“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Meadville in Crawford County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

Mead Avenue Bridge

Built 1871 • Modified 1912 • Replaced 2014

Mead Avenue Bridge Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, June 14, 2021
1. Mead Avenue Bridge Marker
Inscription.  From the 1850s through the 1960s Meadville's 4th Ward was a neighborhood of frame houses and small industries, home to railroad workers and tradesmen. It extended from French Creek to Park Avenue and was bisected by Dock Street (now Mead Avenue), Mill Run and the railroad. At the eastern edge was the Water Street business district. After 1900, older mills and machine shops gave way to warehouses and coal yards. In the early 1970s, urban renewal and construction of the French Creek Parkway transformed the 4th Ward, creating the much different landscape that exists today.

For 143 years this landmark structure spanned French Creek at the western gateway to Meadville. The unique "bridge within a bridge," an iron Whipple truss (1871) enclosed within supporting Baltimore trusses (1912), was one of the oldest metal bridges in western Pennsylvania and also one of the region's last remaining Whipple truss bridges.

The French Creek Crossing
A bridge has carried Mead Avenue (originally Dock Street) over French Creek since 1828 when a wooden covered bridge was built to link the town with the western part of the county.
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By 1870, civic leaders believed that Meadville deserved a modern showpiece bridge at its western gateway.

A New Bridge for Mead Avenue
Railroad construction and the oil boom brought economic prosperity and population growth in the 1860s. The bridge project was part of a broad program of civic improvements that included a new market house, a new courthouse, and widening of city streets. In 1871, the county hired the Penn Bridge Company to build an ornate iron bridge over French Creek that would complement the other improvements occurring in the town.

Original Design
The wrought-iron and cast-iron bridge was a Double Intersection Pratt through-truss, or "Whipple truss." It differs from the standard Pratt through-truss in that the diagonal members extend across multiple panels of the bridge. Due to its strength it was favored for relatively long spans like the 263-foot crossing of French Creek. Few examples of this design survive today. The keystone columns used for the vertical members were a patented product of the Keystone Bridge Company and fabricated by the Union Iron Mills of Pittsburgh, both early ventures of Andrew Carnegie.

Modifications in 1912
In 1912, Baltimore trusses were added to extend the life of the 40-year-old bridge, which was not strong enough to carry
Marker detail: Meadville 4th Ward Map image. Click for full size.
Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division
2. Marker detail: Meadville 4th Ward Map
the weight of trolley cars headed to nearby Conneaut Lake Resort. The work was completed in one week by the Rodgers Brothers Company of Albion, PA with the cost shared by the trolley company and Crawford County, which was the owner of the bridge. Meant to last only another ten years in its strengthened form, the Mead Avenue Bridge remained essentially unchanged for another century.

The End of a Landmark
Even with additional support, the old iron bridge eventually was unable to carry modern traffic loads. Deferred maintenance, collision damage, and weather took a heavy toll and finally the bridge was closed to traffic in 2007 and replaced in 2014.
Erected by Meadville Noontime Rotary Club.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: ArchitectureBridges & ViaductsIndustry & CommerceRailroads & Streetcars. In addition, it is included in the Rotary International series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1871.
Location. 41° 38.218′ N, 80° 9.679′ W. Marker is in Meadville, Pennsylvania, in Crawford County. Marker can be reached from North French Street south of Mead Avenue, on the right when traveling south. Marker is located in Bicentennial Park, on the north side of the parking
Marker detail: Old Mead Avenue Bridge Photos image. Click for full size.
3. Marker detail: Old Mead Avenue Bridge Photos
lot. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 42080 North French Street, Meadville PA 16335, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Meadville's Founding (here, next to this marker); George Washington Actually Slept Here! (within shouting distance of this marker); Site of the Gibson Tavern (approx. 0.3 miles away); Within This Block (approx. 0.4 miles away); The Shryock Store (approx. 0.4 miles away); Mill Run (approx. 0.4 miles away); The Market House Plaza (approx. 0.4 miles away); Meridian Building (approx. 0.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Meadville.
Also see . . .  Mead Avenue Bridge, Spanning French Creek at Mead Avenue, Meadville, Crawford County, PA. (Library of Congress photo gallery) Mead Avenue bears the unusual distinction of having had two bridges on the same site at one time. Grafted to the original double-intersection Whipple truss built by Penn Bridge Works, external Baltimore trusses helped this 1872 structure carry modern traffic loads. (Submitted on June 14, 2021, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 
Mead Avenue Bridge Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, June 14, 2021
4. Mead Avenue Bridge Marker
(leftmost of two markers at this location • Mead Avenue Bridge obscured by trees in background)
French Creek & 2014 Mead Avenue Bridge image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, June 14, 2021
5. French Creek & 2014 Mead Avenue Bridge
(looking north from the Bicentennial Park boat ramp)
Credits. This page was last revised on June 14, 2021. It was originally submitted on June 14, 2021, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 157 times since then and 41 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on June 14, 2021, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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May. 29, 2023