Suspension Bridge in Wheeling
In 1836, a wooden bridge was built from Wheeling Island across the west channel of the Ohio River to the Ohio shore. But when a bill in Congress urged constructing a bridge from the city of Wheeling across the east channel of the river to Wheeling Island, it met opposition from Pittsburgh. Congress wanted to facilitate trade and travel on the historic National Road but Pittsburgh contended successfully before the U.S. Supreme Court that such a bridge would interfere with river navigation. Pittsburgh feared that chimneys on packet boats would not be able to pass under it. Despite a restraining order, the bridge was finished on October 30, 1849. Wheeling sought relief from Congress, which ordered the height of steamboat chimneys be governed by the clearance of bridges.
The completion of the National Road and its extension across the Ohio River enabled Wheeling to become the second largest city in Virginia prior to the Civil War.
In 1854, the bridge was destroyed by a wind storm and the legal battle began again as soon as work on a replacement was started. Pittsburgh again appealed to the Supreme Court but, this time, Wheeling won. The new bridge was completed in 1856. At the time, it was the first suspension bridge of its kind in the world and, until the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge, was the longest in the country. Today, it is the oldest suspension bridge still in use and a National Landmark. The Historic American Engineering Record has called the Wheeling Suspension Bridge "the most important extant antebellum civil engineering structure in North America.''
▶ History and description of the bridge by Dr. Emory Kemp.
▶ Early history of the bridge from Wingerter's History of Greater Wheeling.
▶ A biographical sketch of bridge engineer Charles Ellet, Jr.
▶ The Wheeling Bridge Case in the Supreme Court: James Morton Callahan, 1913
▶ Transcript of the 1956 dedication of the Bridge as a National Monument, D. B. Steinman, Consulting Engineer, May 20, 1956
Spans the Ohio River from 10th Street in Wheeling to Virginia Street on Wheeling Island.
▶ Various newspaper reports on the building of the Bridge: The Daily Wheeling Gazette, August-December 1849
▶ Opening ceremonies [November 15, 1849]: The Daily Wheeling Gazette, November 17, 1849
▶ Accounts of the Suspension Bridge collapse [May 16, 1854]: The Wheeling Intelligencer, May 17-22, 1854
▶ Intelligencer's Response to Pittsburgh Gazette following collapse: The Wheeling Intelligencer, May 20, 1854
▶ The Suspension Bridge in 1886: The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, September 14, 1886
▶ $400,00 1957 "Facelift": The Intelligencer, August 2, 1957
Materials in the Library's Non-Fiction Stacks: (circulating, can check out with a library card.)
Materials in the Library's Wheeling Room: (non-circulating, ask for access at the reference desk.)
Materials in the Library Archives: (non-circulating - access by appointment only, call 304-232-0244.)