Manchester Bridge

The Manchester Bridge

The Manchester Bridge was the second bridge that connected the Point with the North Shore. It was the successor to the wooden, covered Union Bridge (1874-1907), which was torn down in the Summer of 1907.

The bridge was in use for fifty-four years, from 1915 through 1969, when it was replaced by the Fort Duquesne Bridge. It was demolished the following year as one of the final acts in the completion of the Point State Park project.

The Manchester Bridge
The Manchester Bridge was known for it's ornamental relief sculptures adorning both portals.

After the demolition of the Union Bridge, the city purchased the franchise rights to the crossing and planners began the process of determining what type of new bridge would be built to link the northern and southern shores of the Allegheny River at the point. Originally called as the "North Side Point Bridge," construction began in 1911.

The Manchester Bridge
Construction of the main span took place between 1912 and 1914.

The bridge piers, constructed by the Dravo Contracting Company, were made of concrete faced with Beaver sandstone and completed in October, 1912. The final cost of the substructure was $196,000. Work began on the superstructure in August, 1912.

Constructed by the American Bridge Company, the bridge consisted of two truss spans with subdivided panels, each 531 feet long. The clearance was seventy feet above the river level. The roadway was 36 feet wide, with twelve foot sidewalks on each side. The constuction cost of the main span was $300,000.

The Manchester Bridge - 1913
The newly constructed North Side Point Bridge in 1913.

In addition to the 1062-foot main span, the bridge was flanked by two approachways, a 913 foot ramp on the Point side, and a 865 foot ramp on the north shore. Construction of the approaches began in January, 1914, with Booth and Flinn, Ltd. as the main contractor.

The Manchester Bridge
The northern approach ramp under construction in 1915.

The north approach consisted of a series of six reinforced concrete arches and a long fill between concrete retaining walls. The south approach at the Point, consisted of two concrete arches together with over 700 feet of retaining wall.

The Manchester Bridge
The Manchester Bridge on August 8, 1915, the day before the grand opening.

This approach joined the already existing ramp of the Point Bridge. Approach ramps from Water Street and Duquesne Way completed the vehicle interchange at the point. The bridge was built at a cost of $1,000,000, funded entirely by city bond issues.

The interchange at the point.
This 1952 image shows the vehicular interchange at the point.

The Manchester Bridge was dedicated by Mayor Joseph A. Armstrong and opened to traffic on August 9, 1915. A gala ceremony took place on the North Shore. Thousands of onlookers had gathered for the christening, along with local dignitaries and special guests. No sooner had the ceremony begun, a rainstorm descended upon the crowd.

The mayor stood on the platform in the driving rain and hurriedly said, "I christen this structure the Manchester Bridge." While the rain drenched crowd cheered heartily and then headed for cover, the mayor hurried to a waiting automobile.

The Manchester Bridge
Upper left - The parade; Upper Right - Officials viewing the parade, left to right, City Clerk E.J. Martin, William S.
Roe, President of the Northside Board of Trade, Public Works Director Robert Swan, Attorney C.W. Dahlinger,
Mayor Joseph G. Armstrong, Council President John M. Goehring, Councilman Robert Garland, Peter P. Shevlin;
Inset - Mayor Armstrong; Center Circle - Mayor untying the ribbon and formally opening the bridge.
Lower left - Council President Goehring making a speech; Lower right - the crowd onhand.

Preceding the ceremony was a parade in which 300 elaborately decorated passenger autombiles, trucks and wagons. Led by the Mayor, the parade formed at Pennsylvania Avenue and Chateau Street and went over the following route:

Chateau Street to Blevins Street, to Beaver Street, to Allegheny Avenue, to South Avenue and to the bridge, where the Mayor stopped and cut the orange and black ribbons stretched across the north entrance. The procession then crossed the structure to Water Street, to Smithfield Street, to Liberty Avenue, back to the bridge and back across to the north end, where the abbreviated ceremony took place.

The Manchester Bridge
Bronze plaque affixed to the Manchester Bridge at the dedication on August 9, 1915.

When the bridge was dedicated it was still without any ornamental adornment. The Manchester Bridge had been originally designed to incorporate stone portals, but they were never constructed. Ornamental reliefs were affixed to the portals in 1917.

On the Point Portal was shown, kneeling on either side of the Arms of the City of Pittsburgh, Christopher Gist, the pioneer, and Guyasuta, a local Indian chief. The Northside portal had a coal miner and a mill worker on either side of the same municipal banner. On the upright of each portal were fixed ornamental lighting fixtures and flag staffs.

