Category Archives: Infrastructure

Mile 204 – Zanesville Y-Bridge, Zanesville, Ohio

The bridge as viewed from Putnam Hill Park.

The bridge as viewed from Putnam Hill Park.

Probably one of the more unique infrastructure sights along the National Road is the Y-Bridge in Zanesville. Spanning the Muskingum River at its intersection with the Licking River, the bridge serves as a major traffic artery for the downtown area of the city. What makes this bridge special is the fact that there is a three-way intersection in the center of the bridge, controlled by a stoplight.

The bridge from Muskingum River Parkway State Park.

The bridge from Muskingum River Parkway State Park.

Though the history of a y-bridge at this location spans almost 200 years (no pun intended), the current bridge was built in 1984 – the fifth such structure. The original bridge, built in 1814, met its demise by falling into the river, and each subsequent bridge was eventually deemed unsafe and had to be rebuilt, producing the current bridge as it is today. Since the first bridge was built, the uniqueness of its shape resulted in the bridge becoming a local tourist attraction, and Muskingum County, the City of Zanesville and the Zanesville-Muskingum County CVB all maintain webpages featuring the bridge’s history.

As for the tie-in with National Road history, the N.R. was routed across the bridge in the 1830s, as the road was being built across Ohio. The U.S. Route 40 mainline is still routed across the bridge today.

A sign at the southwest entrance to the bridge.

A sign at the southwest entrance to the bridge.

There are a few options for viewing the bridge that I found when I visited. Probably the best spot for seeing the bridge up-close is a parking lot on the grounds of Muskingum River Parkway State Park, which I personally had no idea existed (and is pretty cool in and of itself!). This turnoff for this area is located immediately before crossing the bridge at its eastern end (on the left if driving west, on the right if driving east).

The second option, which gives a nice aerial view of the bridge, is at the top of a hill south and west of the bridge. The viewpoint is part of the city’s Putnam Hill Park. The city has signs directing drivers to this spot from U.S. 40. I’ve included a map of both of these locations below.

Of course, the Y-bridge isn’t the only unique bridge along the National Road. Two other bridges, one in Wheeling, and one in Grantsville, Md., have also piqued my interest, as have the numerous S-Bridges in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Mile 189 – Fox Run ‘S’ Bridge, New Concord, Ohio

Fox Run S Bridge ResizeJust west of New Concord, Ohio, is one of the state’s relatively numerous ‘S’ bridges still standing – the Fox Run ‘S’ Bridge – right up against a four-lane segment of U.S. 40.

Built in 1828, this bridge seems to be unique in that I’ve seen it under three different names: the “Fox Run S Bridge,” the “Fox Creek S Bridge” and “S Bridge II.” Like most of the S bridges in Ohio and Pennsylvania, a small park surrounds the structure, which is open to pedestrians. However, as I found out, the bridge isn’t very friendly to visitors in the winter, as the small designated parking area and the bridge itself aren’t kept free of snow.

A marker at the bridge.

A marker at the bridge.

An information marker  on the east end of the bridge gives a little more information than a standard state historical marker, including mentioning that “the Fox Creek Crooked Creek area [was] a bastion of Abolitionism before and during the Civil War,” that every township in Ohio along the National Road doubled in population in a decade after the road was built and that the National Road was bricked over in 1919 to transport heavy equipment during World War I. Apparently, this bridge was the last part of the road to be bricked over. The bridge was used at least until the 1930s or 1940s. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

If I get a chance, I would rather see this bridge without snow on the ground. There’s supposed to be a path that leads down to the creek to let visitors see the structure closer. Parking (when there’s no snow on the ground) is located on the west end of the bridge.Fox Run S Bridge Resize (2)

Mile 132 – Wheeling Suspension Bridge, Wheeling, W.Va.

The Wheeling Suspension Bridge as seen from Wheeling Island.

Many of the icons that make driving an old road enjoyable are actually part of the road itself. In Wheeling, the Wheeling Suspension Bridge is an attraction in and of itself.

The bridge was built in 1849 specifically to carry the National Road across part of the Ohio River, connecting downtown Wheeling with Wheeling Island. Another bridge would then take the National Road from Wheeling Island (in then-Virginia) to Ohio. And while the bridge has been replaced as the main thoroughfare across the Ohio, it remains the oldest suspension bridge still in use in the United States.

The bridge has been fitted with numerous modern traffic control measures.

A drive across the bridge is an experience in itself. The open steel grates create a odd effect that seemingly reduces the grip the car has to the roadway, and is one reason why low speed limits are in place. Because the bridge was built before the invention of heavy automobiles, stoplights at either end of the bridge ensure no more than a handful of cars can be on the bridge at any one time. Heavy vehicles are banned from the bridge entirely. All vehicles are required to maintain 50-foot intervals from one another.

Markings on either side of the bridge define the structure as being part of the National Road.

At roughly 1,000 feet long, the bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world from its construction until 1851. However, the bridge deck collapsed in 1854 during a severe storm, and subsequently had to be rebuilt. The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and was named a National Historic Landmark in 1975.

Due to U.S. 40 being re-routed over I-70 from downtown Wheeling to Ohio, the Wheeling Suspension Bridge is no longer directly on U.S. 40. Instead, eastbound travelers should use W.Va.-2 south (Main Street) to 10th Street, which is the bridge. On the Wheeling Island side, the bridge is part of Virginia Street.

