PARKERSBURG, WEST VIRGINIA: A VINTAGE PORTRAIT
RIVERS & BRIDGES
|Sketch of Parkersburg as seen from Belpre in the 1870s. The spire of the Wood County Courthouse
stands prominently on the right of the picture.
Parkersburg is a river town, settled in the late 1700s and established by the Virginia Assembly in 1820, where the Little Kanawha runs into the Ohio River. The early settlement was built on the river banks at what was called The Point. Parkersburgers relied exclusively on ferries to get them across their two rivers. Finally, in 1858, the first bridge was built across the Little Kanawha at the foot of Market Street. Destroyed by a flood in 1875, it was replaced by two more bridges, but both were also carried away by floods and log jams. In 1891 the city, having second thoughts about the Market Street location, constructed a new bridge at the foot of Juliana Street. It lasted until the early 1970s.
The oldest standing bridge is the 4,600-feet railroad trestle across the Ohio River, created by the U.S. Congress in 1861 and completed in 1871, after two years' construction. It begins at the corner of Sixth and Avery and ends in Belpre, Ohio. For a time, it was the world's longest bridge. The B&O Railroad bought the bridge in 1904. Parkersburg's second railroad bridge was built over the Little Kanawha by the Ohio River Railroad in 1886. Elevated above Ann Street and servicing the Ann Street Station at Second Street, it linked Wheeling and Huntington.
Next, the East Street Bridge was privately built as a toll bridge over the Little Kanawha in 1907. The State bought it in 1937.
Parkersburg's most important bridge was built across the Ohio, from Fifth Street to Belpre, in 1914. A cable-suspension bridge, it was designed by a German architect after the Rhine Bridge at Coblenz. The State bought it from its private owners in 1937, at the same time the East Street Bridge was purchased. This bridge was torn down and replaced in the 1980s.
The Fifth Street Bridge was built across the Little Kanawha in 1937 from tolls from the East Street Bridge.
More recent bridges are the Memorial Bridge (1954) and the new Ann Street Bridge (1970), which replaced the Juliana Street Bridge.
|Looking down at the Point in 1897, showing the railroad bridges across the Ohio and Little Kanawha rivers. The prominent building with the pointed roof was the Ann Street train station, at the corner of Second Street. (Photo courtesy of Dan Kemper.)|
A train crosses the B&O trestle shortly after its completion in 1871.
|Looking northwest from The Point (where the Little Kanawha broadsides the Ohio River) at the turn of the century, the B&O railroad bridge spans the river.|
The Point, as seen on a calm day in the early twentieth century.
This early 1890s stereoscope card looks across the Little Kanawha River from Marrtown, past the Ohio
Railroad Bridge and the steamboat Hilton, toward the Ann Street Station at Second Street.
A wharf boat at the Point on November 21, 1918.
|Looking across the Ohio River from Belpre sometime after 1914.|
|The B & O Railroad bridge, with Belpre in the background, in the early 1900s.|
|Looking north from The Point in the early 1900s. This photo was obviously doctored because the moon never strays that far north.|
Looking west across the Little Kanawha toward the Point in 1897.
(Photo courtesy of Dan Kemper.)
Looking east on the Little Kanawha from the same spot as above.
(Photo courtesy of Dan Kemper.)
|Looking west across the Little Kanawha toward
the busy Point in the early 1900s (above, below).
Looking toward Parkersburg from Belpre after 1914.
Looking south across the Little Kanawha toward Marrtown and Fort Boreman.
The ferry Nina Paden, seen here around 1904, carried passengers between
Parkersburg and Belpre. Fort Boreman and Marrtown are in the background.
The East Street Bridge over the Little Kanawha is under construction around 1908.
The East Street Bridge, seen here around 1908, crossed the Little Kanawha. It still stands today.
|Looking north across the Ohio River Railroad bridge over the Little Kanawha
toward downtown Parkersburg, from Marrtown, in the early 1900s.
|Parkersburg as seen from Marrtown in 1861. The spire of the new courthouse dominates the skyline. Just to its left is the Methodist Episcopal Church South that stood at the southeast corner of 7th and Market from 1858 to 1900.|
|Looking toward Blennerhassett Island through the flood wall gate at the bottom of Second Street, near The Point where the Little Kanawha meets the Ohio River, circa 1951. The Army Corps of Engineers completed the flood wall in 1950.|
Looking east toward the Little Kanawha in this 1880s German magazine
drawing, Parkersburg is on the left and Marrtown on the right.
As seen from Belpre in the early 1900s, the northbound
steamboat Virginia passes Parkersburg.
Looking south, the Ann Street railroad bridge crosses the Little Kanawha toward Marrtown.
The floodwall is under construction in 1949-50.
(Photo courtesy of Artcraft Studio, 519-521 Market Street,
Parkersburg, WV 26101; (304) 485-5771.)
The demolition of the Juliana Street Bridge in the 1970s. Photos by John G. Dana.
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