Historic Waverly Bridge in Westernport is looking for a buyer

October 12, 1991|By Thom Loverro | Thom Loverro,Western Maryland Bureau of The Sun

WESTERNPORT -- Who will save the Waverly Street bridge?

Whoever wants to pay the $200,000 it will take to move it.

This Western Maryland community in the heart of Allegany County's coal mining region wants to sell the nearly 100-year-old bowstring arch truss bridge across George's Creek.

If the bridge cannot be sold by the end of the month, it will be demolished, said Mayor Jerome D. Laffey.

The bridge, closed by the state after an inspection last year, cannot be repaired to handle the coal trucks and other heavy vehicles that use Waverly Street, Mr. Laffey said.

But the span has some historical significance, so town officials want to give someone the chance to come forth and save it. "It could handle pedestrians or bikes or traffic like that, anything less than the weight of cars or trucks," he said.

Built in 1892 by the King Iron Bridge and Manufacturing Co. of Cleveland, the one-lane bridge is the only one of its kind in Maryland in its original form, Mr. Laffey said.

The bridge is made of steel and cast-iron and has a bow-like arch on each side, with web-like supporting braces. Bowstring arch bridges were popular in the late 19th century for distances between 80 feet and 150 feet because they came in sections and were easy to assemble, said Kevin Beachy, Allegany County transportation division chief.

The bridge can be taken apart rather easily, Mr. Laffey said. "It comes apart in four sections. It's just a matter of loosening the bolts."

The cost of taking down the bridge and moving it will probably beabout $200,000, according to Richard M. Harris, county director of housing and community development.

It is the first time a bridge has been offered for sale in Allegany County, Mr. Beachy said.

Because the bridge is on the Maryland Register for Historic Properties, students from West Virginia University are taking photographs and drawings and researching the history of the span. Those records will be filed with the Library of Congress, Mr. Beachy said.

The 108-foot-long bridge has served as one of two ways for residents from the neighborhood of Westernport Hill to get to the town's business district and Route 36, the main highway into Westernport. The town plans to build a new bridge that will cost between $225,000 and $300,000 and will be financed by Allegany County, which is lending the town the money.

The county is helping to market the old bridge. Advertisements have been placed in newspapers in Baltimore, Washington and Pittsburgh. Several inquiries have been received so far, including one from a Maryland golf course and another from a collector of old bridges in California, Mr. Harris said.

Allegany County officials also have contacted parks officials in Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, as well as the National Parks Service. "It's a nice bridge for park settings," Mr.

Harris said.

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