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Old 10-15-2013, 04:11 PM   #1391
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NEW MARKER - Capon Lake Bridge - Hampshire Co

Finally found time to post this from a ride 2 weeks ago:

New Marker located at the Capon Lake Bridge - Rt 259 in Hampshire County. There was (and still is) a marker at this location for Capon Springs.

Lat: 39.158873* Long: -78.534949*

Historical marker is located on the west end of the bridge - Rt 259, appx 100 yards north of CR 16 near Capon Lake, appx 8 miles north of Wardensville.

Same marker - Side #2

View of bridge and marker. The old marker for Capon Springs is to the right (shown below as last photo).

View across walkway of bridge.

View from east end of bridge looking back towards the marker.

View northbound on Rt 259. Bridge is to the right.

View of bridge from CR 16. Cacapon River.

Original marker at this location is for Capon Springs.

Statement of Significance
Written by Nathan Holth (

The following text is an excerpt from comments I submitted to the National Park Service regarding the nomination which proposes to list this bridge in the National Register of Historic Places.

The South Branch Bridge is an extremely old and rare example of a pin-connected Whipple (Double-Intersection Pratt) through truss that also has several unusual and distinctive construction details. The bridge’s trusses are listed as being originally built in 1874, and I found a source that suggested the bridge may have been moved to its current location in 1938. The potential relocation of this bridge, particularly so many decades ago, in my opinion does not disqualify the bridge for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Pin-connected truss bridges were noted for the ease in which they could be disassembled and relocated, a unique trait not shared by most other bridge types. It was common many decades ago, when they became insufficient for their original location, to relocate and reuse pin-connected truss bridges at other locations where the bridge could still be useful. This is part of their history.

Nationwide, only a very small number of metal truss bridges date to before 1880. The South Branch Bridge’s 1874 construction date thus places it among the oldest surviving metal truss bridges in the county. In addition, bridges built before 1880 were built in a period of experimentation and development of the metal truss bridge in the United States that tapered off by the early 1880s as builders gravitated toward more reliable standardized designs. During this period of experimentation, different builders experimented with a variety of creative and unusual designs, form the overall truss design down to specific construction details. The South Branch Bridge displays some of these unusual construction details. The composition of the built-up top chord and end post follows an unusual design. The use of “threaded rod with nut” connections on the top chord are also non-standard truss details. At the same time, the bridge displays some of the details that would continue to be seen in the more standardized trusses of the 1880s. These details include the use of traditional pin connections on the bottom chord, as well as the overall Whipple truss configuration.

As a result, the South Branch Bridge is historically and technologically significant because it documents the period of transition from experimentation to standardization of metal truss bridge construction in the United States. In addition, the bridge’s Whipple truss configuration, generally reserved for spans in excess of 140 feet, (the Single Intersection Pratt truss was usually used for shorter spans) is today a rare truss configuration both nationwide and in West Virginia.



Capon Lake Whipple Truss Bridge is located along WV Route 259 in Hampshire County, immediately north of the intersection with Hampshire County Route 16. It crosses the Cacapon River and is just downstream of the Capon Lake Bridge, a steel stringer structure built in 1991 to replace the Whipple Truss for vehicular traffic. The surrounding landscape is rural and forested. Capon Springs, an historic spring and resort first discovered in the late 1700s and still in operation as a retreat, is about 3.5 miles east of Capon Lake on County Route 16.

The structure is a Whipple/Murphy Truss bridge, approximately 20’ wide and 176’ long, built atop a reinforced concrete abutment and pier. The bridge has a full-length pedestrian walkway, with an observation platform and seating near midspan. The truss consists of 14 bays, each approximately 11’ wide and 23’ tall. The truss has a double-intersection configuration, meaning that the diagonals extend across two bays. The bridge is constructed of wrought iron and is pin-connected. The Capon Lake Whipple Truss Bridge was constructed in 1874 near Romney as part of a larger two-span Whipple Truss bridge. The current bridge span was moved to its current location in 1938 and connected to a Pratt truss. The Pratt truss was removed in 1991. At this time, the decking was removed from the Whipple truss and a pedestrian walkway and viewing platform was constructed.

