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If This Bridge Could Talk
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor
2022-09-20

            With the news in today's print edition of the Town and Country that the Montgomery County Commissioners have approved a $5.8 million renovation to the eight-arch Perkiomenville bridge, it might be interesting to take a brief look at some of the history that the bridge encountered.

The Perkiomenville bridge was built in 1839 and once carried Gravel Pike over the Perkio-

men Creek between Marlborough and Upper Frederick Townships.  It was closed in 1967 and

is now part of the Perkiomen Trail network.

 

            In early days, roads were determined by the natural geographic features that dictated they follow the road of least existence.  A road usually led to a spot where it was safe to ford a waterway.  Bridges usually were built in the same location.

            According to PennDOT, stone arch bridges are built in courses of stone.  The load is carried by the arch barrel. The outer rings of the barrel are generally composed of cut-and-matched, wedge-shaped stones called voussoirs. The voussoirs are held in place by the keystone.

            Abutments and piers, substructure elements, absorb the thrust placed on the arch and transfer it to the ground. Wing walls are extensions of the abutments designed to

Looking east across the bridge, towards Marlborough

Township, the toll house was located on the right as

vehicles approached the span.

retain side slope material from the approaches. The spandrels are exterior walls that surround the arch barrel and act as retaining walls for fill material, which carries the roadway. The portions of the spandrel walls above the roadway are called the parapets. In most cases, flat stones known as coping top the parapets.

            Stone arch bridges are not rare.  Pennsylvania has one of the largest collections of stone arch bridges in the nation. In the five-county Philadelphia region alone, there are more than 120 of them that measure at least 20 feet in length.

            The Perkiomenville bridge was built in 1839.  The bridge once carried Gravel Pike over the Perkiomen Creek between Marlborough and Upper Frederick Townships.  Originally built to carry heavy wagons across the creek, the stone-arched bridge required superior workmanship and was hailed as a masterpiece of masonry.

            Before the bridge was closed in 1967, when traveling south over it and after stopping at the stop sign on the Upper Frederick side, you could make a hard left and continue traveling on Gravel Pike or make a right onto Deep Creek Road.  Straight ahead would put you on Perkiomenville Road.

            In the early days, you even had to pay a toll to cross it.

            In the early 1900s when the Perkiomenville Cattle Auction was on the Upper

In 1926 a truck carrying a load of mustard crashed

through the stone wall of the bridge causing extensive

damage.

Frederick side of the creek, railroad cars full of cattle would unload at the railroad station in Marlborough Township and drovers would herd the cattle across the creek to the auction site where they would be sold on a Friday night.  Some made as much as 25 cents a day to drive the cattle from one side of the Perkiomen to the other.

            The bridge faced many floods over the years and never wavered.  In 1942, when heavy rain ripped a 50-foot hole in the earth and log dam of the Klondike ice plant, it sent floodwaters downstream.  The dam was located just north of Green Lane, near the site of the present-day Green Lane dam.

            The floodwaters from the broken dam teamed up with the overflowing Macoby Creek in the small borough and formed a devastating combination and inflicted heavy damage.

            But not to the Perkiomenville bridge.  Perkiomenville was cut in half and Gravel pike was underwater, but the bridge stood high and strong.

            With water rising some 20 feet and more above the creek, the bridge faced one of its worst challenges during Hurricane Connie and Hurricane Diane in 1955.  The one-two punch hurricanes struck the area in August and dropped more than 10-inches of rain around here.  The Perkiomen swelled to a half-mile wide in some areas and completely flooded both sides of the bridge.  While the flood did close the bridge, it never made it to the top, falling about four-feet short.

            The bridge did face one major repair in 1926 after a truck carrying a load of mustard crashed through the stone wall causing extensive damage.

            The Perkiomenville Bridge was closed in 1967 after the relocation of Gravel Pike and a new span was built south of it.

            Today the bridge serves as a trail right-of-way as part of the Perkiomen Trail network.


 

 

 

 

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