Claim to Fame: The Frankford Avenue Bridge is the first known stone arch built in the United States and probably the oldest bridge in the country.
|Courtesy Wikipedia/original uploader was Coemgenus
"For 273 years, the little stone bridge that carries Frankford Ave. across Pennypack Creek has been doing its humble job with a minimum of attention..."
- Gerald McKelvey, The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 16, 1970
Built more than a century before the reign of Napoleon, Frankford Avenue Bridge on U.S. Route 13 in the northeastern portion of the city of Philadelphia is without doubt the oldest stone arch bridge America still in service on a major travel route and most likely the oldest stone bridge anywhere in the country. When it was constructed, each male member of the surrounding community was compelled to contribute a share of either labor or money.
The three-span bridge, intended originally to carry one of the first highways in America, the King's Road from Philadelphia to New York, was only 18 feet wide when first built with barely enough room for two teams of horse to pass each other. It was widened substantially in 1893 to accommodate trolley traffic and again in 1950, to accommodate automobile traffic. Pennypack Creek, which runs the length of 1600-acre Pennypack Park, is today stocked with trout annually as far downstream as the Frankford Avenue Bridge.
1. On April 24, 1775 at five o'clock in the afternoon, an express rider from Boston, having traveled for five days, reportedly crossed the Frankford Avenue Bridge to bring news of the Battle of Lexington and the beginning of the American Revolution.
2. The first stagecoach service from Philadelphia to New York, crossing the Frankford Avenue Bridge, began in 1756, with the trip requiring three days. By 1783, the trip took only a day aboard a coach named the Flying Machine.
3. A toll booth was installed at the bridge's south end when the Frankford and Bristol Turnpike opened in 1803. It remained in place until the roadway was taken over by the city of Philadelphia in 1892.
4. Since the Frankford Avenue Bridge was built, 60 other bridges in the city of Philadelphia have been either closed or abandoned.