By Ruth A. Ringelstetter
In the spring of 2012, Joann and I made our second visit to Zanesville, Ohio. On our first stay, we pulled into town late at night, and while I made supper, Joann ran off down the street to check out and photograph several churches. The next morning, we packed up and headed out of town.
This time, we decided to make Zanesville our base for several nights. We also decided that we should actually check out more of the town. Zanesville is called Y-Bridge City, with the first Y-Bridge opening in 1814.
As we drove around town one morning, we came to the Y-Bridge. There was a small parking lot along the river and we pulled in and parked. It was a rainy morning, so Joann grabbed her umbrella along with her camera and headed out to begin taking photographs.
That first bridge had a center pier made of limestone with the others made of wood. Anyone traveling across the bridge had to pay a toll, except for churchgoers and people in funeral or military processions. Some of the tolls are listed below.
Each foot passenger – 3 cents
Each horse, mule, or ass one year old or older – 4 cents
Each horse and rider – 12 ½ cents
Each sleigh or sled drawn by two horses or oxen – 25 cents
Each coach with four wheels and driver, drawn by four horses – 75 cents
The first bridge required constant repairs and fell into the river in 1818 during a heavy flood. Immediately, construction began on the second Y-Bridge which opened to traffic in 1819. This bridge was also a wooden uncovered toll bridge. Around 1830, The National Road reached Zanesville from Cumberland, MD, and surveyors laid out a new road due westward. Because of heavy traffic from new roads coming into Zanesville, this bridge was declared unsafe after only 12 years.
The third Y-Bridge was a covered structure and was completed in 1832. It lasted 68 years. Then, rumors that the bridge was unsafe began circulating and the community voted to tear down the bridge and rebuild.
The fourth Y-Bridge opened to traffic in 1902. The new bridge was uncovered and was made of reinforced concrete. In the 1940’s, highway engineers spotted signs of trouble with the bridge. For another 30 years, traffic crossed this bridge.
In 1979, the fourth Y-Bridge was deemed unsafe and, in 1983, the main span of the bridge was demolished. Federal, state, and local officials had recommended, and the citizens of Zanesville preferred, to replace the bridge with steel girder construction which would be the quickest and least expensive bridge to build. Historic Preservation authorities insisted the new bridge must include the same type of railing, light poles, and parapets that were included on the existing fourth bridge during its original construction.
In the fall of 1984, the fifth Y-Bridge was complete and this is the bridge that stands today. From ground level, it is hard to see the Y, but locals enjoy giving directions to people and telling them to “drive to the middle of the bridge and turn left.”
At the other end of the park is a historic railroad bridge, so we took several photos of that, too. This old bridge is a 4-span through truss bridge over the Muskingum River on the Ohio Central (formerly CSX) Railroad.
Across the river stands an old grain elevator and, together with the bridge, it made a striking photo. After photographing the Y-Bridge on this side of the river, we decided to cross the river to check it out close up. It wasn’t nearly as striking, so we continued on our way.
On to the backroads we went to explore more of Ohio’s rural treasures.