Bridge slated for demolition OK’d for national register
posted Tue, Jan 19, 2010
Daily Local News
KENNETT — Officials informed Chandler Mill Bridge Preservation Consortium members on Jan. 11 that the Chandler Mill Bridge was approved for the National Register of Historic Places.
This designation by the National Park Service will require Chester County to undertake stricter review and public consultation when determining the bridge's fate.
For years, township officials, residents, and local conservation, planning and historic organizations have protested the proposed demolition of the quaint, one-lane bridge, the oldest span in the township.
Despite these appeals, and favorable concessions by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, the primary funders and regulatory agencies, Chester County officials want to replace it with a two-lane bridge.
The Chandler Mill Bridge Consortium members have worked since 2006 to save the bridge by trying to persuade township and county officials to recognize the historic and cultural significance of this original steel-plate girder bridge, circa 1910.
The county vowed to make a good-faith effort to save the bridge but disregarded the consortium's engineering report verifying the viability of a bridge rehabilitation that would keep the one-lane bridge dimensions and its current aesthetics, the consortium says.
The bridge lies within the Red Clay Creek Historic Conservation Corridor, which encompasses about 500 acres preserved for passive recreation.
To date, $5 million in state, county, township, and private funding has been expended to purchase this land, create walking trails and preserve historic sites near the Chandler Mill Bridge.
The national recognition from the highest authority charged with preserving the nation's cultural, historic and scenic resources is vital to retaining the rural character of the community, local officials say.
Chesco bridge added to National Register
posted Thu, Jan 14, 2010
Philadelphia Inquirer, By Kathleen Brady Shea, Staff Writer
A Chester County bridge that has failed to span the divide between those pushing preservation and those urging demolition has a new distinction: placement on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Chandler Mill Bridge, a 99-year-old stone-and-steel structure in Kennett Township, was listed on Monday, said Paloma Bolasny, a historian with the National Register.
Fittingly for a bridge with a recent history of conflict, officials called the designation "unusual." Federal historians approved it, rejecting the state's recommendation against it, Bolasny said, adding that such disagreement was not unprecedented.
On the registration form, federal officials noted the bridge's "high integrity" and "local significance as evaluated with the historic context of transportation in Kennett Township and bridge engineering in Chester County."
Kirk Wilson, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, said the state's decision to reject the nomination was based on input from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
Monica Harrower, a PennDot architectural historian, said state officials concluded that the bridge was one of thousands of similar structures in Pennsylvania.
"It's a common bridge," she said, adding that it was not "technically significant."
Regardless of the assessment, the designation does not guarantee that the bridge, a one-lane structure over the West Branch of the Red Clay Creek, will be spared the wrecking ball.
Stephen Fromnick, director of Chester County's Department of Facilities Management, said months ago that county engineers had deemed the bridge unsafe and unsalvageable regardless of whether it was historic.
But Dee Durham, executive director of Safety, Agriculture, Villages and Environment Inc., one of several bridge-advocacy groups, was delighted by the news.
"It's not a panacea, but I think it's huge," Durham said. "It verifies what the community has been saying for four years."
Durham said she hoped the historic designation would give officials reason to pause before taking further action.