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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Market Street Bridge

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Market Street Bridge has been the topic of a lot of debate and discussion lately, and I thought I would share some of the information from our library files about the old span.

 

The bridge opened on July 2, 1905 for foot traffic.

 

William M. Helms, an insurance agent; and John J. Dillon, manager of Altamont Park, were the first two customers at the Toll Booth.

 

They purchased their tickets for five cents each, and proceeded across the bridge as pedestrians.  The coolest spot on the July day was the center of the span.

 

The bridge would not be open to vehicle traffic for another two weeks, awaiting the completion of work on the road to Follansbee.

 

Actually a car crossed the Market Street Bridge a week earlier, containing the Superintendent of Construction, E.W. Cooper and his wife.

 

The bridge was constructed to accommodate streetcars, as well as motor vehicles and other methods of conveyance.

 

In the beginning, the bridge had a wooden floor surrounding the streetcar tracks, but fires were common and pavement was laid over the wood.

 

In 1917, ownership of the Market Street Bridge passed from the Steubenville Bridge Company to the West Penn Traction Company, owners of the streetcar line.

 

The sale price was unknown, but a local news article stated the price as in the "hundreds of thousands" of dollars.

 

The bridge was "a big money-maker for years, paying for itself."

 

In a few years, streetcar travel declined and the traction companies found it more profitable to become electrical supply companies.

 

On December 31, 1941, the Market Street Bridge became the property of the State of West Virginia following three years of negotiations.

 

The bridge had undergone $ 400,000 worth of work before the purchase, and tolls were to be retained until the purchase price was satisfied.

 

Five tickets for crossing the span could be purchased for 40 cents.

 

The steel grid deck was installed in 1953, and replaced again in 1981.  The pedestrian walkway repaired in 1956.

 

The span was last painted in 1982.

 

Perhaps the most fascinating part of the bridge's history related to David B. Steinman, a renowned American bridge builder, best known for his New York bridges and Michigan's Mackinaw Bridge design.

 

In 1922, the young engineer was called to the Market Street Bridge by its owner to review two broken chords caused by heavy freight rail cars crossing the span.

 

Steinman arrived in Pittsburgh to meet with E.K. Morse, the original designer of the bridge, now retired in his 80s.

 

Steinman came to Steubenville and climbed the bridge spans to see the problem first-hand, causing a panic when the public thought he was a bridge jumper.

 

The breaks in the bridge span were repaired, but Steinman paid the price by being rejected from the American Institute of Consulting Engineers because Morse was upset that Steinman had found his 1905 span to be unsafe and needing redesign.

 

Steinman also did further design work in the 1940s as the towers were covered with new bracing, new stiffening trusses were added, and the wooden roadway was replaced.

 

Like most bridges, you can say it was constructed in 1905, but various pieces date from later days.