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Jackson Covered Bridge

Baltimore (City) MD-03-12x Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Long 1 109' 1829 after 1863
Jackson Covered Bridge carried the Baltimore-Washington Pike over tracks of the B&O Railroad in the southern section of Baltimore City (now the Morrell Park area). The historic Jackson Bridge was built in August of 1829. Colonel Stephen H. Long, builder of the bridge, named the overpass Jackson Bridge in honor of the new U.S. President Andrew Jackson.
Stephen Long was an advocate of wooden bridges and often argued with his employer, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad about wooden versus stone arch bridges. The B&O finally agreed to allow Long to build a wooden covered bridge on the Baltimore-Washington Pike over their railroad tracks. Jackson Bridge was the first railway grade-crossing separation in America.

Jackson Bridge Crossing Site
Location of Jackson Bridge on Washington Road crossing over the B&O Railroad. Map before location enhancements from James Dilts' book The Great Road: The Building of the Baltimore & Ohio, The Nation's First Railroad, 1828-1853

The B&O considered building a tunnel under the Washington Road before agreeing to build the bridge. From page 24 of the Third Annual Report of the President and Directors to the Stockholders of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, October 1829:
Of the intersection of the Washington Road on the 2nd section: Agreeably to a resolution of the Board of Engineers, the passage of the Washington Road at this place was to have effected by means of a tunnel not more than two hundred feet long. This object however was rendered inexpedient by difficulties that could not be foreseen. An excavation having been made to the depth of about 30 feet, at the intermediate site of the contemplated tunnel, the occurrence of springs of water and quick-sands, of a character not only to impede the work in regard to the property making the tunnel. A Wooden Bridge was then proposed as a substitute, which has been executed in a substantial manner at a moderate expense.
The Colonel patented his bridge design in March of 1830 and it was the start of his interest in bridge design and building, from which grew his pamphlets, patents and promotion of the "Long Truss" type of construction.¹
Jackson Bridge, Long Truss
Jackson Bridge, Long Truss. Patented March, 1830. ²

In Volume V of the Franklin Institute Journal, page 231 is a letter from Stephen Long about his Jackson Bridge:
Sir,--I take the liberty to offer for publication in your valuable Journal, a description of the Jackson Bridge, together with drawings explanatory of the manner of its construction, and of the adjustment of its parts. The only bridge hitherto constructed on this plan, has lately been built on the Washington Road, about 2-1/2 miles from Baltimore, at its intersection with the Baltimore & Ohio Rail-road, and at an elevation of 40 feet above the latter. The length of span of the bridge is 109 feet, its width from out to out 24 feet, and its height from bottom to top of its parts, 14 feet. It is supported by a double truss frame on each side, furnished with arch braces beneath only; the upper arch braces not being required in a bridge of that length. The exterior string pieces of each string are only six inches square, and the interior six by eight inches. The posts at the ends, and the centre of the bridge, as also the arch braces, are of the size last mentioned. The other posts, and the main braces, are six inches square. The counter and lateral braces are only five inches square.
Jackson Bridge was put together by a half dozen carpenters in five weeks at a cost of $1,670. Long celebrated its capacity at 110 tons, but to dispel rumors of its lack of strength, had 80 herd of cattle driven over it, "at a close gang", and received the testimonials of architects William F. Small, Robert Cary Long and Robert Mills, the designers of the Washington Monument in Baltimore (and later the Washington Monument in Washington D.C.).³
Quite often, research finds conflicting information among various sources. The B&O "Annual Report" of 1829 said the Jackson Bridge cost $3,400 to build. Its 1832 "Annual Report" listed all the expenditures to date for the railroad and $3,534.98 was spent for "Construction of a bridge for the accommodation of the Washington Road over the railway." It is very likely the higher cost included some of the preliminary work done for the evaluation of a possible tunnel under the roadway and cost for improvement to the Washington Road at the bridge. Col. Jackson lists his bridge as 109 feet but the 1860 B&O "Annual Report" shows it as a wood bridge of 107.6 feet. Jackson Bridge was still standing as late as 1863 as page 36 of its "Annual Report" stated, "Jackson Bridge, crossing the railroad for Washington Turnpike, was thoroughly repaired and painted." The fact that the railroad kept Jackson Bridge in good shape as late as 1863 would likely mean it lasted until at least another seven years.
It is a good possibility the Keystone Marker for Jackson Bridge has been located. Joe DiBlassio of Levittown, PA unearthed the stone from his property in 2002 and sent us the photo below.
Jackson Bridge Marker
Jackson Bridge Marker found in Levittown, PA

¹ Covered Bridge Topics (Round Lake, New York: Volume I, Number 11: 1944), p. 2.

² Covered Bridge Topics, National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges, Inc. (Boston, Massachusetts: Volume LVI, Number 1: 1998), p. 12.

³ James Dilts, The Great Road: The Building of the Baltimore & Ohio, The Nation's First Railroad, 1828-1853 (Stanford University Press, Stanford, California: 1993), p. 79-80.

UPDATED 01/05/2014 for information about the B&O consideration to build a tunnel under the Washington Road and length and cost to build the bridge. Also lost date revised from 1860 to after 1863.

UPDATED 06/23/2016 for information about possible location of Keystone Marker for Jackson Bridge and a photo of the marker.

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