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Walnut Street Bridge, Hellertown (Pa.)


Held at: Lehigh University Special Collections [Contact Us]

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Lehigh University Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Charles N. Beckel (1827-March 8, 1888) was a fabricator and master foundryman at his family's foundry on Sand Island at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Beckel studied bridge design with engineer Francis C. Lowthrop of Trenton, New Jersey. He was married to Ruth Emma Greider (1827-1854) and married again in 1862 to Mary Frances Levering (1840-1894). The Beckels had three children one being Ralph Beckel. The Beckel family was prominent in Bethlehem musical society. Charles played the trombone and sang bass in the church choir. The Beckel Foundry was located on an acre of land and had excellent water supply nearby the Central Railroad of New Jersey depot. Beckel employed Lowthorp's patented elements in many of his bridge spans including the Walnut Street bridge which is a Pratt-truss cast and wrought iron bridge. The foundry was posted for sale in February 1892 being offered by the Wolle & Kemmerer real estate agents two years before Beckel's second wife died.

The Walnut Street Bridge is a 56-foot, 5-panel through-truss span. Its cast-iron upper cords and tall web posts flare to their midpoints to resist buckling under compressive forces. Beckel flared the upper and lower flanges from ends to center to better resist bending and stiffened the webs with raised ridges. The cast-iron continuous deck beams cantilever to one side to carry a pedestrian walk. Cast-iron is not normally used in beams because of low tensile strength. Beckel designed with refinements that successfully withstood loads, without the help of modern steel I-beams, for over 90 years. The Walnut Street Bridge probably dates from the early 1860s was moved to the site located over the Saucon Creek near Hellertown in 1879. In 1970 Northampton County replaced it with a reinforced-concrete deck girder span. The Walnut Street Bridge, designated HAER PA 206, is now located in the Grist Mill Park - North at Walnut Street, Hellertown, Pennsylvania on a 35 acre site nearby where it formerly spanned the Saucon Creek in Northampton County, Pennsylvania. This cast-iron bridge came to the attention of the Cast and Wrought Iron Bridges Recording Project of the National Park Service around 1991, a long-range program to document historically significant engineering and industrial works in the United States cosponsored by the Historic American Engineering Record and the West Virginia University Institute for the History of Technology and Industrial Archaeology. The fieldwork, measured drawings, historical reports, and photographs were prepared under the general direction of Dr. Robert J. Kapsch, Eric N. DeLong, Emory Kemp and Dean Herrin. The Recording Team consisted of Christine Ussler of the Architecture Faculty at Lehigh University as architect and field supervisor; Christine Theodoropulos of California State Polytechnic University - Pomona; Wayne Chang from University of Notre Dame; Monika Korsos from Technical University of Budapest; Robert W. Hadlow from Washington State University; William Chamberlin and Joseph E.B. Elliott from Muhlenberg College served as photographer. Lehigh University's Civil and Environmental Engineering Department structural engineering student team was William M. Bruin, Robert J. Connor, Perry S. Green, Christopher C. Higgins under Professor Ben T. Yen. Over a couple of years they refurbished and re-erected the structural members to become the bridge now located in the Hellertown's Grist Mill Park with the help and financial support of the Hellertown Historical Society.

Delony, Eric. 1993. Landmark American Bridges. New York: American Society of

Civil Engineers. F-M, SC: 624.209 L257

Lehigh University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. 2001. "Walnut Street Bridge," in CEE Connections, Fall 2001. In SC LVF W198.

North, John Hill. 1873. Historical Sketch of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania.

The collection is two sets of three pages each of engineering drawings and two pages of photocopied information about the Beckel Foundry of Bethlehem (Pa.)

Donated by Professor Gerard Lennon of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Lehigh University, October 5, 2018.

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Collection Inventory

/repositories/3/archival_objects/94386. Sheet 1: Walnut Street Bridge Hellertown - 1860 - Pennsylvania.
Scope and Contents

WALNUT STREET BRIDGE HELLERTOWN - 1860 - PENNSYLVANIA (Drawing of bridge PA 206 Scale: ⅜" = 1'-0") Title page for set of three pages displays Site Map - Original location over Saucon Creek Based on U.S.G.S. 7.5 min series topographic map, Hellertown Quadrangle Scale 1:16000. (History and contributors).

/repositories/3/archival_objects/94387. Sheet 2: Three profiles delineated by Monika Korsos.
Scope and Contents

(Three profiles delineated by Monika Korsos, 1991: Scale ½" = 1'-0" Section A-A Wrought-Iron Upper Lateral Bracing, Cast-Iron Lateral Strut; Center Panel Cast-Iron Upper Chord Connection Box, Wrought-Iron Diagonal Bracing, Wrought-Iron Lower Chord Rods Plan at Lower Chord Plan at Upper Chord Sidewalk End Post, Existing wood stringer, Existing Sidewalk DEcking, Probable Continuation of Sidewalk Decking, Wrought-Iron Diagonal Bracing, Probable Stringers based on paint marks on deck beams, Inclined End Post

/repositories/3/archival_objects/94388. Sheet 3: (Five profiles) Connections .
Scope and Contents

(Five profiles) CONNECTIONS U₂ Cast Iron Upper Chord, Wrought

Iron Upper-Lateral Cross Bracing, Wrought-Iron Diagonal Counterbrace;

U₁ Diagonal Brace Rod Heads, Cast-Iron Upper Chord Connection Box with Inclined End Post, Scale: 2"=1'-0"; L₀ Cast-Iron End Support Integral with Inclined End Post Cast-Iron Base Chord Rods; L₁ Connection Plate, Wrought-Iron Lower Lateral Cross Bracing, Cast-Iron Deck-Beam not Integral with Lower Chord Casting on Truss without Sidewalk; L₂ Vertical Web Post Seat on Lower Chord Casting, Paired Wrought-Iron Diagonal Bracing, Sidewalk Baluster, Cast-Iron Cantilever Sidewalk Beam and Post Integral with Lower Chord Connection and Main Deck Beam

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