The distinctive Jefferson Street Bridge carries Jefferson Street over the Monongahela River in Fairmont, West Virginia.
A 560-foot suspension bridge 5 across the Monongahela River between Fairmont and Palatine 4 was opened to wagons, carriages, and pedestrians on October 6, 1852. 12 The largest battle of the Civil War in northern West Virginia, the Jones-Imboden Raid, took place at the crossing on April 29, 1863. 4 After being declared unsafe, the suspension bridge was closed to public travel on November 27, 1907. 10 11
Prior to its closure, a new bridge had been proposed so that the Fairmont & Clarksburg Traction Company could extend its interurban line across the river and into the First ward. 9 On July 2, 1907, it was agreed that the interurban would pay $18,000 toward the construction of a new bridge in exchange for the right-of-way to lay track over the bridge.
A new steel through truss bridge was opened to pedestrians, interurbans, horse-drawn carriages, and early automobiles in September 1908. 8
Million Dollar Bridge
Discussions to replace the steel truss began in 1915 when the Monongahela Valley Traction Company, an interurban railroad, expressed interest in extending into the city. 7 A $400,000 bond issue was secured in 1916. 1 2 City commissioners opened up bidding for the construction of a reinforced concrete bridge in December 1917, and bids were awarded to the John F. Casey Company of Pittsburgh on May 8, 1918. 7
Work began in October 1918. 7 It required the erection of a 1,300-foot Duplex cableway to haul materials which included the erection of two 135-foot-high steel towers. Financial complications delayed construction in the fall of 1919, which forced the city to issue a second bond issue to continue work. In August 1920, additional funds totaling $532,000 were secured through donations and subscriptions from the county court, the interurban, local banks, and 650 property owners.
Only one life was lost during the erection of the bridge. 7 John Vuchitich fell from the top of the bridge into the river and drowned on November 4, 1920.
The “Million Dollar Bridge,” named because of its approximate construction cost of $810,000, 7 was informally opened to Rotarians on March 15, 1921. 6 Approximately 1,200 Rotarians from western Pennsylvania and West Virginia attending the annual conference of the Sixth Rotary district in the city drove across the new bridge while on a sightseeing tour. The crossing was formally opened and dedicated to honoring World War I veterans on May 20, 1921. 3 The completion of the bridge symbolized the national Better Roads movement that was championed by the United States Bureau of Roads to get rural areas “out of the mud.”
Designed by the Concrete Steel Engineering Company of New York, with Palmer & Hornboste of New York assisting with architectural features, the new open-spandrel reinforced concrete bridge featured a total length of 1,266 feet and spans of 250 feet with a height of 96 feet above the river. 1 2 Its construction required 782 tons of reinforcing steel, 276 carloads of gravel, 468 carloads of sand, and 151 carloads of cement, and over one million feet of fir timber from Washington for the falsework. 7
The bridge included dual trolley tracks and seven-foot sidewalks with stairwells to provide access from the bridge deck to Cleveland Avenue and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad freight station on the west side of the river, and to Walter Street and the Monongahela Railway on the east side. 1 2 It was adorned with hand-blown light fixtures that were never again reproduced, and hung in pairs from 33 concrete poles. The crossing was also adorned with four 50-foot tapered flagpoles that were topped with gilded copper eagles.
Because of its architectural significance, the Million Dollar Bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. 1 2
A $23.5 million contract was awarded in March 1998 for the rehabilitation of the Million Dollar Bridge. 1 2 3 It included $6 million in discretionary federal aid as well as normal federal and state bridge funding sources and was the state’s most costly historic restoration. Designed by consultant Howard, Needles, Tammen & Bergendoff (HNTB) of Alexandria, Virginia and headed by Mosites Construction Company of Pittsburgh, the restoration included tearing the superstructure down to the arches and piers, and restoring with precast, pre-stressed concrete that included an overlay of pneumatically applied mortar on the arch rings. The bridge reopened to traffic on October 27, 2000. 3
In 2001, the bridge was named for deceased United States Congressman Robert H. Mollohan, a former area resident. 1
- State: West Virginia
- Route: Jefferson Street
- Type: Open Spandrel Arch
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 1,266 feet
- Main Span Length: 250 feet
- Deck Width: 56 feet
- Roadway Width: 40 feet
- Total Height: 96 feet
- Navigational Clearance:
- “History of the Million Dollar Bridge.” Marion County, West Virginia, 24 Sept. 2020.
- “High Level.” West Virginia Department of Transportation.
- Fortuna, Bill. “Jefferson Street Bridge: The ‘Million Dollar Bridge’ Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.” Shotcrete, Summer 2003, pp. 18-19.
- “Battle for the Bridge.” Marion County, West Virginia.
- United States. Dept. of the Interior. Fairmont Downtown Historic District. Comp. Rodney Collins. Washington: National Park Service, Mar. 1995. West Virginia Division of Culture and History.
- “Rotarians to Witness Fairmont Bridge Opening.” Wheeling Intelligencer, 10 Mar. 1921, p. 6.
- “Bridge was Built in Quick Time in Spite of Many Difficulties.” West Virginian [Fairmont], 28 May 1921, pp. 1-2.
- “New Bridge.” Daily Telegram [Clarksburg], 11 Jul. 1908, p. 1.
- “Trolley Line in First Ward Now Assured.” Fairmont West Virginian, 3 Jul. 1907, p. 1.
- “Notice to the Public.” Fairmont West Virginian, 23 Nov. 1907, p. 1.
- “Bridge Closed at Last.” Fairmont West Virginian, 27 Nov. 1907, p. 8.
- Cooper’s Clarksburg Register, 6 Oct. 1852, p. 2.