WE CAN no longer cross that bridge when we come to it – in a vehicle.
That span is the S-bridge between Middlebourne and Old Washington. The Guernsey County commissioners decided last week to close the bridge to traffic.
Long gone are the Conestoga wagons that once crossed the span, and it had been the only National Road S-bridge in Ohio that vehicles still could travel across.
And it was vehicles and an apparent disregard for observing the bridge’s load limit that led to the closing. Guernesy County Commissioner Skip Gardner told The Columbus Dispatch that “a lot of these oil and gas vehicles that travel along here don’t pay a lot of attention to load limits.”
THE BRIDGE not only was useful for area residents but was part of America’s first interstate highway, aiding nationally known travelers such as Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln and Santa Anna, the latter when he was being taken as a prisoner to Washington, D.C., after the Battle of San Jacinto.
Stories are told about why S-shaped bridges were constructed. One bit of folklore concerns bridge builder John McCartney and an engineer who were doing some imbibing (probably excessively) in a tavern when the engineer drew a large “S” on a sheet of paper and tossed the paper to McCartney, asking if he could build that bridge.
McCartney not to be outdone replied he could build any bridge that the engineer could draw.
Another story is the S-shape forced drivers to slow their horses, thus reducing accidents.
Actually, there’s more logical reason for the shape although it’s not as interesting.
The Ohio National Road website notes: “The National Road seldom encountered streams and rivers at a direct 90-degree angle. In order for bridges to be constructed so as to cross these bodies of water at 90 degrees while maintaining the direction and location of the Road, an S-shaped design was selected as the solution.”
ATTENTION is being given to preserve the Guernsey County bridge and possibly to develop a park there.
Like the S-bridge at Blaine which was rescued from dilapidation and became “Ohio’s Bicentennial Bridge,” it’s important that these wonderful reminders of the past be preserved.
Once they’re gone, they’re gone.