Wheeling in Ohio County, West Virginia — The American South (Appalachia)
Wheeling Suspension Bridge - 1849
Historic National Road
In 1816, with a strong interest in internal improvements, the legislatures of Virginia and Ohio authorized the formation of the Wheeling and Belmont Bridge Company (Belmont because the bridge company was to connect from Wheeling, Virginia to Belmont County in Ohio). With the coming of the National Road to Wheeling, it was necessary to bridge the Ohio. Although the road reached Wheeling in 1818, it wasn't until 1847 that the construction of a bridge was commissioned. In sharp competition with John Roebling, later noted for the famous Brooklyn Bridge, the company granted the contract to Charles Ellet, Jr.
The span of the bridge is 1010 feet, measured from the center of the two supporting towers—the longest clear-span bridge in the world at the time. All the materials for the bridge , including the drawn iron wire used to create the cables, were produced locally. The main cables rest upon iron rollers at the summits of each tower.
In 1854, high winds set up an ocillation in the deck structure that resulted in severe damage to the bridge. Under the supervision of Ellet, reconstruction work began almost immediately and the bridge was reopened in just three months. In 1867 the Citizen Railway Company was granted permission to lay tracks on the bridge to accommodate horse-drawn streetcars, a possibility indicated earlier by Ellet. In 1872, Washington Roebling, son of John Roebling, was commissioned to provide upgrades to the bridge which included the installation of diagonal cable stays. The bridge remained essentially unchanged until 1956 when a new steel deck system was installed.
The most recent work on the bridge was completed in 1999 with repairs to the stiffening truss and wire rope stays, complete inspection and rewrapping of the cables, and the installation of new illumination. Today, the bridge stands as one of the finest example of pre-Civil War engineering and is considered as one of the world's most significant and historic bridges.
(right sidebar) On November 10, 1849, just five days before the official opening of the bridge, the water level at the bridge rose 20 feet. The steamboat, Messenger, on its way upstream to Pittsburgh, had to cut almost 8 feet from her smoke stacks to pass under the bridge. The following day the Hibernia #2 was likewise impaired but waited for the water level to drop before continuing upstream. Armed with these and similar events,
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Bridges & Viaducts • Landmarks. ASCE Civil Engineering Landmarks, and the The Historic National Road series lists. A significant historical month for this entry is February 1892.
Location. 40° 4.222′ N, 80° 43.5′ W. Marker is in Wheeling, West Virginia, in Ohio County. Marker is on 10th Street west of Main Street (U.S. 40), on the left when traveling west. Marker is at the base of the eastern tower. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Wheeling WV 26003, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 5 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Old Trails Road (a few steps from this marker); Wheeling Suspension Bridge (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named Wheeling Suspension Bridge (within shouting distance of this marker); Fort Henry (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Robert W. Hazlett House (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Wheeling.
More about this marker. This is one of a series of National Road, America's Byways markers.
Also see . . .
1. Wheeling Suspension Bridge. American Society of Civil Engineers website entry (Submitted on February 1, 2022, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.)
2. Terrific Storm! Destruction of the Wheeling Suspension Bridge!!. Ohio County Public Library website entry:
1854 article from the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer. (Submitted on October 1, 2006.)
Credits. This page was last revised on February 1, 2022. It was originally submitted on October 1, 2006, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. This page has been viewed 3,754 times since then and 53 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on October 1, 2006, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. 3. submitted on September 17, 2006, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. 4. submitted on October 1, 2006, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. 5. submitted on October 19, 2007, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia. 6. submitted on October 1, 2006, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. 7, 8, 9. submitted on April 13, 2013, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. 10, 11, 12, 13. submitted on January 5, 2014, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland.
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Separate HMdb page for the marker in picture 5. • Can you help?