The National Road was built in the early 1800s and was the first major highway project of the US federal government. Originally connecting Washington DC with states to the west, the road traveled nearly 700 miles between the Potomac and the Ohio Rivers. Today that road has been replaced with major highways and interstates including highway 40 which runs east to west through Cambridge, Ohio. On a couple of occasions Lisa and I have traveled to New Concorde, Ohio and have passed a strange, curving bridge (now abandoned). My interest got the best of me and I traveled to the bridge the other day to find out more.
The “S” bridge of Cambridge was part of the National Road and crossed what is known as “Peters Creek”. The bridge was actually built in 1803 and was tied to what was called “Zane’s Trace” – the original road through the region. The odd thing about the bridge is that it was built in an “S” shape in order to cross the creek at a perpendicular angle so as to cut down on the construction cost. Because the road ran almost parallel to the creek, it was necessary to curve the approaches thus creating the “S” shape. When highway 40 was constructed, the bridge was abandoned and is now just a minor tourist attraction. In 2005 major flooding in the area damaged the bridge and a reconstruction project took place to preserve its history.
As I walked across the bridge my mind tried to imagine horse and buggies making this passage over a century ago and how far we have come since those days. Cars and trucks zoomed by just a few feet away on highway 40 and I could not help but notice the contrast of the speeding automobiles to the slow, steady flow of the creek passing under the bridge below. Society had passed and by-passed the “S” bridge in exchange for higher speeds and faster arrivals. I took a moment to appreciate the painstaking work of those who curved the stone arch just to save some money and at the same time create an architectural work of art. Those who labored to preserve the bridge after the flood damage should also be commended.
This place will probably never be one people will travel from miles away to visit. In fact, Lisa and I almost did not notice the bridge as we ourselves sped down the adjacent highway toward our destination. The bridge is a reminder of a time that took time. Whether it be a horse and buggy or a Model T Ford, the “S”-shaped bridge required travelers to slowly move along the curve of the creek and meander in their journey. If one went too fast they would find themselves toppled into the stream down below.
We need more “S” bridges in this country – places where we can just meander, pause and appreciate. And go slow.
Love, Steve and Lisa