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Proposed Emergency Preservation: Mead Avenue Bridge

137 Years Old, Built of Keystone Columns in 1872.


Key Facts Relevant To Proposed Projects
Location Construction Date / Type
Meadville, Pennsylvania (Crawford County) 1872: Whipple Truss with Keystone Columns

Technical Facts Relevant To Proposed Projects

Total Length Single Span Length Sidewalk Width Deck Width Main Spans
268 Feet 134 Feet Two 9.8 Feet Sidewalks 19 Feet 2

Project Overview / Reasoning

The Mead Avenue Bridge, a historic bridge slated for demolition, is a bridge with national significance as a surviving bridge that uses Keystone Columns. Very few examples of keystone columns remain today, and most that do are on Wrought Iron bridge Company bowstring truss bridges. Only a fraction of remaining keystone columns are on other types of bridges, such as the Mead Avenue Whipple truss.

PennDOT, the City of Meadville, and Crawford County have proposed the replacement of this bridge with no preservation of the historic bridge. Under the existing plan, the Mead Avenue bridge will be demolished resulting in the loss of an extremely rare and important historic structure. All parties in Pennsylvania have been given the opportunity to propose and enact one of numerous solutions that would avoid the demolition of the 1872 Mead Avenue Bridge, a unique and extremely significant cast and wrought iron multi-span Whipple truss with Keystone columns.

So historic is the Mead Avenue Bridge, that even its individual Keystone columns alone are significant enough to warrant display in a museum. HistoricBridges.org hopes to avoid the complete loss of the Mead Avenue Bridge and its historic materials by through one of four alternatives to complete demolition and total loss of Mead Avenue Bridge's historic metals. Alternatives from complete relocation and preservation to salvage of select key parts of the bridge are being considered for feasibility.

Some historic bridges are significant because they have a connection to a local community. While the Mead Avenue may indeed have such a connection, it also is also significant because of its age and its extremely rare keystone columns. As such, its significance would remain extremely high even if relocated out of state. The local community and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has failed to demonstrate an interest and/or ability to save this historic bridge. Therefore, HistoricBridges.org proposes the relocation and storage of this bridge to Michigan. Michigan has an nationally recognized and well-established commitment to historic metal truss bridge preservation, including both research and a variety of restoration projects. The bridge would become the oldest known remaining metal bridge in the entire state of Michigan.

Proposed Alternatives To Complete Demolition/Removal

Proposal #

Preference / Benefits




Mark and Disassemble Bridge, Move and Store Whipple Truss In Michigan. Optionally Include Baltimore Truss. Re-Erect, Most Likely In Michigan. 



Mark and Disassemble Bridge, Move and Store Single Whipple Truss Span In Michigan. Optionally Include Baltimore Truss. Re-Erect, Most Likely In Michigan. 



Demolish Bridge, Salvage and Store Some Columns and Portal Parts For Michigan Public Sculpture and Historic Metals Research. Parts Trucked Professionally



Demolish Bridge, Salvage and Store Some Columns and Portal Parts For HistoricBridges.org Public or Private Use in Michigan. Parts Must Fit Into U-Haul Rental Truck, And Be Able To Be Lifted By Three or Four People.

Current Status and HistoricBridges.org Goals

Primary Goal

Currently, Vern Mesler has expressed interest in all or part of the historic Mead Avenue Bridge, and supports Proposals #1-3. Mesler is Michigan's nationally known historic bridge restoration expert and former project manager for Historic Bridge Park of Calhoun County, Michigan.

The first and foremost goal of HistoricBridges.org is to aid and support Vern Mesler's efforts, and if needed, assist Mesler in seeking out solutions for disassembling all or part of Mead Avenue Bridge and transporting those parts to Michigan for storage and eventual reuse, and any other possible assistance as of yet undetermined that HistoricBridges.org might be able to provide. Vern Mesler is almost certainly the only way that Proposals #1-2 can be achieved, and most likely for Proposal 3.

Secondary/Backup Goal

The secondary goal of HistoricBridges.org would take effect upon Vern Mesler's withdrawal from participation in securing the Mead Avenue Bridge and/or its parts. The secondary goal is to secure select parts of the Mead Avenue Bridge for both public and private preservation-related uses. The number and type of parts secured would depend on what agreements were reached with involved parties, including those providing the parts, and also those interested in receiving parts. However securing portions of the Keystone columns would receive high priority, as would the cast iron portal elements of the bridge provided they were not being used for other preservation-related uses. Those receiving parts would include members of the HistoricBridges.org website, but would also potentially include additional historic bridge enthusiasts, museums, community colleges, and historic metal research experts. No profits would be made from the acquisition of these parts, and all efforts would be intended are preserving the parts of the bridge, given the HistoricBridges.org currently lack to resources to individually preserve the bridge as a whole.

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Key Details


Decorative Cast Iron Portal, Vehicular Lane

Cast iron elements on bridges are rare, especially for major structural components. The cast iron portal of the Mead Avenue Bridge is one of the most important parts of the bridge. Its ornate pattern of stars reflects a long-past thinking in design that combined beauty into main structural components on a bridge. Today, what little aesthetic treatment is seen on modern bridges is usually reserved to the placement of superficial elements that are not part of the functioning bridge structure.


Decorative Cast Iron Portals, Sidewalk Lanes 

Not only are cast iron portals rare today on metal truss bridges in any form, even rarer are portals that are placed solely for decorative purposes on the sidewalks. The Mead Avenue Bridge sidewalk portals are a beautiful compliment to the larger


Keystone Columns 


Distinct Connection Details


Unusual/Rare Sway Bracing Design 

The Mead Avenue Bridge predates the standardization in metal truss bridges that occurred during the 1880s. During the 1870s when the Mead Avenue Bridge was built, bridge builders all had their own creative ideas on how to design and built their truss bridges. Often, bridges from this period display innovative, and distinctive details that may not be seen on later bridges. The unusual sway bracing of the Mead Avenue Bridge is an great example.

Early Use Of Whipple Truss Design 

Key Relocation Estimates (For Proposal 4)

Trucking Distance: Meadville, PA - Lansing, MI - One-Way Trip: 350 Miles

26' Uhaul Truck $405 Plus 7mpg @ $3.00/gal = $150

Total Trucking Cost: $555

14' Uhaul Truck $310 Plus 10mpg @ $3.00/gal = $105

Total Trucking Cost: $415

Key Dimensions (Measured Drawings, Courtesy, HAER)

Note that these drawings show only the Whipple truss, which is the original and most important part of the bridge that should be preserved.

Sectional Elevation

Columns are 17 Feet in Length.


Sway bracing is 21 Feet in length.

Deck Width



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