains excellent historic integrity of materials and design, with no major alterations noted, again this integrity also the result of maintenance and preservation efforts of Philadelphia.

The bridge is an ornate structure, with decorative knees on the sway and portal bracing, as well as very decorative railings with a Tree of Life design to them and ornate cast posts at the ends of the railing system, which extends beyond the bridge onto the abutments. The complex (and uncommon) pin-connected Baltimore truss configuration on the bridge serves a utilitarian purpose, but also adds to the complexity and the geometric beauty of this bridge. The experience of crossing this bridge is very dramatic with a strong "tunnel effect" experience.

As mentioned, the historic integrity of this bridge is good. However there is one exception, that while minor to the overall bridge's integrity, is still worth noting. The bridge originally had a unique patented roller bearing nests that were patented by George S. Morison of Chicago, IL. These have been replaced. Also, the plaques on the bridge are not original and apparently date to 1975. Several panels of the railing on the bridge have been replaced, but these were replaced in-kind.

The bridge was originally painted in a multi-color paint scheme. Historic American Engineering Record mentions this was a common tradition in the 19th Century, and was done to distinguish the different structural functions by a different color. The Falls Bridge's colors were white, buff, brown and red. Color schemes with multiple colors can really bring out the beauty in a historic bridge, but unfortunately the use of multi-color paint schemes on bridges is virtually unheard of in North America, although it remains more common in some European locations particularly England. A discussion of this is presented on the Hammersmith Bridge page. For much of the 20th Century, the bridge was painted light green. It is today painted a white color. While the current white color of the bridge is very beautiful and really brings out the details in the bridge, it would be an interesting future preservation project to repaint the bridge in the original multi-color scheme.

The south end (sometimes referred to as the west end) of each span on this bridge is 2 feet 8 inches higher than the other end because the bridge is built with a 1.5% grade.

This is the sixth bridge at this location. The first wire suspension bridge in the country was erected here.

This bridge might be thought of as an older and more ornate version of the Foxburg Bridge.

Information and Findings From Pennsylvania's Historic Bridge Inventory

Discussion of Bridge

The 3 span, 566'-long, pin-connected, Baltimore thru truss bridge supported on stone piers and abutments was fabricated in 1895 as a 2-level deck truss bridge. It was to carry streetcars on one level and other conveyances on the other. The streetcar line was never developed, but the closely spaced, built-up floorbeams reflect the load-carrying capacity the bridge was intended to provide. The bridge is a unique example of the type and design. It is historically and technologically significant.

Discussion of Surrounding Area

The bridge carries a 2 lane road and sidewalks over the Schuylkill River in Fairmount Park, a National Register listed district. This section of the district is limited to the river. The bridge is not addressed in the 1972 nomination.

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes


This bridge is tagged with the following special condition(s): Double-Deck

Divider

Photo Galleries and Videos: Falls 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 Video
Southbound Crossing of the Bridge
Full Motion Video
Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.
View Video
Northbound Crossing of the Bridge
Full Motion Video
Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.

Divider

Maps and Links: Falls Bridge

Coordinates (Latitude, Longitude):

View Bridge Location In:

Bridgehunter.com: View listed bridges within a half mile of this bridge.

Bridgehunter.com: View listed bridges within 10 miles of this bridge.

Google Maps

Google Streetview (If Available)

Bing Maps

OpenStreetMap

Apple Maps (Via DuckDuckGo Search)

Apple Maps (Apple devices only)

MapQuest

HERE We Go Maps

ACME Mapper

Waze Map

Android: Open Location In Your Map or GPS App

Flickr Gallery (Find Nearby Photos)

Wikimedia Commons (Find Nearby Photos)

Directions Via Sygic For Android

Directions Via Sygic For iOS and Android Dolphin Browser

USGS National Map (United States Only)

Historical USGS Topo Maps (United States Only)

CalTopo Maps (United States Only)


Divider
 
Home Top

Divider

About - Contact

© Copyright 2003-2021, 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.

Admin Login

Divider