Capon Lake Whipple Truss is eligible on a state level under Criterion C for its engineering significance as an excellent example of a Whipple/Murphy Truss bridge and under Criterion Consideration B: Moved Properties. Its period of significance is its date of construction, 1874. Due to its uncommon innovative design and age, Capon Lake Whipple Truss is one of West Virginia’s most significant bridges and it is maintained as a historical site for pedestrians by West Virginia Division of Highways District 5. This is an early example of the use of metal truss bridge technology, which characterized highway bridge design well into the twentieth century. Trusses such as this could be ordered from catalogs by county courts and other entities and could be built faster and more economically than stone bridges, and could span longer distances
with more durability than wooden bridges. Capon Lake Whipple Truss is the state’s oldest example of a bridge technology that revolutionized road transportation throughout the state.
The bridge was originally built near Romney, West Virginia in 1874 on US Route 50, which follows the route of the Northwestern Turnpike. The bridge exhibits the characteristic innovations developed by prominent bridge designers Squire Whipple and J.W. Murphy, including double-intersection diagonals and counter-diagonals, and pin connections. Metal truss bridges were marketed as moveable structures that could be dismantled and re-erected elsewhere if necessary; this bridge was moved from its original location to the Cacapon River in 1938 and was closed to vehicular traffic in 1991.

The Capon Lake Whipple Truss Bridge was constructed over the South Branch of the Potomac River one mile west of Romney, West Virginia in 1874. It replaced an 1838 covered bridge that was chartered by the Virginia General Assembly for the Northwestern Turnpike and was burned by Confederate forces during the Civil War. The town of Romney is famous for having eportedly changed hands 56 times during the Civil War; whatever the true number, Romney, especially the crossing at the South Branch of the Potomac, was certainly a strategic point due to its location on the Northwestern Turnpike, a major east-west route. After the end of the war, local citizens and the newspaper advocated for the quick replacement of the bridge, citing “continual risk, danger and inconveniences arising from want of the South Branch Bridge at Col. Gibson’s (destroyed during the war)…” The County issued bonds for a new bridge in 1868, and by 1874 the bridge
was under construction.

The South Branch Intelligencer provided frequent updates on the progress of the bridge, noting that the bridge was on track for completion by July 1875, Mr. John Ridenour lost a finger while working on the bridge but was healing well, and finally, that the bridge was completed early in October 1874. An article in the October 2, 1874 edition of the Intelligencer described the new bridge as a “complete, handsome and durable structure,” and continued, “The contractors, Messrs. White & Sons, New Brighton, Pennsylvania ‘Penn Bridge & Machine Works,’ have given us, in general opinion, a first rate, durable work, and deserve our best commendations… We are confident that ours will realize a very handsome income an fully vindicate the wisdom of the County Court in voting its construction.” When constructed outside of Romney, the original bridge was two spans, both Whipple trusses. Squire Whipple invented the Whipple truss in 1847 and was one of the first designers to use scientific analysis for structural design. His book, A Work on Bridge Building, had a vast impact on bridge engineering. Whipple’s design incorporated double-intersection diagonals into the standard Pratt truss, meaning that the diagonals extend across two truss bays. He received a patent for this design in 1847. J.W. Murphy modified the Whipple design in 1863 by adding double-intersection counter-diagonals, which allowed even longer spans. Murphy was also the first to use pinned eye-bar connections in a Whipple truss in 1859, which eliminated the need for riveted connections and allowed easier and more widespread construction. These technological advances, as well as advances in steel and iron fabrication, made wrought iron trusses a major industry in the United States. Trusses for almost any span length or site could be ordered from a company’s catalog, and shipped to the construction site. The Capon Lake Truss exhibits the later modifications of Murphy and thus is
considered a Whipple/Murphy Truss.

