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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.