Congratulations, Chandler Mill Road Bridge – you’ve made it to 100.
And while there was no letter from President Obama commemorating that milestone, there were a few dozen residents who braved chilly rain and muddy fields to make the day special.
Last Sunday the Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County held a ceremony at the bridge, located in Kennett Township, to commemorate both its 100th “birthday” and to celebrate the work that went into getting the bridge on the official historic registry.
Executive director Gwen Lacy said that the one-lane bridge represents an aspect of a way of life that the Conservancy – and many area residents – is trying to preserve.
“It’s a certain quality of life – of stopping, waving for someone to come through while you wait on the bridge,” she said.
Constructed in 1910, the steel plate and girder bridge with hand-laid stone wingwalls was designed by Nathan Rambo, a turn-of-the-century designer who helped create 82 bridges throughout Chester County as county engineer.
According to Lacy, the bridge threatened with extinction several years ago, when Kennett Township announced plans to completely replace the bridge with a more contemporary one that, they said, was a safer two-lane design.
Historic preservation specialist Jane Dorchester, who helped get the bridge on the National Registry of Historic Places, said the process took two years, including a battle with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to keep it from being de-listed.
The hand-laid stone wing walls, she added, are a signature of Rambo’s designs and give them a unique character.
“If you’re in Chester County and you see stone wing walls, in all likelihood you’re looking at a Rambo bridge,” she said.
Dee Durham, executive director of SAVE, said that saving the bridge is compatible with their mission, which is to confront traffic and conservancy issues along the Route 41 corridor.
“We’ve also been trying to use this bridge as almost a case study to help change some of the policies that PennDOT uses, and the county uses, to change the policy overall so that other bridges can be saved,” she said. “I think a lot of people look at these bridges as a common bridge type, they don’t see it as a unique resource … it was an uphill battle.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, an official sign was put in place, giving a brief history of the bridge and its creator Rambo.
According to Lacy, the bridge and the adjacent Bucktoe Creek Preserve, represents over $5 million in public and private funding used towards preservation.
For more information about the ongoing efforts to save and rehab the Chandler Mill Bridge, the oldest one-lane bridge in Kennett Square, please call TLC at 610-347-0347.