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5.13.2018

Brownsville: First Metal Arch Bridge in the US and a Borough on the Rise

The last time we were to Brownsville was a number of years ago. At that point it looked like a post-apocalyptic ghost town. When the industry fled the area, so did many of the people, leaving all of the giant business buildings decrepit and collapsing. We went back to the borough recently and were pretty shocked at the transformation progress. While there is still lots of work to be done, many of the buildings that were beyond repair have been demolished, opening up green space, and the salvageable buildings are either being used for nice grassroots businesses, or in the process of getting reused. A town square has opened up, with green space and a amphitheater for performances, right in front of the town's greatest contribution to the country and possibly the world, the proof of viability of using iron in bridge building.
The first building we will look at is the Union Station. While this building remains in limbo, my hopes are that this building gets rehabilitated into something beneficial for the community. 




The bridge still has some obstruction from overgrowth and some old foundations, but until recently, the bridge was largely surrounded with a number of abandoned buildings. These have since been demolished, and soon all of their foundations will be taken out, opening up views of this historic bridge once again. 

Many of the surviving buildings are in the process of being restored. 

This nicely manicured spot was home to decrepit buildings that have been torn down and replaced with a nice parklet, complete with an amphitheater and gardens, with the historic bridge located next door.
The bridge was widened at some point, and this pony truss section was added, being old enough to be considered historic as well.
Here is the iron arch construction that makes this bridge so meaningful. The bridge was built by the Army Corps of Engineers and intended to see the viability in creating iron bridges. With this bridge dating back to 1839, it was really ahead of its time.
The adjacent concrete arch rail bridge is pretty impressive to me as well, in addition to the bridge crossing the Mon River. At one point, Brownsville was actually larger than Pittsburgh and it was a major boatbuilding center, with more than 700 steamers being built in Brownsville and Bridgeport. 
A look towards the impressive concrete arch bridge that carries the railroad.
The foundation of a building that once obstructed Dunlap's Creek Bridge. I am not sure if there are plans to remove the foundation.
An old Monongahela Railway caboose sitting at the old rail yard for that line in South Brownsville/Bridgeport. Judging by this photo from 1992, when the caboose was painted in the Mon Railway Colors it appears that this is what paint looks like after it has been sitting for this long.

A beautiful mural

The downtown area has some really charming buildings, including the WPA era Post Office, and the Library.
Brownsville is a borough on the rise. The work they have done to open up viewing access to the historic Dunlap's Creek Bridge, and the overall downtown area, is extremely impressive. It is really a night and day difference in this place from just a few years ago. We definitely recommend checking it out if you are in the area. 

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