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Brief History of the 1828 Blaine Bridge

Constructed on a part of the first federally funded national highway, the 1828 “S” Blaine Hill Bridge carried early travelers over Wheeling Creek and up the western hills from the Ohio River crossings in Bridgeport, OH and Wheeling, WV.  At a constant grade of approximately 6.3% from east to west, it provided a way to travel the near 500-foot climb out of the valley.

Built of stone, the Bridge is 345 feet in length, with 3 segmental arches of 25-foot, 40-foot, and 50-foot spans, though they appear to be equal.  Its “S” shape carried travelers continually from the days of wagons to automobiles.  In 1933, when the National Road traffic was increasing to an average 2700 cars daily, a new bridge was built.  The current, Arches of Memory, overshadowed the old bridge and diverted all but the local traffic.  In 1994, the deteriorating condition of the 1828 Bridge required it to be closed to all traffic, including pedestrians.  When the longest arch collapsed in 1998, the Bridge was nearly set for demolition.           

Through the intervention of the Ohio Historical Preservation Office’s Glenn Harper, and with the help of Belmont County Engineer Fred Bennett, the plans to destroy the Bridge were stopped. In 1999, Harper and Bennett were able to secure repairs from the District 11, Ohio Department of Transportation.  They rebuilt the collapsed arch, and sealed the deck as much as possible to deter additional deterioration.

The 1828 Bridge remains the longest existing span of its type on the entire 6 state Historic National Road.  It is thought to be perhaps the first bridge in the Northwest Territory.  In 2001, the Ohio Assembly unanimously passed legislation designating the bridge as Ohio's Official Bicentennial bridge.  In July 2002, at the first Blaine Bridge Project Homecoming Festival, visitors were treated to a brief period of walking across the historic treasure once more.  Though the structure remains closed and in precarious condition, efforts to repair and restore the beautiful artifact began in 2001, and are well on the way to saving the authenticity and character of this engineering masterpiece.

Now tucked beneath the current 1933 Blaine Hill Viaduct and I-70, this 1828 Bridge remains the anchor spot in illustrating 3 generations of American highway construction, engineering, and history of national transportation. 

Givva

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