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May 1, 2014

Waterloo Bridge among Va. “most endangered” sites

Photo/Preservation Virginia
VDOT in January closed the bridge linking Culpeper and Fauquier counties.
Preservation Virginia has put the Waterloo Bridge near Orlean on its 10th annual list of “Virginia’s Most Endangered Historical Sites.”

Installed across the Rappahannock River in 1879, the steel truss bridge carried traffic between Culpeper and Fauquier counties until state officials closed it in January. Virginia Department of Transportation engineers deemed it unsafe for vehicles, even with a posted limit of three tons.

VDOT has developed five options for the bridge, including replacement and minor repairs to make it safe for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The Warrenton-based Piedmont Environmental Council has joined an effort to save and restore the bridge for vehicles. The boards of supervisors in both counties have asked VDOT to develop a cost estimate for that potential restoration.

A private, non-profit organization founded in 1899, Preservation Virginia provided this description with Tuesday’s announcement:

Waterloo Bridge

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.”

The other “Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Sites”

• The Civil War battlefields of Bristoe Station (Prince William County) and Williamsburg.

• Southside Roller Mill in Chase City.

• “Sidestepped” towns, Columbia and Pamplin City.

• The James River viewshed near Jamestown.

• Hook-Powell-Moorman Farm in Franklin County.

• 800 historic schools across the state.

• The Old Concrete Road on Roanoke’s Mill Mountain.

• Pocahontas Island Historic District in the Appomattox River at Petersburg.

• Phlegar Building (Old Clerk’s Office) in Christiansburg.

• Shockoe Bottom in Richmond.

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