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Suspension Bridge: 1957 Face Lift

Transportation in Wheeling Icon

▼ Suspension Bridge Newspaper Article

- from The Intelligencer (Wheeling, WV), August 2, 1957. © Ogden Newspapers. Reproduced with permission.

Suspension Bridge Opens Today After $400,000 "Face Lifting"

A West Virginia State Road Commission paint crew —out to put the finishing touches on the Suspension Bridge, scheduled to be reopened this morning after a $400,000 remodeling job — left part of the job undone last night.

According to District Sign foreman Ralph May, the crew lined only the Island and Tenth St. approaches to the bridge and half of the bridge's new steel mesh floor. It was unable to complete lining the floor near the Island because of the fear of paint dripping through the mesh onto boats moored below at the Ohio Valley Yacht Club, May explained.

However, the span is expected to reopen on schedule this morning.

Rededicated with appropriate ceremonies just over a year ago, the Suspension Bridge has been reconditioned from approach to approach with the exception of cleaning of the towers which support the heavy cables. This project has been sought by Island residents and the Wheeling City Council.

Gleaming under a coat of aluminum paint, the structure sports iron mesh flooring and walks which were narrowed to allow more room for vehicular traffic.

There'll be no ceremony today when the span is reopened, State Road Commission Engineer Wilbur Dick said. Instead, it will "just be put into service."

The 108-year-old span, with end piers fashioned by hand from sandstone quarried at Freeport in Harrison County, has had a history-making past. For many years, it was the sole link with Wheeling Island and the West. It carried all kinds of vehicles including horses and buggies, heavy wagons and since the turn of the century, countless cars.

It was for many years a toll bridge owned by a private corporation.

After being purchased by the West Virginia State Road Commission, the bridge was made toll free and, as the key link on National Rd. or U. S. Highway No. 40 between West Virginia and Ohio, its narrow roadway with wooden treads was repaired many hundreds of times as the traffic and weather made in-roads.

Closed when the new Fort Henry Bridge was opened, the need for the Suspension Bridge was evident. The State Road Commission entered into a contract with the Pittsburgh contracting firm of Ferguson & Edmundson for repairing the bridge.

Termed basically sound by engineers for that firm, the repair job was delayed for a while by a shortage of steel. In the meantime, the old planking and walks were torn up, new cross supports put in place and finally the steel mesh flooring was installed.

Now it's ready for use again — the oldest suspension bridge in the United States.

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