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May 20, 2020

2 Fauquier bridges among “endangered” structures

File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
A Corman Kokosing Construction crew on April 29 lifts the Waterloo Bridge from its abutments for restoration.
Our state’s metal truss bridges are unique feats of engineering that connect people to local history and also bolster tourism by preserving the state's distinctive landscapes
— Kristie Kendall, Piedmont Environmental Council
Preservation Virginia on Tuesday listed the state’s metal truss bridges — including two in Fauquier — among its “Most Endangered Historic Places for 2020.”

The Warrenton-based Piedmont Environmental Council nominated those bridges for the designation.

Contractors for the Virginia Department of Transportation have started restoration projects on both local bridges across the Rappahannock River — at Remington and at Waterloo.

Every year since 2005, Preservation Virginia has listed historic features that face “imminent or sustained threats.” The organization seeks to encourage citizens, organizations and local and state governments to advocate for their protection and preservation.

The Waterloo Bridge also made that list in 2014.

“Our state’s metal truss bridges are unique feats of engineering that connect people to local history and also bolster tourism by preserving the state's distinctive landscapes,” said Piedmont Environmental Council Historic Preservation Manager Kristie Kendall, who nominated these structures for inclusion on the list. “We are pleased that Preservation Virginia is highlighting both the troubling rate at which Virginia is losing these special structures and their place in our historic landscapes. Given their rarity, beauty, and historic import, every effort should be made to stop the loss of these structures before it is too late,” she said.

By the early 20th century, Virginia had hundreds of metal truss bridges. However, by the 1950s, modern roads and bridges had replaced many of them. A 1975 study by the Virginia Transportation Research Council documented about 620 metal truss bridges. Today, only about 5 percent of those remain.

Focused on land use and conservation in the northern Piedmont, the PEC has advocated for the protection of several significant historic spans, including the state’s oldest metal truss bridge at Waterloo, about seven miles west of Warrenton.

The Waterloo Bridge spans the Rappahannock River, historically a major route for moving agricultural goods from the Shenandoah Valley to the Port of Fredericksburg, and links Waterloo and Old Bridge roads in Culpeper County to Jeffersonton Road in Fauquier County. Known for its distinctive iron and steel Pratt through-truss, the bridge dates to 1878 at a river crossing that first served as a link to a bustling canal town and later became a pivotal river crossing during the Civil War, when an earlier bridge got destroyed.

It ranked as the oldest metal truss bridge still in service in Virginia closed in 2014 because of its dilapidated condition. PEC launched a years-long, community-wide campaign for the restoration of Waterloo Bridge, generating enormous public pressure and a $1 million gift from the Hill family to support rehabilitation of the bridge. The bridge should reopen to vehicles next spring.

“The lack of a comprehensive VDOT database of these historic bridges at least through 2017 had resulted in inadequate stewardship and maintenance,” Ms. Kendall said. “They are vulnerable to neglect and deterioration due to insufficient funds, inappropriate development and insensitive public policy.

“Recognition of metal truss bridges by Preservation Virginia as a 2020 Most Endangered Place will help raise awareness of the few that remain. We are hopeful this designation will focus our state agencies, community groups and citizens in an effort to develop positive preservation solutions for their future.”

Preservation Virginia’s 2020 list of most endangered structures also includes:

• Loudoun County’s rural roads.

• The Pine Grove School Community in Cumberland County.

• The Halifax Roller Mill.

• Rassawek, the historic capital and sacred site of the Monacan Indian Nation, at the confluence of the Rivanna and James rivers in Fluvanna County.

• Elks Lodge 48 in Alexandria.

• The James Street Holiness Church in Danville.
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