Sunday, March 9, 2008

Bridges to Nowhere...

I am horribly afraid of heights. To say that I suffer from acrophobia is a gross understatement.

At times, it can be comical. I remember walking a trail in Mohican State Park years ago with a fellow ghost hunter. We found ourselves on an abandoned stretch of trail and there was a small bridge ahead. Over half the planks were missing. It spanned probably all of seven feet, with a two-foot drop to the water below, which may have been two feet deep at most. I was shaking, terrified, as I made three separate attempts to cross. It didn't help that she was laughing the whole time.

Still, I love the beauty of bridges. Not modern concrete slabs with no character, but old bridges. They have a certain charm... a thoughtfulness of design that is absent in our modern world. We spend far too much time concentrating on our destinations instead of the journey now. That could explain our carelessness about history. Why we destroy old bridges, buildings, and landmarks without batting an eyelash.

In fact, many of our historical structures are facing eradication because of this apathy. In my small town alone, I have watched old bridges wiped away, century homes leveled for developments, and buildings which have stood over 60 years razed for parking lots and ill-constructed retail chains.

It isn't getting better, either.

Take for example the Bellaire Toll Railroad Bridge spanning the Ohio River between Belmont County, Ohio and Marshall County, West Virginia. it is slated for demolition this spring. The current cantilever through truss bridge has stood at the site since 1923, though a bridge has existed at this point since the Civil War era. It has fallen into a state of disrepair and has severe structural problems, though these could be repaired if anyone cared enough to preserve it.

But no one will. Even though it's one of the largest examples of its kind left in the country.

Just up the river in Bridgeport, Ohio is another bridge expected to meet its demise in the coming years: the old Wheeling US-40 Truss Bridge, built in 1893. It is quite a beautiful-looking bridge though it is in need of restoration. After 115 years, anything needs a little face lift! Still, it has a certain ornate beauty not often found in steel bridges and I have yet to find anything similar anywhere else.

To be honest, I don't hold much hope for these and many other structures across the United States. We are a throw-away society. If something can be built faster and cheaper, we will replace it (and it doesn't hurt if the government gives you more money for building new than restoring the old). I'm surprised at times that we still have the White House.

100 years ago, no one bothered to care about preservation in America. Buildings came and went, though sound structures were often left for us to still be delighted with today. Some old houses fell into disrepair and were demolished. One of them was the home of John Hancock. It wasn't until someone tried to find his house and found an empty lot instead that anyone really noticed that perhaps (and only perhaps) some things were worth saving.

We haven't come very far... and we still have a long road ahead. Perhaps in another century or two, we'll wonder what happened to the World Trade Center site... and why a shopping mall sits atop its remains.


Chris said...

I too, like you, am afraid of heights so you not alone there. Its a shame that more landmarks would mean more to people to want to have them preserved and not just demolished. I know you brought to light the buildings even in the Cuyahoga Valley have been demolished, one in particular I know you wrote about in your blog and it is just a total shame. Bridges are interesting structures, they can be so very simple to very ornate in design. Also it seems alot of bridges hold on to alot of energy which is why paranormal activity can be found around them or within thier structures. Bridges can be forboding and mysterious too. I really love covered bridges too. I know the one your wrote in your book "Haunted Cuyahoga" Everett Covered Bridge is a favorite of mine. Alot of history with that structure!
Huggs to you!

Liam said...

To put it simply: Bridges Rock! I am not afraid of heights thank God...

Anonymous said...

I respect heights, and they keep their distance. lol I agree, I love old architecture in general. (no wonder why I'm in this field of work) Maybe you should strap yourself to the bridge in protest. :)
As for the covered bridges, Ashtabula County has a wonderful driving tour of several dozen left in the area.

Anonymous said...

I agree, I love historical buildings and bridges. All the history to them is amazing to me. Just the feel of the old and who has been there before is so neat to me.