Frankford Avenue Bridge – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Atlas Obscura
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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Frankford Avenue Bridge

Erected in 1697 this Philadelphia bridge is the oldest surviving roadway bridge and perhaps the oldest stone bridge in the United States. 

The Frankford Avenue Bridge, erected in 1697 in the Holmesburg section of Northeast Philadelphia, in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, is the oldest surviving roadway bridge in the United States. The American Society of Civil Engineers describes the bridge as the first known stone arch built in the U.S., and probably the oldest stone bridge in the country.

The three-span, 73-foot-long (22 m) twin stone arch bridge carries Frankford Avenue (U.S. Route 13), just north of Solly Avenue, over Pennypack Creek in Pennypack Park.

The bridge (also known as the Pennypack Creek Bridge, the Pennypack Bridge, the Holmesburg Bridge, and the King’s Highway Bridge) was built at the request of William Penn to connect his mansion with the new city of Philadelphia. It was an important link on the King’s Highway that linked Philadelphia with cities to the north (Trenton, New York, and Boston).

On March 10, 1683, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a law requiring the building of bridges across all of the rivers and creeks along the King’s Highway, from the Falls of Delaware to the southernmost ports of Sussex County (now part of the state of Delaware). The bridges, which were to be completed within 18 months, were to be ten feet wide and include railings along each side. The areas on either side of the bridges were to be cleared to facilitate horse and cart traffic. Each bridge was to be built by male inhabitants of the surrounding area; those who failed to appear were to be fined 20 shillings.

Over the bridge crossed anyone who traveled to Philadelphia by horseback or coach from the northern colonies, including delegates to the First or Second Continental Congresses, such as John Adams, from Massachusetts. In 1789, George Washington crossed the bridge on his way to his first presidential inauguration in New York.