Two hundred years ago this weekend, a bridge opened up connecting the towns of New Hope, Pennsylvania and Lambertville, New Jersey.
It was the missing link of the Old York Road, the principal connection between New York and Philadelphia at that time. And while the original span over the Delaware River is long gone, the current structure is still vitally important to the two towns.
“There’s just this 1,000 foot wide river here that sort of separates us, but we’re really together,” said New Hope Mayor Larry Keller.
The sister cities from opposite sides of the Delaware are celebrating two centuries of being just a quick walk away from each other.
The original bridge was the brainchild of Benjamin Parry a Quaker industrialist who owned the ferry boat operation linking the two communities. That first one was made of wood and was destroyed in a flood in 1841, as was its identical successor in 1903. The current configuration, built in 1904, is an open Pratt truss bridge with six spans, approximately 960 tons of steel and is a little over 1,000 feet long.
Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Executive Director Joseph Resta said, the current traffic on the bridge is about 14,000 vehicles a day, 525,000 vehicles annually, which has been fairly consistent over the last decade.
On a busy weekend day some 14,000 pedestrians will cross the bridge as well.
While New Hope and Lambertville are in two very different states, you would never really know it from talking to people like life-long New Hope resident Frank Cosner.
“We all take pride in it and in a sense, all the residents on both sides own the bridge,” said Cosner.
Mayor Keller echoes Cosner’s sentiment saying, “I think that we’re bonded and that will never change.”
Among the festivities planned for the 200th anniversary will be a screening of a film documentary about the bridge on Sept. 13 at the Inn at Lambertville Station.