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Arkwright Bridge

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1888, Dean and Westbrook, engineers. Hill St. off Main St.

This 125-foot Pratt through-truss bridge is a structure so lightly constructed that it appears as the geometrical diagram of itself. It is both visually and technologically fascinating for its mixture of pipes, rods, and straps—each performing different structural functions. Phoenix columns make the basic trapezoidal frame. Invented in the 1880s and only briefly used as a basic structural element, Phoenix columns are composed of quarter-circle elements with projecting flanges for bolting into tubular members. This is the only extant bridge using Phoenix columns in the state. Vertical rods take up the tensile stresses for the roadway suspended within the trapezoidal structure. More rods crossed overhead in X-configurations at the top (upper chord) of the trusses prevent their lateral deformation, while diagonal straps within the trusses prevent comparable deformation vertically. Plaques and fanlike corner embellishments over either entrance to the bridge provide just the right amount of relief to the geometry to satisfy the late Victorian taste for ornamentation of even the severest functional structures—and they captivate us, too.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Arkwright Bridge", [, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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