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Washington Memorial Bridge

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1919–1922, Benjamin H. Davis and Vance W. Torbert. Washington St. over Brandywine Creek
  • (Photograph by Matthew Aungst)
  • Washington Memorial Bridge (Delaware Postcard Collection, University of Delaware Library, Newark, Del.)

Before I-95 was built, this bridge was the main civic gateway to Wilmington when coming from the north. The state legislature approved a memorial bridge in 1919 to replace a metal span (1893, Edge Moor Bridge Company) too weak for modern traffic. Alfred I. du Pont chaired the bridge commission and initially corresponded with Carrère and Hastings (architects of his house, Nemours, BR26) about possible designs. Six firms were invited to submit proposals for a bridge strong enough to hold two trains consisting of sixty-ton electric railway cars, plus two lines of twenty-ton trucks. The winning New York City team of Davis (engineer) and Torbert (architect, a former associate of Carrère and Hastings) proposed a 720-foot structure of five reinforced-concrete arches, the longest of 250-foot span—Delaware's only open-spandrel concrete highway bridge.

The span was dedicated on Memorial Day 1922 in honor of the 10,000 Delawareans who served in World War I, with additional reference to Washington's role in the historic Battle of the Brandywine, fought upstream in Pennsylvania. A parade of 1,200 girls strewed flowers on the water. General James H. Wilson gave a speech in which he reminisced about building bridges for Grant at Vicksburg and called the new structure “a permanent utility and convenience to our city.” The seventy-two-foot-wide causeway lined with balustrades made a grand statement, especially with its tall concrete cenotaphs adorned with eagles, of Onondaga litholite, and bronze plaques and lanterns. These details were supplied by Torbert. Scientific American in 1924 considered it “the longest, low-rise, skew arch span” in the United States and perhaps the world. Davis went on to design memorial bridges in other cities, including Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania (1926–1929). Washington Street Bridge underwent major repairs by DelDOT in 2000.

Writing Credits

W. Barksdale Maynard


What's Nearby


W. Barksdale Maynard, "Washington Memorial Bridge", [Wilmington, Delaware], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Delaware

Buildings of Delaware, W. Barksdale Maynard. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008, 122-123.

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