Fort Steuben Bridge Comes Down- Bridge Parts Saved


Photos taken in August 2010


Here are some good news and some bad news for the bridgehunter community and those who are familiar with local history.  We will start out with some bad news. On Monday at 7:15am local time, the Fort Steuben Bridge was dropped into the Ohio River by a series of explosives.  As can be seen in a video provided by a local TV station out of Wheeling, the implosion was controlled and started with the roadway and trusses, which was then followed by the cables and finally, the towers, which were decapitated and fell into the far ends of the Ohio River.

Links on the demolition:

The bridge, located approximately 70 kilometers west of Pittsburgh and 35 kilometers north of Wheeling, West Virginia, was one of the last suspension bridges of its kind in the USA.  Built in 1923 by the Dravo Contracting Company of Pittsburgh, the bridge features a series of eyebar suspension cables, anchored at the piers located on both sides of the river, whose suspender (secondary vertical) cable supported the roadway that was reinforced with Warren pony trusses. Despite the extra support of the pony trusses, the tension on the cables (caused by the roadway) is far greater than with today’s suspension bridges because of the dead weight of the roadway. There are a handful of these bridges left in the country, a couple of which can be found nearby along the Ohio River with the Market Street Bridge in nearby Steubenville and the Newell Bridge, located 100 kilometers south of Youngstown, Ohio.

The Fort Steuben Bridge was closed in 2008, 18 years after the opening of the New Steubenville Bridge, a cable-stayed suspension bridge which has come under scrutiny recently because of weakening cables and other problems identified in an inspection report conducted by the Departments of Transportation (DOT) in West Virginia and Ohio.  Attempts to save the bridge to be reused as a bike trail that would have connected Washington, DC and Indianapolis was quashed by officials of the Ohio DOT, who wanted to keep cyclists and pedestrians off the newly constructed Ohio Hwy. 7 expressway running along the west side of the river. The strive to demolish the suspension bridge persisted despite opposition from locals and preservationists wanting the bridge saved and reused for recreational purposes. Finally on Monday 20 February, 2012, officials from both states got their wish as a piece of history that tied Weirton and Steubenville together came crashing down without any remorse. In one of the videos of the demolition, one of the Ohio DOT officials stated “When ODOT’s not out plowing snow or repairing the roads we also enjoy blowing up old bridges.” Already the remark has drawn fire from critics like Nathan Holth, who compared destroying historic bridges in Ohio and surrounding states to bridges being destroyed by bombs in Europe during World War II. Needless to say, the demolition has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many with fond memories of the bridge which will linger for a long time, even after the next four historic bridges along the Ohio River are destroyed in favor of progress.

New Steubenville Bridge, the suspension bridge’s successor

The fortunate part about the Fort Steuben Bridge is at least a tiny portion of the bridge has been saved as memorabilia to be used as an education incentive to encourage students to learn how to preserve artifacts made of steel. During the visit with Holth and Luke Gordon in August 2010, I had an opportunity to examine the bridge further to see what (if anything) can be done to preserve the bridge. There were many sections in the truss superstructure that had rusted away to a point where one could punch a hole in the structure without breaking his knuckles and obtain a piece of history.  A piece rusted steel shown here in the picture below shows how neglected the bridge was prior to its closure in 2008.

Piece of history in one’s hand


If bridges like the Fort Steuben were maintained and painted regularly, like it is the case with the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, there would have been a chance that the new bridge would not have been built, wasting hundreds of dollars of the taxpayers’ money. Proper maintenance and rehabilitation would have cost a tenth of the amount needed to demolish and replace the bridge.  Instead the DOTs decided to neglect that notion and moved in the name of progress, regardless of the opposition. There still would have been ways to save the structure had all parties involved decided to undertake this venture, which would have consisted of sandblasting the trusses and painted them, as it happened with the Market Street Bridge, which is open to traffic.

Still the need to exert power by using dynamite on the part of the DOTs was and is still strong. If statements like the one by the Ohio DOT persist, what would their reactions be like when a modern bridge, like the New Steubenville Bridge is slated for demolition? Would they take the same pleasure of demolishing a modern bridge as they would with a pre-1950 bridge?  Perhaps not, but when the public finds out, changes in the way bridges are maintained will come forcing the state agencies to veer away from the ideal bridge- a 100 year old bridge that requires no maintenance- and embrace in bridge maintenance which may be expensive in the short term but cost effective in the long term. This applies to historic bridges, many of which are still in good shape and can last another 100 years if cared for properly.

While the Fort Steuben Bridge may be gone, its legacy will continue as the strive to save what is left of American History will continue with a goal of jumping ahead of progress and bringing it to a halt. This is the only way to force state agencies to look at alternatives to demolition and encourage people to learn about historic bridges and their ties to the development of the US regarding its industrialization, societal issues and the cultural perspective. While it may be interesting to read about them in books, as it will have to be the case with the Fort Steuben Bridge being gone, it is even more interesting to visit and cross the bridges, like the ones at Steubenville and Newell to learn more about the history from a close-up view. It is much better than having to collect pieces of history from a bridge that was demolished to keep in the bridge collection. That is what I’m doing with mine as it is sitting on my desk waiting to be reused for my next class.

