Angelica Bridge - first paved flooring bridge in Berks County

2013-07-14
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Angelica Iron Bridge (1904)

Travelers found something new when going down the Morgantown road (Route 10) the morning of September 10, 1904. The newly constructed iron bridge over Angelica Dam, at Millmont, had a reinforced concrete deck, paved with macadam.

The bridge was the first in Berks County with paved flooring. Previously, both iron bridges and older wooden covered bridges had floors constructed of heavy planking. Those wore thin rather fast and became unsafe. Replacement was costly and frequent.

The new Angelica Bridge replaced a wooden bridge. The old span had been washed away in a flood in February 1902. By that year, a number of the wooden bridges had been replaced by iron arch bridges, so a span of that type was ordered for the Morgantown road highway.

Just who conceived the idea of a concrete floor, or where the idea was imported from, is not recorded. The bridge plan, however, was drawn by Dreibelbis & Co. of Reading. The ironwork was furnished and erected by the National Bridge Co., of Oswego, N.Y.

The concrete paving may have been the idea of Charles H. Fisher, Reading contractor. He constructed the masonry abutments on which the iron bridge rested. These were covered with concrete. The whole new structure cost $14,000 and the Oswego Company was paid $3,800 of this for its ironwork.

Everyone was proud of the bridge. County officers pointed out it stood 35 feet above the water and was 145 feet long with a 24 foot width.

Seven inches of concrete were poured for the floor. This was placed over steel rods that formed a web with the rods four inches apart. Over the concrete was placed three inches of macadam.

In 1904, there were 18 public iron bridges across the Schuylkill in the county, 14 across the Tulpehocken, 12 across the Ontelaunee and nine over the Manatawny. Others had been constructed by the railroad and trolley companies.

In 1984 the iron bridge was replaced by a new, $563,893 bridge, whose abutments were constructed via a unique, cost-cutting Reinforced Earth panel technology. Reinforced Earth was composed of granular soil and steel reinforcements forming a cohesive material that is engineered to meet site, size and load criteria. Precast concrete panels, which aesthetically resemble pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, formed the face of the structure at the abutments. The new bridge was 30 feet wide, whereas the iron structure was 22 feet wide from curb to curb.

In 2001 the Reinforced Earth bridge sustained extensive flood damage requiring the need for replacement.

 



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