North Carolina's Lost Generations of Roadway Bridges

Bunker Hill Bridge (Jet Lowe, 2002) (HAER-NC-46-10) Bunker Hill Bridge (Jet Lowe, 2002) (HAER-NC-46-10)

North Carolinians built thousands of roadway bridges in the days of horse and buggy, but to look at the surviving bridges catalogued by the Historic Bridge Inventory one would not know it. Most of the bridges of the 18th and 19th centuries have been lost, replaced by more modem bridges, and the replacement programs have been so complete that almost no bridges of the pre-automobile era remain. Those very few that do survive have been taken out of public service, either carefully preserved, like North Carolina's lone surviving historic covered bridge—the Bunker Hill Bridge near Claremont in Catawba County—or left abandoned and largely forgotten.

Bunker Hill Bridge (Jet Lowe, 2002) (HAER-NC-46-10) Bunker Hill Bridge (Jet Lowe, 2002) (HAER-NC-46-10)

The Bunker Hill Bridge was constructed in 1895 by Andrew L. Ramsour, a local carpenter and businessman. Ramsour based the design on an old bridge patent granted to Herman Haupt of York, Pennsylvania in 1839. The bridge, on Island Ford Road across Lyles Creek, took its name from the nearby Bunker Hill farm. It was closed in the 1930s, for even at that early date it was considered inadequate to heavy traffic and dangerous. It underwent a major rehabilitation in 1994 and is the only remaining example of a wooden Haupt truss in the United States. Because it is not part of the state’s highway system, it was not included in this inventory. Two photographs from the collection of the Historic American Engineering Record, however, are included here.

[June 2013]