31 votes

Wheeling Suspension Bridge


Oblique View From Wheeling Island

This antebellum bridge was, at one time, the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere and today, may be the oldest suspension bridge, still in use, in the Western Hemisphere.

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in October 2007

BH Photo #110508

Street Views 


Suspension bridge over Ohio River on WV 251 in Wheeling
Wheeling, Ohio County, West Virginia
Open to pedestrians only
Built 1849; collapsed May 17, 1854; temporary bridge reopened July 26, 1854; permanent bridge reopened July 1860; improvements made 1871-72, 1886, 1922, 1930, 1956 and other years
- Charles Ellet (original 1849 construction, 1854 temporary reconstruction)
- Joseph Lawson (superintendent, 1865-1923)
- Washington A. Roebling (design of 1871-72 improvements)
- William Hildenbrand (1871-72, 1886 improvements)
- William McComas (1854 temporary reconstruction, 1859-60 improvements)
Wire suspension
Length of largest span: 949.2 ft.
Total length: 1,307.2 ft.
Deck width: 20.0 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 22.7 ft.
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on January 26, 1970
Approximate latitude, longitude
+40.07019, -80.72714   (decimal degrees)
40°04'13" N, 80°43'38" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
17/523267/4435583 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Average daily traffic (as of 2016)
Inventory numbers
NRHP 70000662 (National Register of Historic Places reference number)
BH 35334 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection report (as of May 2018)
Overall condition: Fair
Superstructure condition rating: Fair (5 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Deck condition rating: Good (7 out of 9)
Sufficiency rating: 16.1 (out of 100)
View more at BridgeReports.com

Update Log 

  • January 23, 2023: New photos from Sherman Cahal
  • February 14, 2022: New photos from Bambi Sharkoman
  • November 5, 2021: New photo from Geoff Hubbs
  • October 7, 2020: New photos from Patrick Gurwell
  • September 13, 2020: New photos from Matthew Hemmer
  • January 5, 2020: New photo from John Christeson
  • January 2, 2020: New photo from Michael Miller
  • July 31, 2016: New photos from Royce and Bobette Haley
  • July 25, 2016: New photo from Royce and Bobette Haley
  • May 19, 2016: New photo from Art Suckewer
  • October 17, 2014: New photos from Patrick S. O'Donnell
  • July 10, 2014: New photos from Andrew Raker
  • October 1, 2013: New Street View added by Michael Miller
  • October 7, 2010: New photos from Jason Smith
  • August 15, 2010: New Street View added by James Baughn
  • January 27, 2010: Updated by J.R. Manning: Updated builder info
  • July 4, 2009: Posted HAER photos
  • March 19, 2009: Updated by Curtis Lee
  • October 8, 2008: New photo from Rick Mattioni
  • February 24, 2008: New photos from J.R. Manning
  • January 29, 2008: New photos from J.R. Manning


  • J.R. Manning - thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net
  • Rick Mattioni
  • Curtis A. Lee - leefam408 [at] outlook [dot] com
  • HAER WV-2 - Wheeling Suspension Bridge, Spanning East channel of Ohio River at U.S. Route , Wheeling, Ohio County, WV
  • National Register nomination
  • Wikipedia
  • Jason Smith - flensburg [dot] bridgehunter [dot] av [at] googlemail [dot] com
  • Historicbridges.org - by Nathan Holth
  • Todd Wilson
  • Michael Miller - michael_a_miller [at] yahoo [dot] com
  • Andrew Raker
  • Patrick S. O'Donnell - 1 [dot] 991km [at] comcast [dot] net
  • Art Suckewer - Asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com
  • Royce and Bobette Haley - roycehaley111 [at] yahoo [dot] com
  • John Christeson - john_christeson [at] yahoo [dot] com
  • Matthew Hemmer - matthemmer1994 [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Patrick Gurwell - pgurwell [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Geoff Hubbs
  • Jesse Sharkoman Berube - jesseberube5 [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Sherman Cahal


Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted September 26, 2020, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Suffice to say they are both really old!

Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted September 26, 2020, by Art S. (Asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)


Thank you for the explanation. Personally, I think its splitting hairs and parsing words but if it helps with the preservation of the Cincinnati span, why not.


Art S.

Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted September 26, 2020, by Patrick Gurwell (pgurwell [at] gmail [dot] com)

Ed and Art,

I was reading the book 'John A Roebling and His Suspension Bridge On The Ohio River', by Don Heinrich Tolzmann, who happens to also be the gentlemen interviewed on the YouTube video that was referenced originally. There is a historic marker at the JA Roebling Bridge stating, "The first bridge to span Ohio River."

I received confirmation from Mr Tolzmann that because the Wheeling Suspension. Bridge goes from the West Virginia side of the Ohio, to Wheeling Island, it does not cross the Ohio completely. The JA Roebling Bridge was the first to span the river from shore to shore.


Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted September 13, 2020, by Art S. (Asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)


In regards to question 1: I am struggling to find any reasonable way to justify 'the oldest' claim. Maybe, at the time, oldest open to traffic over the Ohio?

Wheeling is older, built in 1849. Washington Roebling was directly involved in designing/implementing improvements in 1871-1872 but that isn't particular relevant to the question.

John Roebling's oldest surviving bridge is over the Delaware River: https://bridgehunter.com/pa/pike/delaware-aqueduct/ built in 1848 and its open to traffic.

I believe there are intact suspension chains for even older suspension bridges still intact.

In regards to question 2: I think that depends on your definition of progress :^)


Art S.

Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted September 13, 2020, by Ed Hollowell (erhollowell [at] aol [dot] com)

See the video Roebling Suspension Bridge, Cincinnati, Ohio https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CA7htW1HcJg

It is claimed to be oldest there.

Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted September 11, 2020, by Patrick Gurwell (pgurwell [at] gmail [dot] com)

Who said the Roebling Bridge in Cincinatti was the oldest suspension bridge in the United States?

Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted September 11, 2020, by Ed Hollowell (erhollowell [at] aol [dot] com)

Two questions:

1) How does the Roebling Bridge in Cincinnati justify it's claim to be the oldest suspension bridge in the country?

2) Has there been any progress towards a renovation of this bridge?

Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted September 24, 2019, by Daniel

That's probably the lowest non-zero weight limit I've seen on a bridge. Plenty of typical passenger vehicles are over 2 tons.

Makes sense to me that they're closing it period.

Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted September 24, 2019, by Anonymous

Bridge indefinitely closed to all motorized vehicles, remains open to pedestrians due to repeated disregard of weight and height restrictions


Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted June 23, 2019, by Anne Heidelbach Shepherd (jashep352 [at] icloud [dot] com)

My Mom used to take me from SHADYSIDE to Wheeling Island ( to visit my Aunt Mrs. Frank (Claire) KEEFER ) and then to Wheeling to shop. We would walk over the old suspension bridge and I was scared to death ! Some of the wooden boards were missing (in the early to mid 50ís) that we walked on and Mom held my hand tightly !! It was scary but thrilling at the same time . I have many memories crossing the old bridges on the river. Taking the bus to Bellaire and Bridgeport and walking all the bridges. I havenít been back to Ohio since 1980 and miss the Ohio Valley and bridges !! Thank heavens for memories and great pictures likes these ! My Dad ran the North American Coal Co. , Nacco Mining and Quarto Mining in Powhatan Point, Ohio. We rode the ferries too !!! Exciting time to grow up . Kids today have no idea what a great life we had. Cell phones are ruining everyone !! Historic places are disappearing and it is heart breaking. Thank you for preserving our history.

Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted April 20, 2017, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Hi Larry:

Thanks for the comment. Personal stories like this really illustrate the importance of our historic bridges.

Bridgehunter does not maintain any archives. The bridge company may, or may not have kept an archival collection. If they did have an archival collection, it is hard to say where it would be now.

I would suggest checking with the West Virginia Division of Culture and History as I believe that they maintain the archives for the State of West Virginia:


The Ohio County Library may be another good source.


Good luck with your search. If you find some further information, please feel free to contribute on here.

Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted April 20, 2017, by larry Anderson (lbanderson [at] windstream [dot] net)

My third G-Grandfather came from Ireland and worked on the bridge from 1849 till his death as toll keeper in 1872.Would like to find information on the bridge CO.about employees etc etc.any information would be greatly appreciated.

Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted July 25, 2016, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Its nice they are trying to raise awareness of both the history and the often ignored weight limit. My first visit to the bridge was memorable, some local saw me taking pictures and asked me what was so special about it. Funny how people can be so ignorant.

Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted July 25, 2016, by Royce and Bobette Haley (roycehaley111 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Police were handing these out as we drove over the bridge in mid May/2016

Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted May 21, 2016, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)

Great news, driver education and enforcement of weight limits!!:


Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted March 24, 2016, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)
Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted October 30, 2015, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)

Closed due to accident then fixed and reopened in two days:


Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted February 23, 2015, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)
Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted January 16, 2015, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)
Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted April 2, 2014, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)

Apparently it will stay closed for another two years:


Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted March 4, 2013, by Jason Smith (JDSmith77 [at] gmx [dot] net)

This bridge has been closed to traffic due to a cable snapping at the top of one of the towers. See link:


Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted December 7, 2010, by jason (ccmarsh15 [at] aol [dot] com)

The fixture on the tower may in fact be related to a gate as it was a toll bridge when first opened.

Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted April 20, 2010, by Don Sayenga (Dsayenga [at] gmail [dot] com)

The designer of the original 1849 bridge was Charles Ellet Jr. who was the prime contractor for building it. The 1854 repairs to the bridge also were done by Ellet. Although several other engineers subsequently modified the bridge (notably William McComas and William Hildenbrand) the current appearance of the bridge is essentially the work of Joseph Lawson in 1872.

John A. Roebling was not in any way connected with the design and construction of the bridge at Wheeling.

The best reference for information about this bridge is: "The Wheeling Suspension Bridge - A Pictorial Heritage" by E.L. Kemp and B.R. Fluty,

Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., Charleston WV 1999

ISBN 1-57510-066-S

Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted October 1, 2009, by David Fickey (dlf85oak [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Spent 2 nights next to the bridge. It is very beutiful at night. Here is my favorite pictures I took from my motel balcony. Anyone who loves bridges should go see this one!

Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted August 18, 2009, by snoop (snoopdorkydork71 [at] gmail [dot] com)

What an awe inspiring bridge! I hope to get to see it in person some day.

Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted October 11, 2008, by J.R. Manning (thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net)

David, I was standing when I took that photo. I'm 5'10" tall and was looking up. I haven't been able to find any evidence that the bridge was gated at one time, but I also can't prove that it wasn't.

Wheeling Suspension Bridge
Posted October 8, 2008, by David Smothers (davidsmothers [at] msn [dot] com)

As to the unknown fixture on the pier.... It's hard to see from the angle of the picture how high it is above the deck.... if it's not too high, I ahve a strong suspicion that it is a hitching post. Let's remember when the bridge was built, there would have been only horses....this is my best guess.