Check out these aerial photographs of the Veterans Memorial Bridge taken fittingly enough on Armistice Day 1930. A handwritten note inside the cover states, Dedication of Columbia Bridge. Armistice Day 1930.
In case you are wondering, Armistice Day originated to commemorate the end of World War I. On June 1, 1954, Congress amended the Act of 1938, officially renaming “Armistice Day” as “Veterans Day” and thereby expanding the recognition of the holiday to include veterans of all American wars. France still celebrates the holiday as Armistice Day. The following images come courtesy of Cory Van Brookhoven, President at Lititz Historical Foundation.
The Columbia–Wrightsville Bridge, officially called the Veterans Memorial Bridge, spans the Susquehanna River between Columbia and Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, and carries Pennsylvania Route 462. Built originally as the Lancaster-York Intercounty Bridge, construction began in 1929, and the bridge opened on September 30, 1930. On November 11, 1980, it was officially dedicated as Veterans Memorial Bridge, though it is still referenced locally as the Columbia–Wrightsville Bridge.
According to a recent LNP article, the 1.26-mile bridge is considered the longest concrete arch bridge in the world. That should come as no surprise as the site was once home to the world’s longest-covered bridge in the 1800s.
In nominating the present Columbia–Wrightsville Bridge as an engineering landmark, the Pennsylvania section of the American Society of Civil Engineers noted that it is “a splendid example of the graceful multiple-span, reinforced-concrete arched form popular in early 20th Century highway bridges in the United States.” The bridge is designated State Route 462 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.
Designed by James B. Long and built by Glen Wiley and Glenway Maxon (Wiley-Maxon Construction Company), it cost $2,484,000 (equivalent to $43.51 million in 2022), plus an early completion bonus of $56,400 (equivalent to $988,011.16 in 2022). Constructed of reinforced concrete, the 5,183-foot-long bridge (6,657 feet including spans over land) has 27 river piers, 22 approach piers, a 38-foot-wide two-lane roadway, and a 6-foot-wide sidewalk. Upwards of 100,000 cubic yards of concrete and 8 million pounds of steel reinforcing rods were used, and coffer dams were built to aid in construction. Each span consists of three separate concrete ribs connected at five points by horizontal concrete struts, with the longest span measuring 185 feet.
Tolls of 25 cents per vehicle were charged when the bridge first opened (equivalent to $4.38 in 2022) and ended on January 31, 1943, when the bond issue was retired. Sometime after World War II, the original bridge lights were replaced with newer lighting.
The 94-year-old bridge is slated to undergo a massive $79 million restoration project beginning in 2025. Improvements will include the addition of bike lanes, wider sidewalks, and a roundabout in Wrightsville to replace a five-point intersection at the end of the bridge.
Planning Your Visit
From the Lancaster County side, you can access the Columbia–Wrightsville Bridge at 151 Commerce St, Columbia, PA 17512. Here are the GPS coordinates: 40.033069, -76.505992. From York County, you access the bridge at approximately 203 Hellam St, Wrightsville, PA 17368. Here are the GPS coordinates: 40.025792, -76.529988.
Earliest known photo of the Wrightsville and Columbia Bridge
This is the earliest known photograph of the massive covered bridge that once spanned the Susquehanna River between Wrightsville and Columbia. Charles Himes, an amateur photographer in the early 1860s, took it. Click the link to learn more about this famous bridge.
Union forces burn Wrightsville Bridge to prevent invasion of Lancaster County.
On June 28, 1863, Union forces burned the Wrightsville Bridge to stop the advancing Confederate Army. This action saved Lancaster County and set the stage for the three-day Battle of Gettysburg, which would begin on July 1. Click the link to read more.