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Market Street Bridge a local treasure

FOLLANSBEE — It took two years for a golden trio to save a 114-year-old bridge.

Announced April 9, the Market Street Bridge has been included in the National Register of Historic Places in order to ensure the span remains open far into the future.

Anthony Paesano, Kathy Kidder and Marty Bartz led the mission to save the suspension bridge that connects Steubenville and Follansbee.

“The bridge was a catalyst for economic development, industrial development and the local economy,” said Paesano. “The bridge changed the mode of transportation.”

Prior to the bridge, the transportation across the Ohio River from Follansbee and Weirton was limited to three ferries. With the bridge came trolleys which brought in jobs.

As mayor, Paesano appealed to the states of West Virginia and Ohio to repair and improve the span amid rumors in 2008 that it could be closed. Federal and state officials responded by investing $17 million, much of it federal economic stimulus funds, into renovations to the bridge. They included repairs to its towers, its Ohio approach and trusses, the replacement of a mobile inspection platform and the addition of 146 decorative lights to cables. The bridge also was repainted blue and gold, colors selected through a public survey.

“I really don’t feel like it’s over,” said Kidder. “Not until we have the dedication, which is still in the works.”

One major significant aspect of the bridge is its design.

The bridge was built in 1905, at a time when iron and steel were replacing wood as the preferred material for bridges.

Kidder said the span was designed by E.K. Morse, a Pittsburgh engineer. She said when a top cord of the Market Street Bridge suffered under the weight of overloaded streetcars in 1922, another engineer, David Steinman, was brought in to plan upgrades. Market Street Bridge has had three major rehabilitations over the years, starting in 1941, 1981 and 2009.

Paesano said without the efforts of Dohrman Sinclair, the bridge and Follansbee would not be here today.

Sinclair, a Steubenville businessman and banker that built the bridge with his own funds to serve his streetcar company.

Steubenville was struggling from the 1893 depression, and the bridge was a condition he promised the Follansbee brothers, whom he enticed to build the city’s first steel mill, creating jobs.

“In 1920, there were 1,500 workers employed at Follansbee Steel,” said Paesano, who noted his father, an Italian immigrant, was among them.

He added the influx of jobs led to the population of Steubenville more than doubling, as well as the creation of the city of Follansbee, which had been largely farmland.

Sinclear’s vision wasn’t limited to Follansbee as he extended trolley lines to Mingo Junction and the Holliday’s Cove area of Weirton, attracting steel mills to those communities.

“Market Street Bridge has significance,” said Paesano. “The bridge changed the environment in Brooke, Jefferson and Hancock. It helped restore growth, industry, economic development and transportation.”

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