A landmark structure in the borough of Hellertown has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, the Hellertown Historical Society announced Saturday.
Built in 1860 and painstakingly preserved over a four-year period by HHS and Lehigh University volunteers in the 1990s, the Walnut Street “Pony” Bridge–as one of the oldest surviving all-metal bridges in the United States–was nominated for the prestigious National Park Service listing last summer.
“I am thankful we were able to finally get this listed after so many years,” said the HHS’s Chip Wagner, who helped prepare the nomination and received news of its acceptance from the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office last week. “The Lehigh (graduate students) and the HHS volunteers worked on the bridge tirelessly for so long during the mid to late ’90s.”
“What a tremendous accomplishment!” said Wagner in a news release about the achievement. “I wish all the volunteers who worked on the bridge would have been able to enjoy this recognition.”
HHS President Larry Sutton commented that the recognition demonstrates the importance of the bridge not only to Hellertown’s history, but to American history as well.
Constructed by the Beckel Iron Foundry and Machine Shop in Bethlehem, the Pony Bridge was the first to span the Saucon Creek at Walnut Street. Today, it is considered “one of the rarest and most important historic bridges in the United States” by the group Historic Bridges, in part because of some unusual construction details it possesses, such as cast iron floorbeams.
Sutton confirmed that the accolade is also noteworthy because the bridge is the first structure in the borough to be added to the NRHP.
“It is one more jewel in the crown that shows Hellertown is an outstanding community,” Sutton said.
Society volunteers also hope to successfully nominate the historic Heller-Wagner Grist Mill on Walnut Street to the NHRP in the future. Owned by the borough and leased to the historical society, the oldest part of the three-story mill dates from the 18th century.
In the meantime, the HHS plans to hold a community event to celebrate the accolade for the Pony Bridge. Details for the event have yet to be announced.
The Pony Bridge is located just north of Walnut Street, opposite the grist mill, and is frequently used by photographers as a setting that evokes the borough’s past.
In service for approximately 110 years, the bridge was decommissioned and replaced in 1971 in anticipation of increased traffic on Walnut Street due to the opening of Saucon Valley High School.
For more information about the Hellertown Historical Society, visit HellertownHistoricalSociety.org.