A Lot More than “Infrastructure”

November 25, 2011 by Craig Fuller

I know they call it black Friday, but all we had here in the Frederick area was blue sky.  So, I headed out low over the West Virginia mountains for a late lunch at The Greenbrier Airport KLWB).  It is a beautiful flight any time of the year.

On the way back, I spied the Point of Rocks Bridge.  This bridge crosses the Potomac and I travel it frequently.  I shot several pictures and then got curious about it’s history.  Wikipedia tells a fascinating story below….

Point of Rocks Bridge

Several ferries crossed the Potomac River at Point of Rocks before the first bridge was constructed there in 1852. This wooden bridge was constructed to carry a double-track narrow gauge railroad from a junction with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to a blast furnace to process the area’s iron ore.  This bridge, which also carried wagons and horses, was destroyed on June 9, 1861 by Confederate forces under General Turner Ashby, the same day the bridge at Brunswick was destroyed.  The second bridge at Point of Rocks was an iron bridge constructed in 1889.  US 15 originally followed Commerce Street and Canal Road, which is now used to access the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, through an at-grade crossing of the B&O Railroad to the Maryland end of the bridge, which crossed the river immediately to the east of the modern bridge.  The 1889 iron bridge was swept away in the March 1936 flood that also destroyed the Potomac River crossings at Harpers Ferry, Shepherdstown, and Hancock.

In November 1936, MDSRC put together a plan to replace the Potomac River bridges at Hancock, Shepherdstown, and Point of Rocks.  The Point of Rocks Bridge became the first of the three crossings to be started when construction began March 25, 1937; the bridge’s concrete piers were completed and the piers of the old bridge were removed from the river by September of that year.  The new bridge and its approaches, which crossed over the B&O Railroad on the Maryland side, opened December 26, 1937. The camelback truss bridge spans 1,689 feet (515 m) and has a 24-foot-wide (7.3 m) roadway and a pair of 3-foot-wide (0.91 m) sidewalks. US 15 followed a temporary approach to the new bridge along Commerce Street that remained vulnerable to major floods. The U.S. Highway was moved to higher ground on Clay Street when the highway was reconstructed and widened from Point of Rocks to Tuscarora in 1949.