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Historic American Engineering Record
Fortieth Street Bridge
Washington Crossing Bridge
(Allegheny River Bridge Number 7)
HAER No. PA-447
Pennsylvania Historic Bridges Recording Project - I
Spanning Allegheny River
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That this decline in river traffic is not due to the interference of the bridges is shown by the statement that the navigation facilities are better than ever before, but is due to the lack of modern terminal facilities, boats and methods of carrying on business.
While the fate of the Allegheny River bridges was being argued by the War Department, river interests and the bridge companies, another debate was raging over the bridges. The Allegheny River vehicular (highway) bridges all were toll bridges between Pittsburgh and Allegheny City built, owned and operated by private corporations. Residents of Allegheny County had been pressuring elected officials to remove the tolls charged to cross the river. In 1910, moves were underway by Allegheny County commissioners to comply with the wishes of their constituents in eliminating the river crossing tolls (i.e., buying or condemning the toll bridges). The County, however, was unsure how to proceed because of the potential financial liability posed by assuming ownership of bridges that may be ordered "raised" by the War Department. Allegheny County's difficult position was spelled out in a 1910 letter to Secretary of War J.M. Dickinson:
As the question of the Federal action of raising the bridges affects the citizens of Allegheny County in their progress towards freeing the bridges over the Allegheny River, wont [sic.] you kindly advise when there will be a hearing held by the War Department. We cannot urge upon you too earnestly the importance of this question to the community, as neither the city or the county can risk the assumption of any obligation in attempting to purchase or condemn the bridges until the Federal Government has determined what it thinks proper. Every day's delay means additional loss to the city, and corresponding gain to the bridge companies. [Anderson 1910]
Despite no clear indication from the War Department on its decision regarding the Allegheny River bridges, the Allegheny County Board of Commissioners moved forward with their preparations to acquire the toll bridges. On December 13, 1910, they passed a resolution setting the purchase prices for the amicable acquisition of five Allegheny River bridges: the Sixth, Seventh, Ninth, Sixteenth and Thirtieth streets bridges; the County and the owners of the Forty-Third Street Bridge could not reach an acceptable compromise.
On March 6, 1911, Pittsburgh and Allegheny County thought they had their questions regarding the fate of the bridges answered when Secretary of War Dickinson -- like his predecessors -- declined to order the bridges raised. Ten days later, Allegheny County assumed control of the Sixth, Seventh, Ninth, Sixteenth and Thirtieth streets bridges and retired the tolls in a celebration marked by a parade from one bridge to the next. At each bridge, County Commissioners posted a sign that read, "This bridge, by an act of the County of Allegheny, has this day been made free to ordinary public foot and passenger travel" (The Pittsburgh Post March 17, 1911). 
3] Allegheny County engineer James G. Chalfant recounted the effort to free the toll bridges in an affidavit filed with the War Department in 1916 (Chalfant 1916).
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The toll on the Forty-Third Street Bridge was not retired until the following year because the County and the Ewalt Street Bridge Company could not agree on a purchase price. The bridge company demanded $250,000 for their bridge and the Allegheny County Board of Commissioners rejected their offer. Condemnation proceedings were undertaken and the Forty-Third Street Bridge was acquired by the County June 8, 1912 for $120,304 -- less than half the bridge company's asking price. After the acquisition of the Forty-Third Street Bridge, the County had expended more than $2.5 million (Chalfant 1916).
Finally, because of Congressional pressure, the order was issued to raise the Allegheny River bridges. On March 23, 1917, Secretary of War Newton D. Baker informed Allegheny County by letter that six "obstructive bridges crossing the Allegheny River" must be modified, i.e., "raised," to be in compliance with a provision in the river and harbor act of March 3, 1899 (55th Cong. 3d sess. Chap. 425 Sect. 18) (United States. War Department 1920:1361). Baker's letter was based on a May 12, 1917 recommendation by the Chief of Engineers that the bridges were obstructive, i.e., were too low to the surface of the Allegheny River (United States. War Department 1920:1361).
