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Hellertown 'Pony Bridge' Added to National Register of Historic Places | WDIY Local News

Contributed photo
Hellertown Historical Society
The Walnut Street "Pony" Bridge in Hellertown.

A historic Hellertown bridge has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Hellertown Historical Society recently announced that the National Park Service has added the Walnut Street “Pony’ Bridge to the national listing.

According to a release, the announcement was delivered by the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office to volunteer Chip Wagner, who documented the bridge’s history for the application to the NPS.

Wagner credited Lehigh University grad students and volunteers who worked on the bridge during the mid-to-late 1990s to preserve the structure, calling it a “tremendous accomplishment.”

Historical society president Larry Sutton said the Pony Bridge is the first structure in Hellertown to receive the federal designation from the NPS. He called it “one more jewel in the crown that shows Hellertown as an outstanding community.”

Sutton also said an event will be planned to celebrate the occasion.

The Walnut Street Pony Bridge was designed and patented by Francis J. Lowthorp in 1857 and fabricated by the Beckel Foundry and Machine Shop of Bethlehem, on what is now called Sand Island.

A cast iron and wrought iron bridge, the structure formerly spanned the Saucon Creek along a dirt road that became West Walnut Street in Hellertown.

The bridge was moved by Northampton County when the Hellertown and Lower Saucon school districts merged in 1970 to form Saucon Valley School District to make way for a paved cement bridge that was deemed safe for school bus use.

The bridge was lifted in one piece by crane and deposited in a field next to the Heller-Wagner Grist Mill site.

In 1994, Lehigh University graduate engineering students helped historical society volunteers dismantle the bridge and reassemble it over a mill race next to the grist mill.

In April 2000, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and Preservation Pennsylvania awarded the project a “Special Historical Properties Award.”

The Pony Bridge was rededicated at a formal ceremony during Hellertown’s Community Day on June 24, 2000.

It was open to foot traffic until late 2010, when the visitation was closed off due to weather-related deterioration of the bridge’s red oak floor and supporting beams.

Repairs were made in 2012, replacing the rotted beams and flooring and replacing it with longer-lasting white oak, and the bridge was reopened on Nov. 18, 2012.

According to the website HistoricBridge.org the Pony Bridge is one of a handful of surviving bridges with cast iron compression members and is notable for having cast iron floor beams.

The structure is also one of the oldest all-metal bridges in the country.

(Original air-date: 5/19/23)

Sarit "Siri" Laschinsky is WDIY's News and Public Affairs Director.
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