Bear Tavern Bridge
Photo by Preservation New Jersey September 2009
License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike (CC BY-SA)
BH Photo #449643
INFORMATION Bibliography: Simmons, David A. "Bridge Building on a National Scale: The King Iron Bridge and Manufacturing Company." The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology. Vol. 15, No. 2, 1989. Mercer County Engineers Office.
Physical Description: The six panel half-hip Pratt pin-connected thru truss with a wood deck rests on an ashlar abutments. The inclined end posts and upper chords are built-up box members composed of shallow channels with a face plate. 3" by 2" angles are used for the laced verticals. Diagonals and counters are both rods fitted with turnbuckles for tuning the bridge, and the bottom chords are made up of square eyebars with drop forged eyes. The originality of the rolled I beam floor beams is not known, but a 1972 inspection report states that they are wrought iron. The lateral bracing is connected to brackets riveted to each beam. The plain portal struts have diagonal corner braces and each strut carries a King Iron Bridge and Manufacturing Co. plaque. A few welded repairs to the verticals at the panel points are visible, but otherwise the bridge is very well preserved. Some verticals have also been bent from impact damage.
Historical and Technological Significance: The well-preserved 75'-long pin-connected thru truss fabricated by the King Iron Bridge and Manufacturing Company of Cleveland, Ohio was erected in 1882, according to its plaque, and is one of two King thru trusses from the 1880s in Mercer County. The bridge is an excellent example of a standardized pin-connected Pratt design, the most common late-19th century bridge type. On a road named for an early-19th century tavern located to the north, the Bear Tavern Road Bridge, as well as its counterpart on Mine Road (1100072), is a regionally important survivor of a historic bridge type that has become rare.
The King Iron Bridge and Manufacturing Company was established by Zenas King in Cleveland about 1860. Learning the bridge selling business in the 1850s as a salesman representing the Moseley Bridge Company (a patented tubular bowstring), King patented his own tubular bowsting bridge that was to be the company's chief product through the 1870s, and he successfully marketed it nationally through a network of regional representatives. He published catalogues in 1875 and 1884 as well as annual reports, and, as the market moved away from the light bowstring truss about 1880, he diversified his product line to include what was becoming standard thru and pony truss bridges. The King company was one of the largest and most prolific bridge fabricating firms in the country yet only less than half a dozen documented examples of the firm's work survive in New Jersey. While the company remained an active, viable concern for about a decade after the founder's death in 1892, it was not a regional force this century.
The King Iron Bridge and Manufacturing Company, known as the King Bridge Company after 1892, represents, in addition to period engineering and technology, the manner in which iron and early steel bridges were marketed in this country. The fabricator served as both engineer and builder. That practice was to disappear with the rise of the consulting engineer and the professionally trained county engineer in the early years of this century.
Boundary Description and Justification: The bridge is evaluated as individually significant. The boundary is thus limited to the span itself.