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10 Oldest Bridges in the United States

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The Golden Gate and Brooklyn Bridge, both prominent bridges in the United States, are certainly familiar to you. While America has several well-known bridges, it also contains some of its oldest bridges that hardly gain attention. Some had lasted the test of time, dating back to when the United States was even a country.

Unfortunately, many of these bridges have collapsed due to age, but they still have a story. They’re a snippet of history, a strand in America’s rich tapestry. They are still meaningful and deserving of recall, even though they have faded.

In today’s journey, we are traversing some ancient bridges in America. These are the country’s oldest bridges, and they serve as stepping stones to the nation’s magnificent bridges of today. The true tale of how these bridges were planned and designed is intriguing. Today we will share a list of the top 10 oldest bridges in the United States with details.

10. The Smithfield Street Bridge, PennsylvaniaSmithfield Street Bridge, Pennsylvania

  • Year Built: between 1881 and 1883
  • Architect: Gustav Lindenthal  
  • Type:  Originally was wooden, Currently is steel 
  •  Still in Use:  Yes

The bridge was built from 1881 to 1883 and first opened to traffic on March 19, 1883. The Smithfield Street Bridge was planned by Gustav Lindenthal, who also designed the Hell Gate Bridge in New York City. It was widened in 1889 and then again in 1911. The bridge has been designated a National Historic Civic Architecture Landmark, a National Historic Landmark, and a Historic Landmark Plaque by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.

It has four lanes of traffic and two sidewalks. The bridge was modified in 1889 and 1911. In 1915, cast steel replicas were installed in place of portal iron. During a renovation in 1933, they replaced the steel floor of the bridge with aluminum beams and decking.

9. Northampton Street Bridge, Pennsylvania, Philipsburg, New JerseyNorthampton Street Bridge, Pennsylvania, Philipsburg, New Jersey

  • Year Built: 1739, opened on October 14, 1806 
  • Architect:  Originally designed by Timothy Palmer, later designed by James Madison Porter III,
  • Type:  Landmark wooden structure 
  • Still in Use:  Yes

Before destroying by flood in 1895, the Northampton Street Bridge connected Easton, Pennsylvania, and Philipsburg, New Jersey. David Martin started the site as a ferry crossing. Due to technical and financial challenges, the building began in the 1790s but was not completed until 1806.

The original bridge was designed by Timothy Palmer and was over 160 feet long. Many of the common Delaware River floods were not enough to destroy it. Its final one in 1895 verified too much for the wooden bridge when it was swept away and smashed into pieces.

In 1896, it was reconstructed as a cantilever bridge by a professor of engineering at Lafayette College, James Madison Porter III. He designed this variant of the Northampton Street Bridge. This time, steel was used to ensure that it would withstand multiple floods. Locals refer to the new Northampton Street Bridge as the “Free Bridge” because it is the only toll-free bridge in the neighborhood.

8. Union Bridge, Waterford, and Lansingburgh, New YorkUnion Bridge, Waterford, and Lansingburgh, New York

  • Year Built: 1804; reconstructed in 1909
  • Architect: Originally built by Theodore Burr; Currently designed by A. P. Boller, Henry Hodge and constructed by the Phoenix Bridge Company
  • Type:  Original was wooden; current is steel
  • Still in Use:  Yes

Union Bridge was built over the lower Hudson River in 1804 before it was destroyed by fire in 1909. It connected the New York cities of Waterford and Lansingburgh. The first of its kind was built using Theodore Burr’s original arch-truss pattern, which Burr later copyrighted in 1806. Union Bridge was the first span of the Hudson River.

In 1889, Engineering News stated, “At the time the Union Bridge was built; therefore, it was the world’s greatest existing wooden span, and the first glimpse at the design displays that it was not only of an exactly original type but was a much more scientifically planned structure than any that had preceded it,” Engineering News wrote in 1889. 

For all we know, it may be the world’s largest wooden span, even though many of its largest wooden spans have been burned or replaced by iron.” Following the demise of Union Bridge, a steel bridge was built on the original piers, which is currently known as Waterford Bridge. Both bridges have joined Waterford with Lansington for 217 years.

7. Kingston Bridge, Kingston, Somerset County, New JerseyKingston Bridge, Kingston, Somerset County, New Jersey

  • Year Built: 1798
  • Architect:  Unknown
  • Type:  Stone arch bridge
  • Still in Use:  Yes

The Kingston Bridge remains 223 years later in Kingston, New Jersey, despite the unknown design. Before Kingston Bridge, there was a wooden bridge, but it was purposefully burned by the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War to restrict the British. In 1798, the ancient bridge was replaced by a stone arch bridge following the war.

The bridge is located on the King’s Highway, a vital colonial roadway in the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s also part of the Kingston Mill Historic District, which comprises four surrounding residences, the Greenland-Brinson-Gulick Farm, and a Millstone River-powered gristmill. The original measured roadway grade of the Kingston Bridge is still in use today.

