17 April 2010

The Long Way Home

They closed our bridge! And, now we hear that it's slated for demolition.

We moved to Donora, Pennsylvania in 2006. I was raised here and my first 17 years included an almost daily trip over this wonderful span. The surface is always a surprise - even if you're accustomed to driving over it. As an open-grate bridge, you can see through it down into the very clean waters of the Monongahela River.

Daddy and I used to walk across the bridge over to Webster and down to the river to sit, to fish (we never caught anything and I'm not sure we really tried). How I loved to look through the grates where the cars drove. We'd drive over the bridge to get everywhere - to Bill's Dari-Delight, to Sweeney's Restaurant, to Pittsburgh (via the naughty Route 51).

The first time I drove over the open grates, I thought I was driving on ice - it's a special experience and easier than expected - and the sound is so unique that it stays with you forever.

Now we have to drive all the way to the other end of town to cross the New Bridge - the Donora-Monessen Bridge. It's not really that new, but it will bear that name forever. Functional as it may be, it is merely concrete with no real beauty. Then - to go to the Webster river entrance that my Dad and I used to enjoy, we have to drive all the way back plus some - it's walkable if we had hours to walk, shortening our sitting and fishing time.

Believe it or not, the bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places - it even boasts some significant technologies. The complete details can be found on the Historical Bridges website.

The bridge just turned 100 years old on December 5, 2008. Scott Beveridge created a nice video, with the whole story  featuring our good neighbor Dr. Chuck Stacey.

Originally meant to be a railroad bridge, it was converted to an automobile and walking bridge soon after. The bridge opened originally with a wedding. In fact, the parents of my Mom's very good friend, Helen Herk, were married on the bridge on December 8, 1908, when the bridge was dedicated.

Of course it's inconvenient. And it's old-fashioned. And, maybe it's hard to fix. But, it's special to those of us who grew up here and even more special to those of us who moved back.

The new bridge can take me anywhere I want to go. But, only the old bridge can really bring me back home.

(Photographs for this story were taken by my good friend, Tanner Brice). Thanks, Buddy!


  1. Mary Carney17 April, 2010

    Loved this story. I have a scar on my ankle from a time we made a trip across the bridge with the Girl Scouts and the person in front of me accidently caused a cinder block to fall to land on my foot - must have been closed for repair and that's why we were walking across. You're right - I can still hear the sound the car makes as it crosses. Used to wake you up if you had been sleeping on the way home. Thanks for sharing those memories.

  2. What a heart warming tribute to your special piece of yesteryear. The simplicity of your sweet memories brought tears to my eyes. Not to mention the glorious photos of the grand old bridge. Bravo !!!