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Main Street Califon Bridge


a grand old lady in white

Portal view of Main Street Bridge in Califon NJ from the downtown Historic District. Nice, but wait! Who's that guy on top of the bridge?

Photo taken by Andrew Pearce in August 2012


BH Photo #238441

Street View 


"The bridge carries 2-lane wide Main Street over the South Branch of the Raritan River. It is located in the Califon Historic District, surrounded by 19th century residences and shops. Described in the nomination as "a documentary of life in a small 19th century rural based village," Califon was a stop on the High Bridge Railroad. The bridge was part of the farmers' access to market."

"PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: The single-span pin-connected thru truss bridge with cantilevered sidewalks was rehabilitated and widened in 1985, when it was converted into a stringer span with a thru-truss superstructure. Prior to 1985 the floor beam hangers and diagonals in the outside panels had been strengthened. The sensitive rehabilitation considered aesthetic elements, duplicating lattice portals and retaining original fabric. Decorative finials, balls, and plaque remain. The plaque identifies the builder as I. P. Bartley of Bartley, N.J. The original pin connections and elongated hangers are still present. The original fieldstone abutments are encased in concrete. Some original steel fabric is stamped "Carnegie."

HISTORICAL AND TECHNOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE: The pin-connected Pratt thru truss bridge built in 1887 is individually historically significant as an example of a small local bridge-building firm, I.P. Bartley of Mount Olive Township in nearby Morris County. The bridge is one of less than 5 examples of the firms work. It was widened in 1985 when rolled I-section steel stringers were added beneath the trusses and the bridge functionally became a stringer rather than a truss span, but the original fabric of the span was preserved."

my take on modernization efforts: it can be done right 

Written by Andrew Pearce

This bridge is just about the same design, age, and length as the bridge in Bloomsbury on the west side of the county (http://bridgehunter.com/scripts/bridge/edit.cgi), and both have suffered the same fate: modernization that forced widening which in turn forced the bridges to become decorative trusses placed on top of modern stringer bridges. But the one here in Califon was only widened a bit, perhaps 6 feet, so it doesn't look anywhere near as disproportional as it's cousin to the west. The white paint might help too. I asked the guys preparing the bridge for painting if it was going to stay white, but they didn't know. I hope it does. We have scores of truss bridges in the county painted pale green, so one white bridge in decent shape would be nice.

While this bridge has suffered a few bashes and bangs over the years, which I hope will get straightened out, the modernization of this one (which occurred almost 30 years ago) was done in a much better way than the horrifying "emergency splint" fix done for the White Bridge Road bridge a few miles to the south (http://bridgehunter.com/nj/hunterdon/white/), perhaps because it wasn't done as an emergency repair. The modernization wasn't even as blatant as the job done on the Valley Road Bridge (http://bridgehunter.com/nj/hunterdon/10XXB26/), which was well done but not subtle. Purists may not like it, but I feel that these modernizations are an honest attempt to keep us in touch with our past. Sure, a modernization that keeps the old truss at least halfway active, like the awesome job done on the Rockafellows Mills bridge (http://bridgehunter.com/nj/hunterdon/10RQ164/) is the best we can hope for, but that one is in a rarely used out of the way corner of the county. When the old bridge is literally on Main Street like this one, and needs to be 2 lanes wide and handle big trucks, what else can you do, other than tear it out and put in boring modern concrete?


Pratt through truss bridge over South Branch Raritan River on County Route 512
Califon, Hunterdon County, New Jersey
Open to traffic
Built 1887; altered 1985; rehabilitated 1987
- I.P. Bartley & Co. of Bartley, New Jersey
Steel stringer underneath pin connected Pratt through truss
Length of largest span: 95.1 ft.
Total length: 100.1 ft.
Deck width: 24.0 ft.
Eligible for the National Register of Historic Places
Also called
Califon Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+40.72056, -74.83750   (decimal degrees)
40°43'14" N, 74°50'15" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
18/513724/4507749 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Average daily traffic (as of 2017)
Inventory numbers
NJ 100J001 (New Jersey bridge number)
BH 53366 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection report (as of April 2017)
Overall condition: Fair
Superstructure condition rating: Good (7 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Deck condition rating: Good (7 out of 9)
Sufficiency rating: 77.3 (out of 100)
View more at BridgeReports.com

Update Log 

  • June 6, 2019: New photo from Art Suckewer
  • January 9, 2019: New Street View added by Dana and Kay Klein
  • January 11, 2018: New photo from Art Suckewer
  • December 24, 2014: HAER photos posted by Dave King
  • August 31, 2012: Essay added by Andrew Pearce



Main Street Califon Bridge
Posted June 11, 2015, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

If you view this photo in original size (you have to cut and paste the link, it wouldn't post right):


so that you can see the detail of the finials on the bridge, noting not only the spherical top portion, but more importantly the distinctive rectangular portion on the bottom of the finial, you will find yet another strong argument that Massillon Bridge Company fabricated this bridge, with I P Bartley likely being the on-site erection contractor.

The finials on this bridge are the same design as the 6th Street Bridge in Grand Rapids: http://historicbridges.org/bridges/browser/?bridgebrowser=tr... ... as well as the long-demolished Fulton Street Bridge, also a Massillon in Grand Rapids: http://grpl.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15...

Main Street Califon Bridge
Posted September 1, 2012, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

If I had to wager I would still bet that Massillon was involved and likely supplied the trusses to this firm who then erected them. This was likely a smaller company that unlike the large Ohio firm, had no manufacturing facility.

I am familiar with several firms here in Indiana that supplied trusses for contractors who then took credit for "building" the actual bridge. These firms sometimes even discretely supplied those trusses to their competitors.

Main Street Califon Bridge
Posted September 1, 2012, by Andrew Pearce (drew458 [at] barking-moonbat [dot] com)

Yes, that does appear to be exactly the same style of plaque. I wonder if it is even the same size. There was probably lots of copying going on in those days, and/or such things were available out of the parts catalogs, like all the cast iron architectural building bits being made at the time.

Main Street Califon Bridge
Posted August 31, 2012, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Look at pic #12 and compare to the photo below.

They either stole Massillon Bridge Company's plaque design...or Massillon actually built this and the other firm erected it.