The Frankford Avenue Bridge, also referred to as the King’s Highway Bridge, the Holmesburg Bridge, the Pennypack Bridge or the Pennypack Creek Bridge, is the oldest surviving bridge in the United States. It is a three-span, 73ft long twin-stone bridge which is on the northern parts of Solly Avenue in Holmesburg, Philadelphia. Frankford Avenue Bridge is the oldest known stone-arch Bridge in the country. It was built in 1697 and stretches over the Creek of Pennypack.
Construction Of The Frankford Avenue Bridge
The Frankford Avenue Bridge was constructed after William Penn, an English nobleman and founder of Pennsylvania, requested for a bridge to link his home to Philadelphia. The general assembly of Philadelphia passed a bill, on March 10, 1683, which stipulated that bridges should be built across all the creeks and rivers along the King’s highway from the southern ports of the county of Sussex (currently part of Delaware) to Delaware falls.
All the bridges were to be constructed within eighteen months. The law dictated that the bridges should be 10ft wide with railings on each side. The areas on both sides of the arch bridges were left for cart and horse traffic. The bridges were built by all the men living in the region, and anyone who failed to participate was to be fined twenty shillings. The bridge connected Philadelphia to numerous other northern cities like Boston, New York and Trenton.
Notable travelers Who Crossed The Bridge
Most of the people who used the bridge travelled by coach or horseback from the northern colonies (Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Massachusetts) to Philadelphia and this included the Continental Congress delegates like John Adams. The first stagecoach service from New York to Philadelphia over the bridge, which took three days, started in 1756. President Washington crossed the Frankford Avenue Bridge in 1798 when he was going to New York for his first presidential inaugural ceremony. An express rider from Boston who delivered the news of the start of the American Revolution and the Lexington battle also crossed the bridge on April 24, 1775.
The Bridge was macadamed in 1803, and a toll booth was installed at the southern end. The toll booth remained in operation until when the city of Philadelphia purchased the turnpike in 1892. The bridge that was previously meant to carry the King’s Road from New York to Philadelphia was not wide enough for two coaches to pass each other; therefore it was widened in 1892 to create more space for the streetcars.
The bridge was widened further in 1950 to make more room for the vehicle traffic to and from the city of Philadelphia. The Bridge is still in use to date and since its construction; over sixty bridges have been abandoned or closed in Philadelphia alone. The Bridge underwent some renovations from March 2018 to September 2018. It was closed for over five months, and the workers reconstructed the bridge’s sidewalks, repointed the stone masonry and rebuilt the northern spandrel wall among other things. The 20 tons weight limit on the bridge was lifted after the workers finished their work.