February 6, 2013 —
The first bridge to cross the Delaware River at Narrowsburg, NY was a toll bridge built in 1832. Ice reportedly took out this bridge, which was followed by construction of another in 1846, only to see it washed out in a flood. The third bridge at the narrows was a covered bridge, built in 1848, and it lasted more than 50 years.
In 1899, the first metal bridge was built. It was made of iron and lasted until the present metal bridge with its steel arches and metal grate was built in 1953.
A number of present-day residents remember the old iron bridge.
Grace Johansen recalled how she used to walk across the span from Peggy Runway Lodge to come to school every school day from the eighth grade through high school. Both she and Charlie Knapp remember how narrow that bridge was, and when heavy trucks crossed the whole structure “shook a lot.”
Ron Rasmussen recalls that his grandfather was instrumental in getting the old iron bridge changed from a toll bridge to a free crossing. The toll bridge was “freed” in 1927 when the New York-Pennsylvania Joint Bridge Commission purchased it for $55,000. This old iron bridge had its New York anchorage down where today’s Veterans’ Park sits, and when the steel arch bridge was built in the 50s it solved the problem of a steep hill coming up from the bridge on past the movie theater, Rasmussen said.
Johansen and Knapp recalled fondly how local children would go swimming under the bridge and that there was an old rope/tire swing hanging from the bridge for everyone to swing out over the river.
Several people remembered how Friday and Saturday nights were especially busy along Bridge Street, with Pennsylvania young people coming to drink in the New York bars (at that time, New York had a drinking age of 18). Art Hawker recalled how “part of our excitement when I was younger was to sit on the stone wall (where Gerard’s is now) and watch the state troopers pull people over.”
For a short time after the new bridge was built in 1953, the old iron bridge shared the narrows, until it was cut up and hauled away.
According to the website bridgehunter.com, the condition of our present-day bridge based on an inspection in May 2009 was as follows:
• Deck condition rating: Poor (4 out of 9)
• Superstructure condition rating: Poor (4 out of 9)
• Substructure condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
• Appraisal: Structurally deficient
• Sufficiency rating: 41.2 (out of 100)
• Average daily traffic (as of 2009): 2,778
Today, the bridge is open to traffic with a weight limit imposed. Once emergency repairs are completed this spring the weight restriction will be lifted, but the bridge will remain a single-lane crossing, controlled by traffic signals, until at least 2015, when permanent repairs are scheduled to begin.
[A news article about how emergency repairs to the bridge will impact traffic flow can be found on page 5. Additionally, this week’s editorial addresses the issue of decaying infrastructure.
To see additional historic photographs of the bridge’s construction and previous bridges at Narrowsburg, go to www.riverreporter.com  and click on Spotlight on the left hand menu.]