The bridge is an ornate structure, with decorative knees on the sway and portal bracing, as well as very decorative railings with a Tree of Life design to them and ornate cast posts at the ends of the railing system, which extends beyond the bridge onto the abutments. The complex (and uncommon) pin-connected Baltimore truss configuration on the bridge serves a utilitarian purpose, but also adds to the complexity and the geometric beauty of this bridge. The experience of crossing this bridge is very dramatic with a strong "tunnel effect" experience.
As mentioned, the historic integrity of this bridge is good. However there is one exception, that while minor to the overall bridge's integrity, is still worth noting. The bridge originally had a unique patented roller bearing nests that were patented by George S. Morison of Chicago, IL. These have been replaced. Also, the plaques on the bridge are not original and apparently date to 1975. Several panels of the railing on the bridge have been replaced, but these were replaced in-kind.
The bridge was originally painted in a multi-color paint scheme. Historic American Engineering Record mentions this was a common tradition in the 19th Century, and was done to distinguish the different structural functions by a different color. The Falls Bridge's colors were white, buff, brown and red. Color schemes with multiple colors can really bring out the beauty in a historic bridge, but unfortunately the use of multi-color paint schemes on bridges is virtually unheard of in North America, although it remains more common in some European locations particularly England. A discussion of this is presented on the Hammersmith Bridge page. For much of the 20th Century, the bridge was painted light green. It is today painted a white color. While the current white color of the bridge is very beautiful and really brings out the details in the bridge, it would be an interesting future preservation project to repaint the bridge in the original multi-color scheme.
The south end (sometimes referred to as the west end) of each span on this bridge is 2 feet 8 inches higher than the other end because the bridge is built with a 1.5% grade.
This is the sixth bridge at this location. The first wire suspension bridge in the country was erected here.
This bridge might be thought of as an older and more ornate version of the Foxburg Bridge.
This bridge is of a design I never saw before.Seems to be in great shape for it's age.Funny that of all of the times I have been in philly being that my father was from philly I don't remember this bridge.Of course I could have crossed it and not realized it.
Update article on maintenance with a neat picture:
Patrick: Yeah, I realized as soon as I posted the HAER photos that I was stepping on your toes. I've rearranged all the photos though so everything should be in the right order.