Although Baker issued his order to raise the Allegheny River bridges in 1917, the substantive basis for the decree originated in a 1912 report prepared by the U.S. Army Chief of Engineers and delivered to the U.S. House of Representatives (United States. War Department 1912). Writing for the Corps of Engineers, Lt. Col. H.C. Newcomer reported:
Navigation in the Allegheny River is obstructed by a number of low bridges . . . . Under existing conditions of navigation the most obstructive bridges are the eight found within a few miles of the mouth from Sixth Street to Forty-Third Street, inclusive, at Pittsburgh. [United States. War Department 1912:5]
Newcomer noted that the clearance heights of the obstructive bridges ranged from 27.7 feet to thirty-six feet above normal pool level (United States. War Department 1912:5). The Forty-Third Street Bridge -- located 3.5 miles upstream from the mouth of the Allegheny River -- and which the Washington Crossing bridge was built to replace, was the lowest and most problematic bridge in the survey. The Forty-Third Street Bridge had a clearance of 27.7 feet above normal pool level and the width between the centers of its four piers was only 244 feet (United States. War Department 1912:12).
In 1912, the U.S. Congress passed a hefty river and harbor act in which $300,000 was appropriated for improvements to the Allegheny River and harbor at Pittsburgh (62d Cong. 2d sess. Chap. 253). The appropriation was made subject to a matching contribution made by "local interests" and was revoked in light of the unfavorable U.S. Army Chief of Engineers report on the obstructive bridges of the Allegheny River (62d Cong. 3d sess. Chap. 144; see (United States. War Department 1912)). Instead, the Congress made the $300,000 appropriation subject to the receipt by the Secretary of War that "satisfactory assurances that channel spans of the
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bridges forming unreasonable obstructions to the navigation of the Allegheny River will be modified as recommended" (62d Cong. 3d sess. Chap. 144 p. 805).
The order to "raise" (or, more correctly, raze) the Forty-Third Street Bridge and its sister structures (the Sixth, Seventh, Ninth, Sixteenth and Thirtieth streets bridges) along the Allegheny River hit Allegheny County hard. The day after the city received Baker's letter, the Pittsburgh Post (March 24, 1917) quoted city and county sources who estimated that compliance with the order would cost local governments (and the Pennsylvania Railroad), the bridges' owners, in excess of $10 million. Although the County vowed to fight the order on the basis of its constitutionality, the legal precedents for compliance with the 1899 Act favored the War Department.
The day after Secretary of War Baker ordered the Allegheny River bridges raised, on May 24, 1917, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a bill in what may have been a related measure to help local governments (such as Allegheny County) cope with the financial and planning hardships posed by the War Department decree. The bill authorized counties "to locate, lay out, open, construct, and maintain public bridges, whether wholly or partly within any city, borough, or township, across any river or stream" and to "appropriate money, levy taxes and incur indebtedness" to build the bridges (1917 P.L. 276).
Two years passed between the initial order issued by Secretary of War Baker and the passage on February 27, 1919 of H.R. 13648, "An Act Granting the consent of Congress to the County of Allegheny, Pennsylvania, to construct, maintain, and operate a bridge across the Allegheny River at or near Millvale Borough, in the County of Allegheny, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania" (65th Cong. 3d sess. Chap. 67). Because of the outbreak of the First World War, the War Department put its Pittsburgh agenda on hold. The effort to improve the Allegheny River was revived after the 1918 Armistice. The War Department again notified Allegheny County on May 25, 1919, three months after the U.S. Congress passed the legislation authorizing the construction of a bridge at Fortieth Street (United States. War Department 1920:1361).
On May 28, 1919, only three days after the second War Department order directing Allegheny County to bring its bridges over the Allegheny River into legislative compliance, the Allegheny County Board of Commissioners selected Pittsburgh architect Benno Janssen to "design and supervise the building of the Fortieth Street Bridge" (Allegheny County. Board of Commissioners 1918-1920, 7:147). Janssen (1874-1964) was born in St. Louis, Missouri and was educated at the University of Kansas. He moved to Boston in 1899 where he worked in architecture and continued to study the field at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1902, Janssen left Boston for two years in Paris and by 1905 he was living in Pittsburgh working for the architectural firm MacClure and Spahr. After only one year in Pittsburgh, Janssen split from the firm and, along with Franklin Abbott, formed his own partnership (Kidney 1985:78; Van Trump 1983:114).
