Construction of Suspension Bridge Across the Ohio River at Wheeling Authorized by Virginia General Assembly (March 19, 1847)
The Act of 1816 that established the Wheeling and Belmont Bridge Co. was amended by the General Assembly of Virginia on March 19, 1847. The amendment allowed for the sale of capital stock up to $135,000 and incorporated the Back Channel Bridge and easement across the Wheeling Island into the new company. In May of the same year, the Board of the bridge company invited Ellet and Roebling to submit their designs and cost estimates. However, the bridge company did not provide sufficient details for the bridge design, resulting in both men bidding on different structures. This was not unexpected, given the era's lack of a modern system for producing detailed contract documents. The Board asked Ellet and Roebling to revise their proposals for a direct comparison, and Ellet was ultimately appointed. Recently discovered sketches of their Wheeling bridge proposals showed a clear contrast between Ellet's bold 1000 foot span bridge and Roebling's more conservative design, which included river piers that would have been challenging to construct and posed obstacles to navigation and floodwater passage on the Ohio River. In all aspects, Ellet's design was superior, and the Board made a wise decision in choosing it.
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Mike Minder was born and raised in Wheeling, West Virginia. He is the author of Wheeling's Gambling History to 1976.