Wheeling News-Register - NOV. 3, 1999


Contributed by Phyllis Dye Slater.

The public is invited to attend a ceremony to bless the renovated Wheeling Suspension Bridge and the dedication of a new plaque, sponsored by the Wheeling Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, honoring the engineer and superintendent of the bridge, Charles Ellet Jr.

The event will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 6, the day before the main "Bridge Blast" celebration, at the Wheeling Island entrance to the bridge.

Pastors that are members of "The Hopeful City" project will bless the Suspension Bridge at the beginning of the ceremony.

The Wheeling Suspension Bridge has long been recognized as the symbol of the city. One hundred and fifty years ago the Suspension Bridge was completed by a group of local citizens who were determined to help the city grow and prosper. The newly-renovated structure, with its new decorative lighting, shines as a symbol of the rebirth of hope in our community.

After the blessing, members of the Wheelilng Chapter of the D.A.R. will unveil the new bronze plaque honoring Charles Ellet Jr., the man who designed and supervised the construction of the Wheeling Suspension Bridge from 1847 - 1849. At 1,010 feet, the bridge had the longest single span in the world and it was the first bridge to cross the Ohio River. Ellet's design initiated a period of over a century when the United States was the leader in suspension bridge construction. The unveiling will be attended by Ellet's great great- granddaughter, Jeannette M. Cabel Coley from West Memphis, Ark., and Katherine L. Colburn, historian general of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Colburn has strong ties to Wheelilng as her father and mother lived at Oglebay Park during the first four years of their marriage. Then the park was known as Waddington Farm. They left in the fall of 1926, according to Colburn.

During the first celebration of the bridge's completion on Nov. 15, 1849, the following toast was made; "To Charles Ellet Jr. The fame of his genius will be as enduring as the towers he has erected." Another toast should also have been made that November evening, "to the citizens of Wheeling who erected the longest suspension bridge in the World."

(Information provided by the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce.)

On Sunday, Nov. 7, the celebration of the most important civil engineering structure in the nation, built before the Civil War, will take place. It will conclude with a grand display of fireworks, a laser show and the first showing of the new decorative bridge lights. The tradition of lighting the bridge has a long history. The bridge cables were first lighted on the formal opening in 1849, candles outlined the cables for the 1853 Baltimore and Ohio Railroad celebration, and in this century, there were the much admired electric lights which debuted in 1987.

Now, in 1999, the thrilling and brilliant decorating lights will be a lasting reminder every night of the 150th anniversary of the Wheeling Suspension Bridge.

Happy Birthday to our bridge "An honor to the country!"