Mystery Bridge Nr. 28: Unusual Swing Bridge in Virginia

Photo submitted by Nathan Holth. Source: History of Nansemond County

Swing bridges have become a rare commodity on our roads today. Built using a center pier designed to turn the span at a 90° angle, most of them were built using mostly Howe, Lattice, Baltimore or even Warren trusses. There are many examples of such bridges that used to exist but have long become a distant memory, like the Hojack Swing Bridge in Rochester, New York, The Willis Avenue Bridge in New York City, The Inver Grove Heights Swing Bridge south of Bloomington and the Burlington Railroad Bridge. The engineers who built these bridges during the heyday of industrialization (1870- 1920) went out of their way to make the swing bridges not only functional for horse and buggy to use and to allow ships to pass, but also appealing to tourists and later historians and preservationists.

This bridge in the city-state of Suffolk, Virginia is another example of an appealing swing bridge that has long since been demolished. Judging by the picture submitted by Nathan Holth, this bridge appears to have been built of iron and has one of two designs: 1. A pair of kingpost truss spans supported by a central panel consisting of two pairs of vertical towers with light weight diagonal beams holding the trusses made of heavier iron together or 2. a Camelback truss bridge whose center panel is thinner and lighter than the two outer panels. In either case, the bridge was a hand-powered swing bridge, used to allow boats to pass. It is similar to another photo that was submitted by the same person but located at Reed’s Ferry in Virginia.

Photo submitted by Nathan Holth

The problem with both bridges is threefold. First of all, while the designs are similar to each other, it is unknown who designed and built the bridges, let alone when they were constructed, except to say that for the last question, it appears that the period between 1875 and 1895 would best fit for iron was used often for bridge construction before it was supplanted by steel after 1890.

Also unknown is the location of the swing bridge, for in the top picture, it was claimed that it was located in Everet’s, whereas in the bottom photo, it was located at Reed’s Ferry. It should be confirmed that Everet’s was located in Nansemond County, which was subsequentially absorbed into the city-state of Suffolk in 1974. While Suffolk has a total population of 1.7 million inhabitants as of present (including 87,000 in the city itself), its land size is the largest in the United States and is larger than the German states of Hamburg, Berlin and Bremen, as well as the Vatican City and Monaco combined! Given the village’s absorption, it is unknown whereabouts it was located when it existed prior to the 1970s.

Perhaps it may have something to do with the fact that many streams in the city-state were dammed and henceforth, lakes were created as a result. While the Nansemond River flows through Suffolk, as many as five lakes and reservoirs were created, which meant that bridges like this one were either removed before the projects commenced, or were inundated and the bridge parts have long since rusted away. In either case, there are many questions that need to be resolved for this unique bridge, namely:

1. When did Everet’s and Reed’s Ferry exist?

2. When were the bridges in their respective communities were built and who built them?  When were they removed?

3. When was the Nansemond River dammed and the lakes created?

All information on the two bridges should be directed in the Comments section of James Baughn’s Bridgehunter.com website by clicking on the name Everet’s Bridge. You can also add any information on Reed’s Ferry Bridge in the Comment section if you have any that will be helpful.

 

Fast Fact:

The Nansemond County portion of the city-state of Suffolk has a unique history of its own, as it was named after Nansemond, a native American tribe who lived along the river at the time of the arrival of the English colonists in Jamestown in 1607. Under the name of New Norfolk County, it became one of the oldest counties in the US, having been established in 1636. After being divided into Upper and Lower Norfolk in 1637, the Upper portion became Nansemond County in 1646 with the county seat later being Suffolk (it was established in 1742 and was a county seat eight years later). It remained a county seat until Suffolk and Nansemond became a city-states in 1972. Interesting note was the fact that Suffolk had been an independent city from 1910 up to then. Subsequentially Nansemond became part of the city-state Suffolk two years later. A city-state in this case means that even though it is part of the Commonwealth of Virginia, it is an independent city, having its own government and laws as well as responsibilities for its infrastructure, education system, and the like. Virginia still supports Suffolk with funding, but has little influence on the activities of the city-state, making it similar to the aforementioned city-states, as well as the Spanish state of Catalonia, which is much larger than Suffolk.

 

 

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