On this Day in History: Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge destroyed by Cedar Keys Hurricane in 1896

Two men stand in front of the ruins of the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge, destroyed by what would later be known as the Cedar Keys Hurricane of 1896. 📸: LancasterHistory

On This Day In History

On September 29, 1896, the Cedar Keys Hurricane ripped through Central Pennsylvania with gale-force winds and torrential rain. It left a wake of destruction, leveling barns, trees, and the 1869 Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge. It was so powerful that it swept the massive bridge from its piers, with some of the pieces landing near the iron furnaces south of Marietta.

Photograph of the third bridge after being destroyed. Notice the iron spans are still standing in the middle. 📷: LancasterHistory.

The powerful and destructive tropical cyclone had begun a few days earlier in Florida’s Cedar Keys. The storm’s rapid movement allowed it to maintain much of its intensity after landfall and cause significant damage over a broad area. As a result, it became one of the costliest United States hurricanes at the time. 

The bridge was the third to span the Susquehanna at Columbia.

The Pennsylvania Railroad began construction of the 5,390 feet long in 1868. The covered bridge was completed the following year at a cost of $400,000 ($8,794,000 today). Constructed of stone, wood, and steel, the mile-long structure contained 27 piers, a carriageway, a railway, and a walkway.

1888 photograph of the third bridge across the Susquehanna. 📷: LancasterHistory.

Planning Your Visit

From the Lancaster County side, you can see and access one of the piers of the old Columbia–Wrightsville Bridge by walking beneath the current Veterans Memorial bridge from the Columbia Crossings parking lot. Here are the GPS coordinates: 40.031615, -76.510026.

Adventure Awaits!

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2 thoughts on “On this Day in History: Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge destroyed by Cedar Keys Hurricane in 1896

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