Photos of the Ft. Steuben Bridge can be seen here.

News Flyer: 

1. Another preservationist and columnist, Kaitlin O’shea of Preservation in Pink (based in Vermont), recently wrote a column on how to photograph a historic bridge. This is a small guide for people interested in visiting and photographing these pieces of artwork that are dwindling in numbers. To access the article, please click on this link below:

Sabo Bridge at night. Photo taken in August 2010

2. Cable-stayed bridges are becoming more and more scrutinized because of supporting cables that are either wearing out more quickly than expected or in one case some that have snapped. The New Steubenville Bridge recently received bad reviews based on an inspection conducted by the two aforementioned DOTs, while a near disaster was averted on the Martin Olav Sabo Pedestrian Bridge south of Minneapolis, as two pairs of cables snapped, causing the Hiawatha rail line to suspend service and Hiawatha Avenue, a main artery connecting the largest city in Minnesota and Bloomington to be restricted. Reinforcements are being added to the bridge and an inspection is being conducted to determine the cause of the damage.



9 thoughts on “Fort Steuben Bridge Comes Down- Bridge Parts Saved

  1. hi im Jonathan Cortez, a 15 year old steubenville local. it was sad to se the fort steuben bridge go. truthfully, ever since the new bridge was built; odot(its sole owner) illegitimately stopped maintainance on fort steuben since 1990. the scrap of this bridge is going to the local wierton starvaggi scrap yard. i have about 300 pounds worth of steel from this structure already, with mor to come from the scrap yard. and if you would really like to see odot district 11 exposed? i have pictures of the new bridge. how they neglected to paint it(rust at the cable attachments on the deck) and the severe uneven slopes in the deck. the new bridge is like another silver bridge disaster waiting to be triggered. i have all the photos of it, and the fort steuben demo process since it started and the demo foremen let me on site to take pictures. if ya need em i got em!! and i also have pieces of the bridge’s wire bundles that made up the suspension cable. after all i deserved something since my great great grandfathe, an italian immigrant, built some pieces of this bridge when they started construction in 1928. be happy to help with anything involving odot or this bridge’s history


    1. Hi there! Be glad to take some of the pics (and if you want, post) them on the webpage. Just use my e-mail address that is under my contact details and send them on over here. It is really sad that age and neglect ultimately doomed this bridge. I thought more maintenance combined with common sense on the part of ODOT would preserve this bridge. But unfortunately it’s not and we have another piece of American history going into the dumpster. Really sad indeed.


      1. yeah it is a rotten shame our roots of the industrial revolution are going down the tubes. this bridge was the first thing you saw entering the steubenville area going south on the ohio. the grandest relic of the roarin 20s in this valley is no more. im doing everything in a 15 year olds power can do to promote this website and historic website for the saving of the other bridges. if you ever venture into this valley, please let me know so i may try and give you a piece of this history and show you what i have rescued!! this was the first ohio river suspension bridge with a concrete deck; and the last of the eyebar suspension bridges on the ohio(yet new light may shed that the further south downtown steubenville market street bridge may be eyebar as well, meaning the anchor eyebars like fort steuben). any more history abou this bridge i would be hapy to tell you about


  2. hello there, i have recently obtained the odot demolition procedure plans and a piece of the eyebar from the ohio approach along with pieces of the suspension wire and one of the things that went went around the main cable that the suspender cable that went to the stiffening truss webb. i soon will have construction plans as well. the demolition plans revealed that 4 30 foot long sections of the suspension cables, the ohio apprach assembly, and the ohio pier are all saved from scrap. the local media says they are using the ohio pier as an observation deck for the steubenville marina and a plaque comemerating the bridge history( though the whole thing wouldve been a nice observation area too)


  3. Clearly this was an unusual bridge — seems like a hybrid of eyebar chains and wire cables. At least the eyebars were designed with some redundancy, a failure of any one link would not have caused a total failure (although that can’t be said of the pins).

    At a glance, it appears to be about the same size, overall profile, and age as the Mid-Hudson Bridge (Poughkeepsie, NY, over the Hudson, near me). Luckily, the NYS Bridge Authority dotes over the MHB like a mother / baby — guys out there with, almost, artist’s brushes touching up minor rust spots, etc. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the majority of NYS’s bridges, many of which are the responsibility of the NYS Thruway Authority and NYS DOT, both of which get a grade, in my book, of about D+.

    One sad NYS note: The only Whipple double-arch bridge known to exist (and probably the only one ever built), and also the only Whipple arch in its original location, is being allowed to rust away in Claverack, NY, for lack of funding.

    Rick Ehrenberg
    Marlboro, NY


  4. it was an eyebar cable hybrid. the cables and eyebar had a complex convertion. the cable went to eyebar and eyebar to anchor. this was a VERY unique piece of architecture to the ohio valley. that and americas oldest, the wheeling suspension bridge just 25+ miles south


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