When it was built, the Wheeling Suspension Bridge was the longest in the world.

Mile 168, ‘S’ Bridge, Wills Twp., Ohio

One of the four ‘S’ bridges along the National Road in eastern Ohio is found along an extremely rural and low-trafficked stretch of road east of Old Washington, Ohio. The bridge was built in 1828 to cross a small creek, and like all the S bridges, was bypassed in the 20th Century. In the 1960s, the bridge was declared a National Historic Landmark. Unlike a similar structure in Washington County, Pennsylvania, vehicles are still permitted to cross this bridge.

This bridge is along a stretch of road now named Bridgewater Road. The bridge itself is part of Blend Road, which is an older section of the National Road paralleling Bridgewater Road. There’s no set area to park and walk around, but because of the very low amount of traffic, it’s safe to park near the entrance to the bridge.

Mile 106 – S Bridge, Buffalo Twp., Washington County, Pa.

The S Bridge, Washington County, Pa.

An unusual form of bridge architecture exists along the National Road in Pennsylvania and Ohio – the ‘S’ bridge. These bridges are exactly what the name infers – they are shaped like an ‘S,’ apparently in an effort to save on materials.

The S Bridge in Pennsylvania is the only one of its kind in the state, and spans a small creek in western Washington County, just east of Claysville. The structure was built around 1818, and was eventually bypassed by newer infrastructure (like the fate of the Casselman River bridge in Maryland). In the case of ‘S’ bridges, as cars began to replace horses, and as those cars became faster, the curvature of those bridges posed a safety hazard as well.

The historical marker nest to Pennsylvania’s ‘S’ bridge.

Today, the bridge, its deck covered in grass, is still open to the public as a pedestrian path and is on the National Register of Historic Places. There is a parking lot north of the bridge on Pa.-221, and its a short walk to the bridge from the lot. The current U.S. 40 passes right beside the bridge, adjacent with its intersection with Pa.-221.

While Pennsylvania only has one such bridge, there are several remaining ‘S’ bridges in eastern Ohio. Jim Grey, who has been a frequent resource for this blog, has chronicled those structures. So until I get to Ohio (and even after), check out his blog.

Pennsylvania’s ‘S’ bridge spans a small creek in rural Washington County.

Mile 68 – Searight’s Tollhouse

The Searight's Toll House, Fayette County, Pa.

The Searight’s Toll House just northwest of Uniontown is the third and final remaining toll house on the National Road from east to west, and the second of two remaining Pennsylvania toll houses (there used to be six in all in Pa.). Like other Pennsylvania toll houses, it was built in 1835, at the time when the federal government handed ownership of the National Road to the states. Pennsylvania then changed the National Road into a turnpike, or toll road.

The only other remaining toll house in Pennsylvania is the Addison (Petersburg) Toll House, not too far from the Mason-Dixon Line in Somerset County. (There is one other toll house still existing in Maryland, the LaVale Toll Gate House. Like the other toll buildings, the Searight’s Toll House is named for the small hamlet of Searights, Pa. In turn, Searights is named for William Searight, a prominent Fayette County resident who was the commissioner of the National Road in Pennsylvania from 1842 to 1845. Searight was later the commissioner of the National Road as well, but only in Fayette County.

A replica list of tolls at the Searight's Toll House.

The grounds of the Searight’s Toll House are open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is a parking lot behind the building that can be accessed right from U.S. 40. The building is currently owned by the Fayette County Historical Society, and tours are available from that group. There is no website for the society, but it can be reached at 724-439-4422.

Mile 37 – Petersburg/Addison Toll House, Addison, Pa.

The Petersburg Toll House, Addison, Pa.

Not too far after crossing the Mason-Dixon Line, the National Road reaches Addison, Pa., which is home to the Petersburg Toll House, the first of an original six such buildings in Pennsylvania. Built in 1835, the toll house and its five other brethren  were constructed in response to the federal government handing the road over to the individual states, thus allowing for the National Road to be tolled. The first tolls in Pennsylvania were collected that same year, continuing until 1906. The Petersburg Toll House was so-named simply because at the time, Addison was called Petersburg (sometimes spelled Petersburgh). Today, the building has also been called the Addison Toll House, so either name references the same building.

After falling into disuse, the toll house was purchased from the state of Pennsylvania by the Great Crossings Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in the late 1940s, and full restoration was completed in 1997. Today, the toll house looks much the same as it did in the 19th Century, and the interior is supposed to have its original flooring and furniture unique to the time period.

A replica of the toll rates on the outside of the Petersburg Toll House

In part because the DAR has been active in hundreds of historic restoration and preservation projects all over the country, the Petersburg Toll House is open to the public by appointment. For contact information, visit the Great Crossings Chapter’s Petersburg Toll House website, which also contains a wealth of historic background of the toll house; visit the GCC’s own website; or call the chapter at 814-233-5238 (that number is listed on the Laurel Highlands Visitors’ Bureau website here).

It’s also important to note that the toll house isn’t on present-day U.S.-40 like the LaVale Toll Gate House and the Searights Toll House. Instead, follow the signs that direct you to into Addison, which is on the southern side of U.S.-40. Parking is available across Main Street (Old National Road) in a park off Reservoir Road. My previous National Road post discussed how Addison was bypassed by present U.S.-40. That post includes a map, which may be helpful.