Henry Avenue Bridge over Gorgas Lane — Theory and Reality

[THE MODERN MAN REVIEWS THE HENRY AVE. BRIDGE OVER GORGAS RUN, 1956]

The history of fording the steep declines of the Wissahickon is dominated by an old guard of classic reinforced concrete bridges–the Walnut Lane (1908), the Wissahickon Memorial (1932) but in 1950 the city took a gamble on a new technology, prestressed concrete, in the construction of the Walnut Lane Memorial Bridge.  Designed by noted Belgian architect Gustav Magnel, the Walnut Lane Memorial Bridge is arguably just as significant as its arched cousin, though the ubiquity of prestressed concrete girders throughout all of America tends to diminish its visual uniqueness.

Six years later, the Henry Avenue Bridge over Gorgas Lane and Run also tried its hand at prestressed concrete girders.  To bridge both Gorgas Lane,  a tiny old rutted 19th century road turned recreational path, and babbling Gorgas Run engineers envisioned a series of pert concrete piers holding up a strong linear roadway simultaneously above and through the Wissahickon’s dense tree canopy.  Unobtrusive, modern and delicately transparent, the bridge’s high arboreal piers would blend seamlessly with the dense woodland behind it.

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