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The firm of Janssen and Abbott remained active until Abbott's retirement some time before 1922 (Van Trump 1983:114). In 1922 Janssen formed his second partnership, this one with William York Cocken (Van Trump 1983:115). Throughout his career Janssen became well known in Pittsburgh for his classical interpretation of commercial and institutional architecture and residential designs executed in the popular Tudor Revival style (Van Trump 1983:111-118). Although Janssen designed a number of memorable Pittsburgh public and private buildings (including private clubs such as the Pittsburgh Athletic Association building and a now demolished Y.W.C.A.), his biographers failed to mention his work on the Washington Crossing bridge (Kidney 1985; Van Trump 1983). According to the flamboyant historian of Pittsburgh architecture James Van Trump, Janssen retired in 1939 and he died in Charlottesville, Virginia October 14, 1964 (Van Trump 1983:111).
Charles Stratton Davis
The engineer who collaborated with Janssen in the design and construction of the Washington Crossing bridge, Charles Stratton Davis (1866-1942), was a native of Oxford, New York. He studied civil engineering at Cornell University and received his engineering degree in 1889 (Davis 1942:1737). After working for the Massillon Bridge Company in Ohio (1889 through 1907), Davis had his own practice based in Toledo, Ohio until 1914 when he was appointed senior structural engineer in the southern district of the Interstate Commerce Commission (Davis 1942:1738). In 1919 Davis returned to private practice, this time in Pittsburgh. His first Pittsburgh project, according to his obituary published in the Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers, was the Washington Crossing bridge (Davis 1942:1738). 
Design of the Fortieth Street Bridge
Plans prepared by Janssen and Davis were approved by Allegheny County Chief Engineer J.G. Chalfant during the first half of 1921. 5 At the local level, with the plans approved by the Allegheny County Engineer and Board of Commissioners, the War Department and with the federal legislation in place authorizing the construction of the Fortieth Street Bridge, Allegheny County began implementing the steps necessary to fund and build the new bridge. The first step
4] Unfortunately, Davis' obituary incorrectly identified the Washington Crossing bridge as "a concrete arch bridge over the Allegheny River . . ." (Davis 1942:1738).
5] J.G. Chalfant was the Allegheny County Chief Engineer during much of the Allegheny River bridge raising debate. Illness forced to him to leave his position and on August 14, 1922, he was replaced by engineer Vernon R. Covell (Covell 1926:87). Chalfant died August 26, 1922 (Anonymous 1924).
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took place in the Allegheny County Court of Quarter Sessions (No. 1 April 1921). In accordance with the Pennsylvania Act of Assembly of May 24, 1917 (1917 P.L. 276), the Allegheny County Court of Quarter Sessions authorized "the construction and maintenance of a public bridge with its approaches as a county bridge crossing the Allegheny River . . . between the City of Pittsburgh and Borough of Millvale, said bridge was designated as Bridge No. 7, Allegheny River" (Allegheny County. Board of Commissioners 1922-1923, 9:377).
The decision to award the contract to design the Fortieth Street Bridge, as well as the other Allegheny River bridges, to architectural firms spurred professional engineers in Western Pennsylvania to mount a vigorous protest against the county's decision. "This decision," wrote engineer Covell in 1925, "brought out some sharp criticism on the part of engineers as to the justice of placing in the hands of architects work based predominantly on engineering principals" (Covell 1926:90).
Debate revolving around whether architects or engineers should be entrusted to design and build Pittsburgh's bridges raged throughout much of the 1920s. The first salvo was fired in December, 1919, when the Engineers' Society of Western Pennsylvania passed a resolution to be forwarded to the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers critical of the county's decision to use architects to design its bridges (Engineers' Society of Western Pennsylvania 1920:11-12).
