Our Bridge That Leads To Nowhere
If any of the readers have driven down the Levant-Gerry Road (as the sign indicates today) south of Route 394, they may have noticed a “bridge to nowhere.” The roadway leading to the Marden E. Cobb Waterway Trail in Levant will take you to this bridge. So what is this bridge and why is it sitting on dry land going nowhere?
This bridge was constructed by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio. Information about this bridge identifies its construction as a “Pratt truss, half-hip design with finials and plaque.” Bridge construction by this company, and probably a few the other bridge companies of the time, had prefabricated parts that could be combined to construct a bridge of the needed design and size.
These parts were then loaded onto a train and shipped to the nearest station to where the bridge was to be erected. This speeded up the time to accomplish a finished bridge, often having one in place and useable within a month or two depending on the size.
According to a short article in the June 11, 1883 Jamestown Evening Journal, “The commissioners of highway for the town of Ellicott on Saturday made a contract with the agent of the Canton, Ohio, Bridge Company for an iron bridge over the Chautauqua outlet at Levant. The location is known as the Mill Bridge. The iron work of the bridge will cost a little more than $2,000.”
The Bridge, as it sits on dry land today, has a plaque that reads “1883” and one on the top that reads “Wrought Iron Bridge Company, Builder, Canton, Ohio.” Although the reference to the Mill Bridge is no longer in recent memory, this must be the $2,000 bridge described in the June 11, 1883 article.
The July 17, 1980 issue of The Post-Journal carries the pictures and articles about the dedication of the new bridge that was replacing the 1883 bridge. The new bridge was a “three span composite continuous rolled beam” design and was completed at a cost of $1,034,000. At that time it was being called the Water Street Bridge. The old bridge was on the old roadway about 200 feet to the west of the new bridge and new road.
There were other Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio bridges in Chautauqua County over the years with four reported to be remaining in the county when the Water Street bridge was constructed.
The old bridge had lasted over 95 years with the anticipated traffic of horse and wagon and the unanticipated traffic of cars, trucks, including heavy duty trucks, buses, and snow plows.
Because of the historic value of the old bridge it was decided to preserve it and move it to dry land, thus removing possible danger should someone decide to cross the bridge when it was unsafe. I think that the town of Ellicott received its money’s worth from the 1883 bridge from Canton, Ohio.