Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lost Bridge of the Week-- September 28th

The Colossus Bridge (aka the Upper Ferry Bridge, the Lancaster Schuylkill Bridge, aka the Fairmount Bridge, Schuylkill Arch Truss Bridge)

Spanning the Schuylkill River at Spring Garden Street.

                       This bridge makes last week's Lost Bridge look like a pile of assholes. While last week's was the first covered bridge in the country, this one was Philadelphia's first to hold the record of longest single span in the country... by 100 feet! Thought it had all kinds of proper and official names, most people called it The Colossus.
Like this, but a bridge.
                         After the success of Palmer's Permanent Bridge at High (Market) Street, the desire to turn the other crappy pontoon bridges into massive wooden covered bridges arose. The call went out to engineers everywhere for designs. Thats when the German, Lewis Wernwag, showed up. He had just completed some nearby bridges over creeks that people thought kicked ass. Unlike the other engineering motherfuckers, Wernwag was all about the challenge of getting over the 340-foot gap with a single span.
                       Without the need to build stone piers in the middle of the river, his bridge design was not only the most high tech, but the cheapest to build. Construction began on April 28th, 1812. Wernwag spanned the river with 4 arches of wood that were 4' x 1' at the ends and 3' x 1' in the middle. The rest was a latticework of big-ass timber that was in turn covered over with decorative panels. 10 little windows were cut into each side. Iron wires moored the bridge to its stone anchors on either end.

This is how it looked under the cover.
                     When this was opened on January 7th, 1813, it was the longest single span bridge in America and second longest in the world. Since communication was ass at the time, Wernwag was convinced it was the world-record breaker. He must have walked around with a hard-on all day. "Don't mind this!", he would say. The bridge lost its title of longest in America in 1815, but got it back again when the bridge that beat it (the McCall's Ferry Bridge) burned the fuck down in 1818. It would hold the title for 20 more years.
                       Wernwag went on to become a bridge-building celebrity starchitect and designed a shitload of bridges for the remainder of his life. The Colossus burned down in 1838 and was replaced by Ellet's Wire Bridge at Fairmount. Ellet was such a cock that he re-used the stone anchors that were laid down by Wernwag.
                        As everyone who reads this probably already knows, the current bridges over the Schuylkill look like butt. They're all pretty much just highway causeways with a few decorative elements (that suck). Back when the Colossus was built, crossing the Schuylkill was not easy and people appreciated it a helluva lot more.  Hopefully the next time we replace one of the river bridges, we'll do a better job. Based on the assness of the new South Street Bridge, that's highly unlikely.

We sure as hell won't build one that looks this good again. Balls.

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