The conflict was reported nationally in 1923 by the trade journal the Engineering News-Record. The publication reported that the Engineers' Society of Western Pennsylvania passed a second resolution in May, 1923 "against the delegation of the bridge design to architects":
Whereas, it has been brought to the attention of the Board of Direction of the American Society of Civil Engineers that the Commissioners of the County of Allegheny, Pennsylvania, have under consideration the employment of architects for preparing plans and specifications and for supervising the construction of several important bridges in the city of Pittsburgh and
Whereas, these bridges are primarily engineering works demanding safety and economy and involving principles of design, construction and maintenance which come indisputably within the province of engineers and
Whereas, it is detrimental to the public interest to subordinate safety utility adequacy for future traffic and cost of these structures to their appearance, although it is recognized that the embellishment and aesthetic features of bridges may be properly be entrusted to those especially skilled in architecture Therefore be it resolved, that the responsibility for the design and supervision of such bridges should be entrusted only to qualified civil engineers . . . . [Engineering News-Record 1923:157]
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Although the debate was rendered moot when the Allegheny County Department of Public Works was formed with a suitable force of architects and engineers working under one roof (Covell 1926:90; Farrington, et al. 1982), local engineers continued to discuss the architects versus engineers dilemma. As a result, the Fortieth and Sixteenth streets bridges were the only Allegheny River bridges designed by outside contractors.6 Nearly six years after the Fortieth Street Bridge was completed, engineer Charles Strattton Davis found himself engaged in a debate with his fellow engineers defending the design and construction process used on the Fortieth Street Bridge:
In the case of the Washington Crossing bridge there was earnest cooperation between the architect and the engineer to the end that the finished structure had both architectural and engineering merit and did not violate the principles of good design. [Watson 1930:81]
Davis went on to take a swing at the engineering purists arguing against the involvement of architects in the design and construction of bridges. He set his sights directly on Vernon R. Covell and his colleagues in the newly formed Bureau of Bridges in the Allegheny County Department of Public Works:
Even though the Sixth Street bridge over the Allegheny River received the award of the American Institute of Steel Construction as the most beautiful bridge built in 1928, I have the temerity to say thta this bridge and those at Seventh Street and Ninth Street violate the principles of good bridge design. They are fictitious structures, having the appearance of suspension bridges but in reality being bridges of the cantilever type . . . . [Watson 1930:82]
6] This fact is clearly evident when their ornate architectural details are contrasted with the raw engineering aesthetics of the "three sisters" bridges, the eye-bar, self-anchoring suspension bridges constructed over the Allegheny River at Sixth, Seventh and Ninth streets.
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The Allegheny County Board of Commissioners on October 25, 1922 approved an advertisement to run in the Engineering News-Record for bids to construct the Fortieth Street Bridge (Allegheny County. Board of Commissioners 1922-1923, 9:260). That same day, they instructed the County Solicitor to prepare a resolution for the issuance of $2.5 million in bridge bonds for construction of the Fortieth Street Bridge. Allegheny County subsequently issued 2,250 one thousand dollar bonds "designated as >Bridge Bond, Series 11' " (Allegheny County. Board of Commissioners 1922-1923, 9:309). The twenty-five year bonds, issued at 4.25 percent per annum, were payable semi-annually from January 1, 1924 through January 1, 1953. 
Construction of the Fortieth Street Bridge was divided into six sections: Substructure, Superstructure, Pavement, Ohio Street reconstruction, Ornamental Work and Electrical Work. Individual contractors were responsible for completion of each section. Table 1 presents the contractors selected for each section of the work.
|FORTIETH STREET BRIDGE CONSTRUCTION: |
|1 Substructure||H.P. Converse and Companyv||$854,692.79|
|2 Superstructure||McClintic-Marshall Company|| $728,677.51|
|3 Paving||J.H. McQuade and Sons||$68,584.55|
|4 Ohio Street||Thomas Cronin Company|| $197,205.30|
|5 Ornamental Work||All-Steel Equipment Company|| $32,092.00|
|6 Electrical||Morganstern Electric Company||$4,695.00|
7] Additional funding for the bridge came from railroads over whose rights-of-way the bridge crossed. The Forty-Third Street bridge, prior to construction of the bridge at Fortieth Street, crossed the railroads at grade causing problems for the railroads and for people trying to cross. The Pennsylvania Railroad and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad contributed $300,000 toward construction of the Fortieth Street bridge, at the behest of Allegheny County Commissioners (Covell 1926:91).
