This bridge has been closed to traffic due to a cable snapping at the top of one of the towers. See link:
The fixture on the tower may in fact be related to a gate as it was a toll bridge when first opened.
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
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!
What an awe inspiring bridge! I hope to get to see it in person some day.
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.
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.