1928 - Alderson High School - 1968



History of the Alderson Memorial Bridge


July 4th, 2007
(Photo courtesy Calvin Shepherd)

It would have been interesting to see how and why things developed in very early Alderson, and we have seen photos of the three bridges that spanned the Greenbrier. Logically, the location of the  bridge was  picked because of where the valley from the Union area met the river and the terrain was more conducive to travel.

Before there was a bridge, there was the Alderson Ferry. As you can see in this early photo, this long flat raft could most likely handle a wagon, but I can't imagine carrying horses or cattle. Perhaps they were disconnected from their wagons and walked across where the river was lower.  Behind the larger raft, a more conventional boat full of people.

(Photo-Library of Congress, no restrictions implied)

The Alderson Bridge had an illustrious beginning and has a long history. In 1913, the citizens of Alderson as well as the citizens of Greenbrier and Monroe Counties who traded in Alderson began to demand a new bridge to replace the aging iron span that had served the community since 1882. The two County governments argued over who would pay the cost of a new bridge and what kind of bridge should be, steel or that daring new material--concrete. Proposals for both concrete and steel bridges were received and it was decided that a concrete bridge would be best as it was thought it would last longer than a steel bridge. The contract was let to the Concrete Steel Bridge Company of Clarksburg, WV at a cost of $20,600 to be paid by the two counties. This cost did not include sidewalks and, since the citizens of the town had voted overwhelmingly that they wanted sidewalks, the Town of Alderson agreed to pay the additional cost of $2900 for two sidewalks on the bridge.

Frank Duff McEnteer, who was to become a well-known and respected engineer in West Virginia and surrounding areas, was president of the Concrete Steel Bridge Company and designed the Alderson Bridge. When construction of the concrete bridge began on June 21, 1914, he was present to see that the job was started right.


The old (1881) iron bridge was used by the contractors as a platform to pour the arches of the new bridge and to facilitate the movement of pedestrians, a fund of 96.05 was raised among the businessmen to build the footbridge seen in the foreground. Vehicular traffic used the old ford near the hotel. Lucky the river was low that summer. Following Mr. McEnteer’s design, the stone piers of the old iron bridge were used as the piers of the concrete bridge. A one foot thick concrete jacket was poured around the existing piers to strengthen them and to create aesthetic continuity with the rest of the bridge. The arches and roadway were made of concrete forms filled with dirt and gravel.

When completed in November 1914, it was the longest earth-filled, reinforced concrete arch bridge in West Virginia, the third largest concrete arch bridge in the state, and the pride of the town. Today, it is the only concrete arch bridge remaining in West Virginia.

When the bridge was replaced in 1977 by a new bridge downstream, which carries vehicular traffic and spans the railroad tracks as well as the river, the old concrete bridge was scheduled for destruction. Numerous citizens of Alderson met many times with the officials of the town government to express their desire to keep their beloved old bridge. An arrangement was made with the West Virginia Division of Highways and the Town of Alderson took ownership of the bridge as a service to the town’s citizens to continue to provide a pedestrian link between the two sides of town.

Some of the citizens of Alderson who were instrumental in the Town of Alderson acquiring the bridge from the West Virginia Division of Highways formed the Alderson Bridge Trust Fund whose purpose is to aid the town with the repair, maintenance, and improvement of the bridge. At the request of the first chair of the Alderson Bridge Trust Fund, the bridge was designated as the Alderson Memorial Bridge in 1977. The bridge and the Alderson Bridge Trust Fund have been honored several times, most notably with the bridge’s acceptance for placement on the National Register of Historic Places.

When the Bridge approached its 89th birthday, due to its age and exposure to weather and flooding, it was in dire need of repair. The Town of Alderson with the assistance of the Alderson Bridge Trust Fund, Alderson Main Street, and any other help that could be recruited, undertook a project to replace the parapet walls, which were greatly deteriorated; repair and/or replace the brackets holding the sidewalks; and make such other repairs as were deemed vital to the bridge’s continued existence. The project called for the walls to be replaced with walls which are identical in appearance but with added support to tie them to the bridge structure. Likewise, the bracket had to be repaired or replaced and would remain the same in appearance.

The West Virginia Department of Culture and History was highly supportive of this project to restore the bridge to a safe state and its former elegant appearance.

The West Virginia Department of Transportation was also  supportive with funding but more was needed. The original project was to repair spalled areas and replace a twenty foot section of parapet on the bridge. During the bidding phase of this project a letter was received from WVDOH recommending complete replacement of the parapet walls and sidewalks. This was a sound recommendation but beyond the scope and budget of the limited bridge repair project envisioned in the Town’s original plan.

The present project was to completely remove the existing parapet walls and sidewalks of the bridge and replace them with new reinforced concrete using the same details as the original masonry. An important additional element of the work was to repair or replace damaged sidewalk support brackets which cantilever from the arch spandrel walls. Other miscellaneous work such as grouting certain abutment and pier areas, lighting removal and reinstallation, and paving was needed also.

The renovation was done during the year of 2005.  A few stages of this process is seen in the pictures found on this site at this link.

The Alderson Memorial Bridge is the very heart of Alderson. Even the official seal of the town incorporates a picture of the bridge. It is the place where young and old alike cross the river to the Post Office or convenience store, stroll leisurely hand in hand, or walk for exercise. Kids have learned to fish standing at the bridge’s parapet walls. Many walk on the bridge just to admire the view up and down the river.

During Alderson’s Fourth of July celebration, the Alderson Memorial Bridge dons American flags to show the town’s patriotism and the grand Fourth of July parade still crosses the bridge. During Christmas, special brightly colored lights make an arch spanning the bridge enticing passers-by to brave the cold to take a walk under the lights.

Whatever the season, the bridge plays a part from lazy summer afternoons to cold Christmas parades, from the budding of the trees in the spring to the bright colors of the fall.

The History of Alderson Memorial Bridge continues with renovation.

(The bulk of information in this article is from a presentation by Margaret Hambrick)
(Black & white photos - courtesy Tom Dixon)

Mary Morgan Steele's grandfather was relevant to the bridge. Read.

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