Solitary supports cross Susquehanna River

Motorists driving across the Wright’s Ferry Bridge spanning the Susquehanna River might wonder about the long lonely row of bridge supports seen downstream beside the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge.
Some may know that these piers supported the mile-long bridge burned by Union militia to keep the Confederates from crossing the river in the days before the Battle of Gettysburg in late June 1863. But that’s the extent of their knowledge… .


The span that burned was the first bridge to sit atop the now-bridgeless supports and the second structure to cross the Susquehanna between Wrightsville and Columbia.
The first bridge, completed in 1814, spanned the river near the present-day Wright’s Ferry Bridge. Mammoth chunks of floating ice knocked down that covered bridge in 1832, resulting in construction of a new bridge and supports — the piers that cross the river today.
Five years after the burning of this first bridge to sit on the piers, workers constructed a second structure. Two iron spans in the bridge’s middle were designed to guard against fire destroying the entire bridge.
But a cyclone blew down that span in 1896. Workers replaced that covered bridge with a hastily built iron structure. Dismantling of that bridge for scrap started in 1963. It was the last bridge to use the supports, and they’ve been sitting without anything to hold up ever since.
The Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge, dedicated on Veterans Day, 1930, and the Wright’s Ferry Bridge, completed in 1972, made the old iron span obsolete.
One neat thing to look for as you motor over the Wright’s Ferry Bridge, No. 6 to cross the river there: The bridge-less supports line up evenly with the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge piers.
That was intentional, designed to allow ice to float right through instead of catching against the supports, thereby turning the river into a lake.
So there it is, overlooked county landmark No. 13, the Wrightsville bridge supports.
(See earlier York Town Square posts on the Little Courthouse, Prospect Hill Cemetery, War Mothers Memorial, USO at York County Academy’s former gymnasium, York’s Salem Square soldiers monument, the Cookes House, York’s rowhouses, Wrightsville’s monuments, the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge, memorial trees along highways, the Inches and Camp Stewartstown.)

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. East Region Editor, Digital First Media. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
This entry was posted in Archives, all posts, Civil War, Events, Explanations/controversy, Local landmarks, Unsung/obscure sites, War. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Solitary supports cross Susquehanna River

  1. Kathy says:

    Thanks for the bridge history. We’re relatively new to the area. My husband and oldest son ran the 5k River Run in 2004, and liked running across the bridge so much that another son joined the run in 2005. I’m thinking that this is the same bridge that they ran across.

  2. Kathy, That particular 5K race does, indeed, cross the Veterans Memorial Bridge twice. That’s the 1930 bridge, the 5th of the 6 bridges that have crossed at that location. If you scroll down York Town Square, you’ll see an archived entry devoted entirely to that bridge. One interesting thing about the Veterans bridge that I did not mention: As you drive across the span, you cannot see the bridgeless supports running to its north. But certainly from the Wright’s Ferry Bridge, the one carrying Route 30 across, you get a good view of the supports and Veterans bridge. Also, the road crossing the Veterans bridge, Route 462, is the old Lincoln Highway that ran from Atlantic City to San Francisco. So the road you were running on has much history, too. If you have other comments or questions about York County’s past, please post and I’ll try to respond.

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