Page 16 - Wire Rope News & Sling Technology - August 2018
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Once the Largest Suspension Bridge in the World
             The Wheeling Bridge Turns 170

                                                 by Peter Hildebrandt
         If you walk across the Wheeling Suspension Bridge now, judging by today’s
         standards, you may not be impressed by the span stretching beneath your feet.
         But this structure over the Ohio River was at one time the largest suspension
         bridge in the world; that record held from 1849 until 1851. The bridge’s builder
         was Charles Ellet Jr. who also worked on the Niagara Suspension Bridge.

              he Wheeling Suspension Bridge   hard work and ingenuity of one of the   the National Road – also known as the
              was the first bridge to span a ma-  greatest bridge builders in our history:   Cumberland Pike because it began to
         Tjor river west of the Appalachian   Charles Ellet Jr.                the east, in Cumberland, Maryland. The
         Mountains.  The  new  structure  linked   The main span is 1,010 feet long. From   National Road formally reached Wheel-
         eastern and western  sections  of the   the east tower, which rises 153.5 feet   ing on August 1, 1818, but passengers
         National Road and played a particular-  above the low-water level of the river on   and freight had to be transported by
         ly strategic role during the U.S. Civil   the Wheeling shore, the bridge extends   ferry to the other section of the National
         War. Litigation in the United States   to the west tower, 132.75 feet above the   Road which began in Belmont and con-
         Supreme Court concerning its obstruc-  low water on Wheeling Island.   tinued westward.
         tion of the new high steamboat smoke-                                   In 1820 Congress commissioned the
         stacks eventually cleared the way for   Thirty-three-year struggle to build  clearing  of  navigation obstacles from
         other  bridges,  especially  needed by   A charter was granted to the Wheel-  the Ohio River, which flows from Pitts-
         expanding railroads. But the bridge   ing  and  Belmont  Bridge  Company  in   burgh down through Wheeling – then
         still is used today, a testament to the   1816  to  construct  a  bridge  to  extend   continued on page 18

                                                          Wheeling Suspension Bridge at Night. Photo ©KennethKeifer | depositphotos

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