The Manchester Bridge
The Manchester Bridge was the link from the Point to the North Shore from 1915 through 1969.

The Manchester Bridge stood at the Point for fifty-four years. After World War II, as the City of Pittsburgh modernized, plans for the redevelopment of the Point and transportation improvements during the 1950s Renaissance I building initiative deemed that two new bridges be built at the Point. Federal funding was used during the building of the Fort Pitt and Fort Duquesne Bridges, with the provision that the two existing point bridges be torn down.

Pittsburgh's Point in 1969
Pittsburgh's Point in 1969, showing the completed Fort Pitt and Fort Duquesne Bridges as well as the Point
and Manchester Bridges. Point State Park, a project that began in 1950, is nearing completion.

Efforts to save the historic structure failed. After the opening of the Fort Duquesne Bridge on October 17, 1969, the fate of the Manchester Bridge was sealed. The span was closed that day and demolished the following year. Dravo Corporation was awarded a $2.6 million contract from the State Highways Department to remove the bridge, approaches and piers.

The Manchester Bridge
The Fort Duquesne Bridge, Three Rivers Stadium and the soon to be demolished Manchester Bridge in 1970.
Also slightly visible in the upper right is the Point Bridge being dismantled.

The main spans were dropped on seperate days. On September 29, 1970, engineers from Controlled Explosions Inc., the detonation subcontractor for the Dravo Corporation, planned to drop the southern span that morning with a set of forty explosive charges. Due to faulty wiring, not all of the charges blew and the bridge withstood the blast.

Eleven hours later, a second set of forty charges brought the bridge section splashing down into the Allegheny River in a mere four seconds. During the following four weeks, workmen for the American Bridge Division of U.S. Steel, another subcontractor, cut apart the skeletal structure that rested partially submerged and removed the scrap steel by barge.

The Manchester Bridge    The Manchester Bridge

The Manchester Bridge
The southern span of the Manchester Bridge splashes into the Allegheny River on September 29, 1970.

The American Bridge Project Director David Maxwell described the old bridge as a "relatively primitive" structure, and the simplicity of design made explosive demolition a quick and easy operation as opposed to the piece-by-piece dismantling of the nearby Point Bridge. The northern bridge span was brought down in a textbook blast on October 28, this time using a set of eighty blasting charges.

More problematic was the long northern approach and the steel-reinforced piers under the arches, which resisted all efforts at demolition and required a series of heavy explosive charges to remove. The "Y" intersection at the Point was later relandscaped and incorporated into the Point State Park plans. On that small tip of the Golden Triangle stands the signature fountain at the junction of the three rivers.

The Manchester Bridge
The northern span of the Manchester Bridge splashes into the Allegheny River on October 28, 1970.

During the removal of the bridge, vestiges of the structure were preserved. The northern pier was left in place and intended to serve as an observation deck in the riverside park along the Allegheny River. The park, later named Roberto Clemente Park, was built as part of the construction of Three Rivers Stadium. The two portal sculptures were to be mounted on the stone-faced pier, but the project was never completed.

The Manchester Bridge

The Manchester Bridge
The upper photo shows the northern portal relief featuring Joe Magarac, the mythical steelworker,
and Jan Volkanik, hero of coal miners. The lower photo shows the southern portal relief with
frontier scout Christopher Gist and Seneca chief Guyasuta.

For many years, these sculptures were displayed outside the Old Post Office (Children's Museum) on the North Side, then placed in storage at Heinz Field. The abandoned stone pier stood silently along the shoreline for the next thirty-nine years.

In 2001, Three Rivers Stadium was replaced with Heinz Field, and there was once again talk of North Shore development and an expanded riverside park. In 2009, the stone pier was incorporated into an observation deck that included a memorial to Fred Rogers, better known as Mister Rogers, the long-time host of the children's television show, "Mister Rogers Neighborhood." The memorial, a Tribute to Children, was dedicated on November 5, 2009.

The Mister Rogers Memorial
The observation platform on the North Shore with the Mister Rogers Memorial, dedicated in November 2009.

On July 8, 2016, one of the bridge reliefs, featuring Christopher Gist and Guyasuta, was brought out of storage, restored and mounted on a wall of Corten Steel. Designed by sculptor Charles Keck and funded by a donation from the Rooney family, the relief is now displayed in a plaza near Heinz Field and the Mister Rogers memorial.

Manchester Bridge Reliefs

The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation is still working with the Manchester Citizens Corporation to find a permanent home for the figures of Joe Magarac and Jan Volkanik.

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