Wilmington in New Castle County, Delaware — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
South Market Street Bridge
Reminisces of Wilmington, by Elizabeth Montgomery, 1851
Market Street has long been a major gateway into the city of Wilmington, but there has not always been a South Market Street Bridge. In the early days, Market Street ended at a dock and boat slip (shown left) that served both commercial ships sailing the inland waterways and the ferryboats that carried goods and people back and forth across the Christina River.
In 1808, a wooden "turn bridge," the first at Market Street, was sponsored by a group of private citizens who raised $15,000 for its construction. Then, as now, the bridge had to be movable to allow ships to travel up and down the Christina. The heavy traffic, both on the bridge and on the river, necessitated a full-time bridge tender, whose job it was to rotate the toll swing bridge to allow ships to pass and then rotate it back to reconnect for wagon traffic.
(Captions, counter-clockwise from top)
The toll swing bridge built in 1808 (seen here in the 1864 bird's eye view of Wilmington)
Above: North elevation of Market Street dock
Below: Plan view of dock wall as excavated
Excavations conducted in 1999 along the waterfront adjacent to the Market Street bridge revealed large timber construction with beams 32" thick and dating back to the mid-1700s. Cut 32" thick and dating back to the mid-1700s. Cut from "first growth" trees, these timbers were selected for their exceptional strength, actually hardening over the years rather than decaying. This construction demonstrates the advanced technology of the earliest commercial developers of the riverfront.
The current South Market Street drawbridge pivots vertically at both ends, rising to allow ships to pass and lowering again to reconnect for cars and trucks.
Earlier bridges at Market Street would swing or pivot horizontally to allow ships to pass then reconnect for road traffic.
The second South Market Street, bridge, a truss swing span built in 1883, is shown in this 1926 iew. Note the tender's booth above the central pivot and the Kent Building on the right.
This view of the same bridge, also taken in 1926, looks north into Wilmington. The posted speed limit was eight miles per hour. Note the B&O Freight Station on the left.
The current bridge (Delaware Bridge #588), the Senator John E. Reilly, is a double-leaf trunnion bascule ("movable") bridge completed in 1927. This 1939 view north shows the B&O Freight Station to the west and the Operator's Houses at both ends.
Erected by Riverfront Wilmington.
Location. 39° 44.215′ N, 75° 33.271′ W. Marker is in Wilmington, Delaware, in New Castle County. Marker can be reached from South Market Street (Business U.S. 13) south of South Shipley Street, on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 101 South Market Street, Wilmington DE 19801, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Underground Railroad (here, next to this marker); South Market Street Bridge Dedicated in Honor of Senator John E. Reilly, Sr. (within shouting distance of this marker); Freedom Lost (within shouting distance of this marker); The Great Railroad Boom (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Harriet Tubman (about 500 feet away); The Big Quarterly (about 500 feet away); a different marker also named The Great Railroad Boom (about 500 feet away); a different marker also named The Great Railroad Boom (about 800 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Wilmington.
Categories. • Industry & Commerce • Roads & Vehicles • Waterways & Vessels •
Credits. This page was last revised on March 4, 2019. This page originally submitted on March 2, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 29 times since then. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on March 2, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.