Chandler Mill Bridge

Chandler Mill Bridge: Yesterday and Today

The one-lane steel plate through-girder Chandler Mill Bridge, circa 1910, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Designed by County Engineer Nathan R. Rambo and built by George Dole, the bridge exemplifies Rambo’s frequent use of hand-laid stone wingwalls with steel bridges. Such bridges were constructed throughout the County from c. 1890-1930s as a cost-effective way to provide safe, strong bridges for roads and railways. Since its closing to vehicular traffic in 2011, the bridge has been used extensively by hikers and bikers. The bridge is located at the terminus of 500 acres of contiguously conserved open space within the emerging Kennett Greenway public access trail.

On the “farm-to-market” road, the bridge connected area farms to mills and market centers such as Kennett Square. The Chandler Mill was located on the northwest side of the bridge where remnants of the mill race remain visible along Chandler Mill Road. The Chandler Mill Bridge represents the increased role that counties began playing in the early 1900s as transportation needs intensified due to increasing population and economic prosperity.

While Chester County built the bridge, their responsibilities required them to consider replacing the bridge. Visionary members of the community came together to prevent the replacement and widening of the historic bridge and made the case for Kennett Township to take ownership. On January 21st, 2015, the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors passed Resolution 2015-8, opening the use of the Chandler Mill Bridge to pedestrians, pedal bicycles, and emergency vehicles only as part of a vision for a more walkable community. Thank you to Kennett Township Supervisors Richard Leff and Scudder Stevens, Manager Lisa Moore, Beverly McCausland, the Brokaw Family, Timothy Barnard, Esq., the Mills Family, Kennett Trails Alliance, the entire Chandler Mill Bridge Consortium, and all of you who have shown your support over the years to help create this amazing outcome!

Thank you to Kennett Township and Chester County!

Philadelphia Inquirer, February 7, 2015: Township, Chesco Agree to Save Bridge

Chester County Press, June 11, 2014: Township Votes to Pursue Ownership of Historic Bridge

A selection of comments from the petition requesting Kennett Township save the Chandler Mill Bridge:

“Open space is one of the key issues for maintaining the livability of Kennett Township and the surrounding area. This would be a major step in the right direction after years of inaction.” –Michael Guttman

“We have a chance to make history in a way future generations will be thankful for. Think of the many of existing preserves we are enjoying today [and often take for granted]; somebody had to fight hard to get these and we are eternally grateful.” –Mandy Cabot

“It’s a no-brainer.” –Dianne Duffy

“I have yet to personally experience relieved congestion from a highway project or bridge replacement. Better roads bring more drivers, period – and the cycle continues. Additionally, I cannot understand how anything on the National Register of Historic Places could ever be considered for demolition when there was any alternative! If we can allow ourselves to demolish something already recognized nationally, then what is ever safe from demolition? … Please do everything you can to save this piece of our history!” –Maria Ruocco

“I grew up on Chandler Mill Road. As a kid, my friends and I would play on the bridge, fish from it, toss rocks and sticks into the stream below. I did so, because I had no fear that cars would be a problem. The one lane bridge ensured that traffic had to move slowly. In today’s world, people, especially children, need more options to play and enjoy nature. We are too enslaved to hectic lives. Having a walking bridge will do so much more for the community than building a two lane bridge to speed people along through their day. I recommend doing the sensible thing and give people a gift they deserve and will cherish. Convert the bridge to a permanent walking bridge.” –Brad Mills

Installing the bridge’s National Register marker

After a decade of advocacy, the quiet Chandler Mill Road area will remain that way in perpetuity, thanks to the dedication and perseverance of those who believed it was possible to not only save the historic bridge from demolition, but to take back a segment of a road for the public benefit. This decision by Kennett Township set an incredible precedent for land and water conservation, historic preservation, and walkable communities. It is a precedent we hope that other townships, who are interested in protecting quality of life and vital resources, will have the courage and vision to emulate. Over $11 million in today’s dollars have already been contributed to the trails and conserved lands over the past 30 years. Let’s celebrate and enhance this investment. 

The Chandler Mill Bridge will be a key link in the Kennett Greenway Trail System, and is now the gateway to the Chandler Mill Nature Preserve. TLC is almost finished creating this 45-acre preserve, which will benefit the community for generations to come.

The future Chandler Mill Nature Preserve and Interpretive Center is part of an Audubon Important Bird Area, and contains rare bird species, 100 year old specimen trees, nature trails and historic landmarks. It is a part of the West Branch of the Red Clay Creek Historic District that includes an African American Civil War cemetery, Freeman’s Village, historic mill race, and deacon’s house.


The Chandler Mill Bridge 100th Birthday Party in 2010

This option is the alternative to Chester County’s original plan for the bridge: demolition and replacement with a 2 lane, standard 36-ton Penn DOT Highway Bridge. The installation of a highway bridge would have turned Chandler Mill Road, a quiet, winding country road, into a heavily traversed route for speeding cut-through and commercial traffic. We applaud the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors for their decision to not only save a significant historic structure from demolition, but to take back a segment of road for the public benefit.

Some of the many benefits of the pedestrian-only Chandler Mill Bridge include:

  • The 45 acre Chandler Mill Nature Preserve will provide recreational and educational opportunities to the community
  • TLC will have a presence at the preserve with their Headquarters and Interpretive Nature Center
  • The sensitive flora and fauna that are unique to these areas will continue to return and thrive for future generations
  • The health of the watershed will continue to be protected by the conserved surrounding natural area, preventing stormwater runoff and non-point source pollution inundating the Red Clay Creek and other waterways in the region.
  • A key connection will be created in the Kennett Greenway, connecting crucial trail corridors in this 12-mile planned loop trail system
  • Property values of nearby neighbors will increase, due to their proximity to this recreation and open space area
  • The traffic accident reduction of 60% at Kaolin and Chandler Mill Roads will continue–the number of accidents went from 16 to 6 in only one year following the closure of the bridge
  • Future costs to Kennett Township taxpayers will be reduced
  • A quiet country road leading to a nationally recognized historic bridge will be preserved
  • The project will be funded 95% by State and Federal governments, and is the least expensive option
  • Future generations will applaud the foresight of the Kennett Supervisors and their constituents to preserve vital environmental resources and unique landscape

Click Here for Past Advocacy Updates

Article: When A Bridge Closes, A Window Opens

Article: Chandler Mill Road Bridge celebrates its centennial