The main character of our story, the Messerall Road Bridge, began its life over Pine Creek near East Titusville in 1876, carrying traffic associated with the local oil and lumber industries. The bridge served as a crossing over Pine Creek nearly 140 years before it was closed to vehicular traffic in 1987.
After years of discontinuation of service, a new use was identified. On August 10, 2021, a crane lifted the Messerall Road Bridge off its footings and over Pine Creek . The bridge was then sent to a blacksmith shop for repairs. Through a partnership between PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PA DCNR), this historic bridge has begun a new chapter and has a new home along Pymatuning State Park’s Spillway Trail where it will serve trail users for years to come.
The Messerall Road Bridge, also known as the East Titusville Bridge or the Pine Creek Bridge, is an 1876 bowstring truss built by the Wrought Iron Company of Canton, Ohio. The bowstring through truss was among the earliest metal truss bridge designs; however, few have survived. The Messerall Road Bridge was determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion C for its technological significance. After Crawford County closed the bridge in 1987, it was cut off from the transportation network and sat dormant for over three decades.
Finding a new owner and home for the bridge was no easy task. It took several years of negotiations between local, state, and federal agencies before the PA DNCR stepped forward to take the bridge as part of their Pymatuning State Park Spillway Trail Extension project. Not only did the project involve the relocation and preservation of the Messerall Road Bridge, but it also included the construction of a new section of trail from Hartstown Road to South Chestnut Street in Linesville Borough. The associated new construction increased the length of the pathway from just over one mile to more than three miles, with the Messerall Road Bridge serving as a vital connector.
In August 2021, the 145-year-old bridge was gently lifted off its abutments using a crane and placed in a landing area, as shown in this video. It was then disassembled by Lockhart Ironworks and taken to the company’s workshop in Logan, Ohio for rehabilitation. The rehabilitation included the installation of new hot rivets, minor patchwork, cleaning, and painting of the structure. To preserve the historic character and technological significance of the bridge, all the work was carried out in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.
In September 2022, the Messerall Road Bridge returned to Pennsylvania to begin the next chapter. Fitted with a new wooden deck, the bridge was reassembled at its new location over Linesville Creek where it now carries trail users between Linesville Brough and the Pymatuning State Park Spillway area. After being overlooked for over three decades, the Messerall Road Bridge will be appreciated for generations to come.
The Pymatuning State Park Trail Extension Project was named a project of the year by the Franklin chapter of the American Society of Highway Engineers (ASHE) in February 2023. The project was recognized in the category for projects with a construction budget of $3 million or less.
Watch the video below to hear more about the project from the Don Burden, PennDOT District 1 Cultural Resource Professional, Dan Bickel, the Park Manager at Pymatuning, and many more who were involved in the project.
Today’s post is by Guest Contributor Veronica Martin. Veronica is the Historic Bridge Program Manager for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. She manages several programs including the historic bridge marketing and Historic Metal Truss Bridge Capital Rehabilitation programs.