This next mystery bridge article presents a riddle to be solved. It has to do with the suspension bridge versus the cable-stayed bridge. Before we start with this article, a question for the forum:
Which bridge type came first- the cable-stayed or the suspension bridge?
Both types first appeared in the 15th century, but the oldest suspension bridge in the world to exist can be found in Tweed in Scotland with the Union Chain Bridge, built 201 years ago. In the US, it’s the Cincinnati-Covington Ohio River Bridge, which was built in 1869 by John Roebling, 14 years before his masterpiece, the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. And while the first oldest cable-stayed bridge going by modern standards was built in 1817 in the UK, the oldest existing bridge in the world can be found in Texas, with the Bluff Dale Bridge, built in 1890.
This leads to the question of when the first cable-stayed bridge was built in the United States. We know that the first suspension bridge in the country was built in 1855 at Niagara Falls– built by the same engineer, Roebling. However this post card of a bridge in Maine may not only be the first cable-stayed bridge in the States, but the first bridge on the North American continent, whose roadway was supported by cables hung on towers.
The information dates the Jay Bridge back to 1835. The bridge spanned West Channel Androscoggin River and featured three towers supporting cable-stays that may have been built out of concrete or wood. Looking at the pic more closely and how the roadway was warped, the best bet was that it was a wooden structure. Supporting the deck were pony arches that were attached to the towers. This bridge had served traffic until it was replaced in 1914 by the Pine Island Arch Bridge, a two-span closed spandrel concrete arch bridge that was built by the Cry Brothers. That bridge is still in use. There used to be three bridges connecting the shores on both side of the river with the island. Today, only the Pine Arch Bridge remains, whereas a modern bridge bypasses the island as it crosses the river into the town of Jay.
If the records are proven correct, then the Jay Bridge was the oldest bridge of its kind built in the US. It could be possible that the bridge was built later and the markings were written in by accident. This has to do with the fact that cable-stayed bridges were once built using chain and wire. Concrete was not considered the norm for materials used for bridge construction. Wood was plentiful, yet for someone to design a bridge like that would require an artist who focused on the bridge’s aethetics. The oldest wooden arch bridge known to exist is the Wan’an Bridge in China, built 1000 years ago, yet the arches are more trapezoidal than curved. The technology needed to build arches out of wood came much later in the late 19th Century.
This leads to the question of the validity of the claims that the Jay Bridge was indeed built in 1835. If the information is correct, then who was responsible for designing such a bridge and what materials were used for the bridge construction?
That plus the first question can be discussed in the Comment section below…….
Happy Bridgehunting, Folks! 🙂