The structure was constructed by T.B. White and Sons of New Brighton, Pennsylvania. Timothy White began working as a carpenter beginning in the 1840s and established his iron bridge construction company in 1868, which was known as both “T.B. White and Sons” and “Penn Bridge and Machine Works.” The company’s original factory burned in 1878 and the company was moved across the Beaver River to Beaver Falls and reorganized as the Penn Bridge Company. In addition to iron bridges, the company produced a variety of structural and architectural products. It continued to grow and expand into the 20th century, and employed over 500 workers in 1908. Unlike a great number of small 19th-century bridge companies, Penn
Bridge Company was not purchased by the conglomerate American Bridge Company of U.S. Steel and continued to operate independently. Penn Bridge Company was most active in the Pittsburgh area, but built structures in almost all 50 states.

The Whipple Truss Bridge served Romney for almost 65 years. In 1935, the West Virginia State Road Commission began a project to replace the Whipple truss over the South Branch of the Potomac River. The construction was underway in 1936 when on November 18, a car hit the south side of the eastern end of the old truss span and knocked it completely off the abutment. The car fell into the riverbed below and the truss collapsed on top of it. A car coming from the west did not realize the span had fallen and then drove off the end of the west span at the pier onto the collapsed span. Miraculously, no one was seriously injured. The Hampshire Review noted that the only injury was a broken leg and that it was a wooden broken leg. A temporary wooden span was constructed in place of the collapsed span to carry traffic until the replacement bridge was opened on June 21, 1937. The remaining western span of the old Whipple truss bridge was still considered useable and was moved to Capon Lake in eastern Hampshire County to provide access across the Cacapon River to Capon Springs. A new pier and abutments were constructed to carry the Whipple truss and a Pratt truss also salvaged from another unknown bridge. The new bridge was dedicated on August 20, 1938 with a celebration including food and music from the Romney High School Band and Capon Springs Band. The ceremony was attended by several state officials, including former Governor H. G. Kump and Cy Hammill, Secretary of the State Road Commission. In a 1991 interview conducted with Branson Himelwright, a local of Capon Springs who worked on the re-erection of the Whipple truss, Mr. Himelwright stated that prior to the bridge, the two ways to cross the river to reach Capon Springs included a swinging footbridge and a ford. Mr. Himelwright and Jacob “Moss” Rudolph recalled in interviews that the excavation and concrete work for the Capon Lake truss was done by hand. The recycled trusses served Capon Lake until 1991, when they were replaced with a new structure just upstream of the Whipple truss. The Pratt span was removed due to significant deterioration, but the Whipple truss was preserved in place due to its rarity, age and engineering significance. The decking was removed and a pedestrian walkway and viewing platform was constructed.

Integrity and Criterion Consideration B: Moved Properties
Although the bridge has been moved and altered, it retains its essential characteristics. The design, materials and workmanship of the original structure remain intact. The double-intersection diagonal members, connections and truss members are original materials and were reassembled at the relocation site as per the original truss design. Wrought iron and steel bridges were marketed as moveable structures, so the bridge’s relocation to another site does not diminish its integrity. The bridge has been at its current location since 1938, a period of 73 years. It is located over a river in a rural area, as it was in its original location, maintaining the association with its original purpose or carrying travelers over a waterway. Its design
significance is not specifically related to its location, but rather to the configuration and materials of the truss. The removal of the second span, a deteriorated Pratt truss from a different unknown location, does not affect the existing span’s design or significance. Although this Whipple span was originally part of a two-span bridge, the second span was destroyed in an accident in 1938, making it impossible for the entire structure to be relocated. Finally, wooden decking on truss bridges was historically frequently replaced. The removal of the decking and construction of the pedestrian walkway are reversible alterations that are low-scale and distinguishable from the historic materials. These alterations do not detract from the Whipple truss configuration.

The Capon Lake Whipple Truss is West Virginia’s oldest existing metal truss and one of the few Whipple Trusses remaining in the state. Squire Whipple, who patented this truss design in 1847, and J.W. Murphy, who designed innovative modifications seen in the Capon Lake Truss, were prolific structural engineers who contributed to the widespread use of metal trusses in the United States. As an early wrought iron example of the work of these men, Capon Lake Whipple Truss qualifies for the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion C.

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pnoman screwed with this post 10-15-2013 at 05:15 PM
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