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.)