6. Skippack Bridge, Lower Providence Township, Montgomery County, PennsylvaniaSkippack Bridge, Lower Providence Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

  • Year Built: 1792
  • Architect:  John Alman, Stephen Lane, and John Burke
  • Type:  Stone arch bridge
  •  Still in Use:  Yes

The Skippack Bridge was constructed in 1792 in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania state government hired three architects to create a bridge connecting the county’s western and eastern portions.

Stephen Lane, John Burke, and John Alman picked a sturdy stone arch bridge that would last until 1935. Montgomery County wanted to replace the outdated bridge entirely due to its instability. The rebuilt structure is still known as Skippack Bridge and serves the same purpose as the old one.

5. Stony Brook Bridge, Princeton, New JerseyStony Brook Bridge, Princeton, New Jersey

  • Year Built: 1792
  • Architect:  Unknown
  • Type:  Triple masonry arch bridge
  • Still in Use:  Yes

The Stony Brook Bridge, which is located in Princeton, New Jersey, was completed for the first time in 1792. The Stony Brook Bridge is considered New Jersey’s oldest bridge in constant use on a state highway. Like a handful of the other bridges on the top ten list, Stony Brook Bridge was used during the American Revolution when British and American troops crossed it during the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777.

In 2017, the Bridge was closed for five months to repair some significant parts. The project entailed upgrading the bridge substructure atop three stone arches kept for aesthetic purposes but were no longer functional. The Department of Transportation (NJDOT) of New Jersey was honored with the 2018 Project of the Year Award by the Mercer County Chapter of the New Jersey Society of Professional Engineers for its work on the Stony Brook Bridge a year later.

4. Choate Bridge, Ipswich, MassachusettsChoate Bridge, Ipswich, Massachusetts

  • Year Built: 1764 
  • Architect:  Colonel John Choate
  • Type:  Stone arch bridge
  • Still in Use:  Yes

Wooden bridges have always crossed the Ipswich River in Massachusetts, but they always broke soon after being built and had to be rebuilt hundreds of times. Colonel John Choate, the bridge’s namesake, believed it was past time to replace the temporary structure with a more permanent one.

Due to this, the nation’s first two-span masonry arch bridge was built in 1764. It’s still open to traffic today, with 26,250 vehicles passing daily. On August 21, 1972, Choate Bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

3. Sewall’s Bridge, York, MaineSewall's Bridge, York, Maine

  • Year Built: 1761 – updated in 1934 
  • Architect:  Major Samuel Sewall Jr.
  • Type:  Wooden pile-trestle bridge
  • Still in Use:  Yes

This is a historically significant bridge that Major Samuel Sewall Jr. designed. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Sewall’s Bridge is “the earliest pile-trestle bridge for which an authentic structure record survives and the oldest for which the builder’s drawings survive,” completed in 1761.

Sewall’s Bridge had been in York, Maine, for 173 years when it was deemed unsafe in 1934 and had to be replaced. The state of Maine planned to replace it with concrete, but the town’s residents pushed back and triumphed. It was reconstructed from wood and appeared almost identical to the original. On July 24, 1986, the bridge was designated a historic civil engineering landmark.

2. Old Stone Arch Bridge, Bound Brook, New JerseyOld Stone Arch Bridge, Bound Brook, New Jersey

  • Year Built: 1730
  • Architect:  Unknown
  • Type:  Triple arch stone bridge
  • Still in Use:  No

The Old Stone Arch Bridge was completed in 1730. Nowadays, the remnant of the bridge is semi-buried underground, but they are considered in good condition. All that can be noticed is a portion of the south side parapet. It used to be a part of the Riparian Road, a prominent colonial thoroughfare in the mid-1700s. 

On April 13, 1777, the Battle of Bound Brook occurred on the Old Stone Arch Bridge during the American Revolutionary War. On June 27, 2008, the bridge was added to the US National Register of Historic Places and planned archaeological excavations.

1. Frankford Avenue Bridge, Northeast PhiladelphiaFrankford Avenue Bridge, Northeast Philadelphia

  • Year Built: 1697
  • Architect:  Unknown
  • Type:  Twin arch stone bridge
  • Still in Use:  Yes

Frankford Avenue Bridge has a long history as the country’s oldest surviving bridge. This bridge was built in 1697 and carried people across Pennypack Creek before the United States was even a country. It has had countless repairs over the years; the most recent occurred in 1893 and 2018. The Frankford Avenue Bridge was the country’s first stone arch bridge. It was built by Citizens of the Lower Dublin Township of the then-new city of Holmesburg, Pennsylvania. 

William Penn started the project because he needed a way to get from his mansion to the town. The land was offered to him by King Charles II, and William Penn dedicated it to the townspeople so that they might build the bridge for him. It was part of the King’s Road, which ran from Philadelphia to New York and was one of America’s original highways. 

Actually, the bridge has four other names associated with it: Pennypack Creek Bridge, Pennypack Bridge, King’s Highway Bridge, and Holmesburg Bridge. Even though the bridge was barely 18 feet wide when it first opened, it is still open to traffic today. The bridge was widened in 1893 to allow for additional traffic, and it now measures 37.1 feet broad.

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