Significance: The Waterloo Bridge crosses the Rappahannock River between Culpeper and Fauquier Counties and until January 2014 was used as a bridge for vehicular traffic. It is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the Rappahannock River-Hedgemans Rural Historic District nomination that has been submitted to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
The Waterloo Bridge’s history is deeply entwined with its setting as a Rappahannock River crossing. Efforts to make the Rappahannock River navigable began in 1816, while planning and construction of the river canal lasted until the canal was deemed complete in 1849. Beginning in 1853, a series of wooden bridges were constructed at the site of the current Waterloo Bridge. The Civil War was another destructive force on Waterloo and its bridge, as the Rappahannock River was a defensive front for both armies, and Waterloo changed hands and was rebuilt many times. In 1879, the new, durable metal-truss bridge was installed using the same stone abutments as its predecessors. A significant engineered work, the bridge’s design relies on the Pratt truss, patented in 1844 by the father-and-son team of Caleb and Thomas Pratt of Boston. The manufacturer of the Waterloo Bridge was the King Iron Bridge & Manufacturing Company of Cleveland, Ohio, which was nationally known and trusted and produced an estimated 5,000 bridges throughout America between 1871 and 1923.
Threat: The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is considering replacement of the bridge instead of repairing it, citing cost of repairs.
Solution: Citizen-comprised groups and organizations such as the Piedmont Environmental Council are advocating for recognition of the bridge’s significance to the region and its repair (which would maintain the rural character of the road and river crossing) rather than replacement. We encourage VDOT to continue to work with Culpeper and Fauquier Counties on the Waterloo Bridge and to assess its inventory of historic bridges across the Commonwealth to be able to create a proactive maintenance plan instead of deferring needed repairs until it’s “too late.”