The Wheeling Suspension Bridge carries West Virginia State Route 251 over the Ohio River between Wheeling and Wheeling Island, West Virginia. It was the first suspension bridge in the United States.
Original Wheeling Suspension Bridge
The original Wheeling Suspension Bridge, designed by Charles Ellett, was constructed from 1847 to 1849 as the first major suspension bridge in the United States. It was a simple timber deck resting on transverse timber floor beams which were in turn supported at their ends by wrought iron suspenders hung from the main cables. This bridge, with 2×6 cables, was destroyed in 1854 in a violent gale.
The “New” Wheeling Suspension Bridge
In 1859, a new Wheeling Suspension Bridge opened with the same design as the original. In 1872, William Hildenbrand modified the suspension bridge, adding auxiliary stay cables designed by Washington Roebling, and replacing the deck, which added strength and resistance against strong winds.
In 1956, the timber bridge deck was replaced with open steel grating, and steel floor beams were added in order to cut down on dead loads and wind resistance. In 1969, the bridge was honored as a National Historic Civil Engineering landmark, and was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1975, the highest honor that could be bestowed on a non-federal site or structure; it was also the first bridge to be designed as a Landmark.(1) Five years later, the suspension span was listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior.
In 1982, the bridge was closed for an extensive $2.4 million restoration project that repaired cables and anchorages, and required the reconstruction of several trusses. On May 5, 1983 West Virginia celebrated the grand opening of the restored Wheeling Suspension Bridge.
In 1987, the 154 specially designed globe lights was added to the bridge. Further renovation was completed in 1999. The Wheeling Suspension Bridge is currently being nominated as an international landmark by the International Council on Monuments and Sites.(1)
- Designation: WV 251
- Crosses: Ohio River
- Bridge type: Suspension
- Total length: 1010 ft.
- Number of lanes: 2
- “The Wheeling Suspension Bridge Tour.” Ohio County Public Library. 17 March 2004 Article.