July 28, 1860: Wheeling Suspension Bridge Reopens to Public

Jul 28, 2017

Credit e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

The Wheeling Suspension Bridge over the Ohio River reopened to the public on July 28, 1860. The bridge had originally opened to much fanfare in 1849. At the time, it was the longest clear span in the world and helped usher in an era of great American bridge building.

Most significantly for the northern panhandle, the bridge boosted Wheeling’s economic fortunes. Three major transportation routes converged in Wheeling. In addition to the heavily traveled Ohio River and Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the bridge now extended the National Road westward into Ohio.

In 1854—five years after it opened—the bridge’s deck was destroyed in a violent windstorm. Within a few months, one lane was back in service. The bridge was rebuilt and strengthened in time for the 1860 reopening. Its appearance today, except for the deck, substantially dates to the 1860 rebuild.

The Wheeling Suspension Bridge still serves local traffic and has been designated a national landmark by both the National Park Service and the American Society of Civil Engineers. The stunning span attracts local history buffs as well as historians and engineers from around the world.