David Heintzelman Identified as Benefactor of Repairs to Historic Pony Bridge
At Sunday's Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony, Earl Hill, President of Hellertown Historical Society, acknowledged the generous donation from local businessman, David Heintzelman, which facilitated the society's recent repairs to the historic 1860 Walnut Street Pony Bridge.
Heintzelman's donation allowed the society to purchase materials and contract with a local contractor to complete the major repairs. Mark Repsher and his team also contributed some of their constructions services, and Sam Donato of IESI Bethlehem Landfill donated a Dumpster to haul off all the rotted wood from the bridge. Society members and United Way Day of Caring volunteer men and women contributed hours of labor including scraping, sanding and repainting the bridge.
Society Board Member, Dianne Borovies, presented a brief timeline of the history of the Pony Bridge at the Nov. 18 ceremony.
The bridge was designed and patented by Francis J. Lowthorp in 1856 and built in Bethlehem by the Beckel Foundry and Machine Shop. The bridge was built across Saucon Creek about 1860, along the route of a dirt road which eventually became W. Walnut Street. In 1970, with the formation of Saucon Valley School District, the bridge was deemed unsafe for school bus use and was replaced by a concrete span.
After 23 years of languishing in a field adjacent to Saucon Creek, the rusted and decayed bridge was restored in a joint project of Hellertown Historical Society members and Lehigh University engineering students. The bridge was dismantled and reassembled at its current location and was officially opened to foot traffic at Hellertown's Community Day in 2000. The project was recognized with several state historical and preservation awards.
For 10-plus years the restored bridge attracted visits from historians, tourists and local families. Unfortunately the red oak flooring and support beams used in the initial restoration did not weather well, and by late 2010 the floor was rotting and had numerous foot-wide holes. The bridge was closed to pedestrian traffic as a safety measure.
Over the past four months the rotten wood was removed and a brand new system of support beams and flooring was built out of white oak, which is projected to have a lifespan of about five decades. After the ribbon-cutting, those present enjoyed a stroll across the bridge and enjoyed light refreshments in the Tavern Room, where historical pictures and memorabilia from the Pony Bridge projects were on display.
The Pony Bridge is now decked out for the holidays with lights that will be lit after Thanksgiving. Drive by or stop for a visit, and take a few minutes to marvel at this 152-year-old Hellertown landmark which is believed to be the last pristine example of a Pratt-style high truss wrought iron and cast iron single span bridge remaining in North America.