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The Juniata River Bridge
Port Royal, PA



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Ever since the town of Port Royal, PA has stood along the banks of the Juniata, and even long before, this spot along the river was a natural crossing place and was used by traffic moving westward through the valley. The first bridge, built in 1831 and another in 1839 were both lost to bad weather and floods. The next bridge, which was a toll bridge, was built in 1851 and it too was lost in the disastrous 1889 flood.

The fourth bridge was built by the county in 1892 at a cost of $16,500.00 and was a wooded covered bridge about 700 feet long. The piers were built of native stone with a concrete core, and the superstructure of timbers from the mountain. This Bridge served the traveling public for a period of 45 years. On March 18, 1936, at four O’clock in the afternoon the St. Patrick’s Day Flood destroyed it. The flood carried away three spans of the covered bridge, leaving behind three stone piers and one span of the wooden structure.

During the late spring and summer, the Highway Department Engineers made three distinct surveys of probable sites for a new bridge; one on Milford Street, one on Market and one on Tuscarora Street. The Highway Department decided to use the old site and immediately appropriated the necessary funds. Then, after further discussion with the Town Council and the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, the Market Street site was selected because it eliminated two very dangerous curves and a very steep approach.

Ground breaking occurred on January 22, 1937 with little fanfare and work on the first pier was begun. In all 4 piers were erected and the contractor and workmen encountered plenty of difficulties. The shovel, which was excavating earth, got swamped in mud after several rainy days; in April the river came up within 12 feet of the previous high water mark causing delays; the gas shovel’s boom struck a rock and was badly twisted and had to be replaced. Though the laborers worked hard, they had time play as well. The following describes a water battle described as “being fought, in good sportsmanship among the workmen. The concrete gang conceived the idea of chasing all the carpenters into the river. The concreters came across the river and landed on the road between the carpenters and the west shore, thus cutting off their retreat. The carpenters were permitted to lay out their valuables but into the river they must go. Contractor Quigley, realizing that he was next in line, removed his clean white suit with speed and ran into the river in his underwear. Those who escaped or were missed during the immersion escapade were carefully attended to the following day.”

Work began on the superstructure in July of the year, with the arrival of the first shipment of steel. A few days later, men, trucks, cranes and other equipment were on site. The town turned out to watch as the steel girders arrived, and as a special crane was brought in to unload these huge girders from the trucks. The next day the cranes lifted the girders and put them into place on the bridge. After that the truss spans were erected and with that the bridge grew steadily longer day by day.

By the end of September the bridge began to get its first coat of paint, which was a sandstone color. After the first coat was applied a second coat of drab was put on. It took 630 gallons of paint and 22 painters about 2 months to complete this phase of the bridge construction.

On December 27Th, 1937 a State inspection of the bridge was completed and at 2:40 PM that afternoon the bridge was opened to traffic by the Water Street route. Two days later the Market Street approach was completed and also opened to traffic. By January 6, 1938 the final inspection was concluded.

This article was prepared by the Juniata County Historical Society from Juniata River Bridge at Port Royal, PENNA, by H. W. Webner, Port Royal Civic Club, printed by the Port Royal Times, 1937. Photographs are from the Collection of the Juniata County Historical Society, Mifflintown, PA.

All written content and photos ©2001-2009 Juniata County Historical Society, all rights reserved.