A privately owned wooden-covered toll bridge was constructed at this site between 1840 and 1842 for the former Milford (NJ) Delaware Bridge Company. That bridge, with dual cartways, opened January 29, 1842. The bridge replaced a series of ferries: “Lowrytown Ferry”, “Burnt Mills Ferry” and “Milford Ferry.” The span closest to New Jersey was carried away by the flood of October 10, 1903 and was replaced by similar construction using timbers washed down from the Riegelsville Bridge during the same flood. The current steel Warren truss bridge replaced the wooden bridge in January 1934 (more details below).
The former Milford Delaware Bridge Company was legislatively authorized by New Jersey Feb. 12, 1939 and Pennsylvania June 24, 1839. New Jerseyans authorized to subscribe inaugural stockholders were Daniel Vansyckel, George Carpenter, Wilson Housel, Peter Thomson, William Vanderbilt, Sr., John Duckworth, Cornelius Ludlow, Jonathan Pickle, John Eckel and Samuel Cooley. Pennsylvanians named to sell initial stock shares were John Adams, Joshua B. Calvin, Henry S. Stover, George Wycker, Hugh Erwin, John Derr, Thomas Pursell, William McEntyre, Rutledge Thornton, and Price Pursell. (Note: this was one of three private bridge companies along the river in which Henry S. Stover was involved. The other two Stover-related concerns were the Pont Pleasant Delaware Bridge Company and the Alexandria Delaware Bridge Company.)
It’s unclear from published accounts who constructed the wooden bridge for the Milford Delaware Bridge Company. It’s design, however, was based on the Burr arch and it’s dual portal entries gave the bridge a shotgun appearance, according to R. Scott Bomboy’s Wooden Treasures, The Story of Buck’s County’s Covered Bridges. The three-span bridge also was shorter in comparison to other river bridges, only 681-feet long.
The bridge remained intact for 61 years. The span closest to New Jersey was carried away by the flood of October 10, 1903 and was replaced by similar construction using timbers washed down from the Riegelsville Bridge during the same flood.
The wooden bridge was purchased jointly and freed of tolls by the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania for $45,000 on June 28, 1929. The transaction was arranged by the former Joint Commission for Elimination of Toll Bridges — Pennsylvania-New Jersey, the predecessory agency to the current Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission.
The former Joint Commission operated and maintained the bridge on behalf of these two states. The states annually provided the old Joint Commission with equal shares of tax revenues to take care of the former private toll bridges the states acquired along the river between 1918 and 1932.
The Joint Commission regularly appointed a bridge tender to protect the structure from overweight and speeding vehicles. along for the bridge’s upkeep. One of the bridge tenders — a Frenchtown barber named Levi Headman — was killed in the line of duty on August 24, 1931 after a truck crushed him along the side of the bridge. The truck driver, Alvin McEntee, was later arrested. Police alleged that McEntee was intoxicated at the wheel. McEntee later was indicted for manslaughter.
In 1932, Joint Commission engineers determined that the wooden bridge’s condition was deteriorating to such a degree that it should be replaced by a steel structure. The two states subsequently provided funds to the Joint Commission, allowing the bridge replacement work to move forward. The resulting steel bridge was designed in-house by Edwin W. Denzler, who later became the Bridge Commission’s chief engineer. It was the last bridge construction project to be overseen by the old Joint Commission.
The Upper Black Eddy-Milford Bridge Replacement Project was carried out by the McClintic-Marshall Co. of Bethlehem, PA. under an $89,970 low-bid contract approved in March 1933. The procurement took place about 3-1/2 years after the Stock Market Crash of 1929 that triggered the Great Depression. The contract included removal of the old wooden bridge. The project was funded by equal shares of tax subsidies provided by the two states.
To carry out the project, the former wooden bridge at the location was shut down to traffic on June 5, 1933. McClintic-Marshall commenced erecting false works (to support the old wooden bridge’s removal and the erection of its steel replacement structure) two days later.
The Depression-era bridge project was carried out over a 222-day period, ending with the new bridge opening to traffic during a driving rain storm on January 13, 1934. Remaining bridge construction activities — notably painting — were completed later in 1934.
The two states ceded ownership of the bridge to the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission on July 1, 1987. Under federal Compact changes approved by the states in 1984 and 1985 and affirmed by the U.S. Congress in 1987, the Commission operates and maintains the bridge using a portion of the proceeds collected at the agency’s eight toll bridges.
The steel bridge is a three-span steel Warren through-truss structure with polygonal top chords and a concrete-filled steel grid road surface. The bridge has a travel lane in each direction and a walkway on the upstream side.
The bridge is 700-feet long. The concrete-filled steel deck provides a clear roadway width of 20 feet between tri-beam guide rails.
The bridge’s walkway is supported on the upriver truss on steel cantilever brackets. Both abutments, recapped with reinforced concrete following flood damage, were originally built in 1842 with rubble-faced masonry. The piers, also built in 1842, are stone-filled and have been recapped with reinforced concrete.
The Commission last rehabilitated the bridge in 2011.
The bridge is currently posted for 15 mile per hour speed limit without a posted weight limit restriction.