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Because of delays incurred by Allegheny County in proceeding with construction of the bridge, the U.S. Congress had to pass legislation extending the time allotted to the county for completion of the Fortieth Street Bridge. This act amending the earlier authorizing legislation was passed June 14, 1920 (66th Cong. 2d sess. Chapt. 289); it gave Allegheny County until 1924 to complete the Fortieth Street bridge.
H.P. Converse Company
The contract for construction of the substructure (piers and towers) was awarded to the H.P. Converse Company of Boston, Massachusetts. Bids for six designs (lettered "A" through "F") were received by Allegheny County. The H.P. Converse Company provided the lowest bids for each of the six designs against the Dravo Contracting Company and the Vang Construction Company (Allegheny County. Board of Commissioners 1922-1923, 9:287). Allegheny County Commissioners awarded the H.P. Converse and Company the contract for Section 1, Substructure, for Design "D" at $854,692.79 on February 6, 1923 (Allegheny County. Board of Commissioners 1922-1923, 9:332).
McClintic-Marshall Construction Company
Chartered in 1913 "for the purpose of the construction and erection of all kinds of buildings, bridges and structures . . ." (Allegheny County Charter Book 47:397). Capitalized at $100,000, the Company's initial subscribers were Alexander Black, Miles H. England, Hugh R. Domka, Charles O. Miller and Earl J. Patterson.8 The McClintic Marshall Company had its beginnings in the McClintic-Marshall Construction Company, incorporated in 1900 by C.D. (Charles D.) Marshall and H.H. (Howard H.) McClintic, as well as Andrew W. Mellon, Richard B. Mellon and W.S. Mitchell (Allegheny County Charter Book 26: 172). This early McClintic Marshall Construction Company was chartered "for the purpose of the manufacture of iron and steel or both or of any metal or article of commerce from metal or wood or both."
Howard Hale McClintic (d. August 5, 1938) and Charles Donnell Marshall (d. May 16, 1945) were classmates in engineering school at Lehigh University (Who's Who in America 1935:1553, 1595). They graduated in 1888 and in January, 1890 they and three associates chartered the Shiffler Bridge Company in Pittsburgh (Allegheny County Charter Book 14:343). Capitalized at
8] Patterson owned a controlling interest in the company with 900 shares. The charter noted that while the other subscribers paid for their shares in cash, Patterson's shares were paid for "by transfer of personal property to said corporation" (Allegheny County Charter Book 47:397).
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$5,000, the Shiffler Bridge Company was formed to manufacture "iron or steel or both, or any other metal or . . . any other article of commerce from metal or wood or both." 
The predecessor to the McClintic-Marshall Construction Company, the Shiffler Bridge Company, was merged into the American Bridge Company along with twenty-three other bridge companies in the Spring of 1900 (see Darnell 1985:85). On May 10, 1900, the Shiffler Bridge Company transferred the title to all of its Allegheny County real estate and rights of way for $90,600 (Allegheny County Deed Book 1087:20). The preceeding day, the Carnegie Steel Company transferred the title to its real property assets to the newly formed American Bridge Company for a nominal ten dollars (Allegheny County Deed Book 1085:13).
Five year after the formation of the McClintic-Marshall Company, Alexander Black (a minority shareholder [5 shares], according to the 1913 charter) formed the McClintic-Marshall Corporation "for the purpose of the construction, erection and equipment of all kinds of buildings, bridges, structures and pipelines above ground, underground . . ." (Allegheny County Charter Book 52:394).
9] Bridge historian Victor Darnell incorrectly wrote that the Shiffler Bridge Company "was organized in 1870s" (1984:69).
HAER Text: Dr. David S. Rotenstein, 1997. [Eric DeLony (Chief, HAER); Dr. Mark Brown, project historian; Robert Grzywacz, architectural field supervisor] ; Pennsylvania Historic Bridges Recording Project - I
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