The Saint Albans–Nitro Bridge, now named the Richard J. “Dick” Henderson Memorial Bridge, was built in 1934. Since its opening, the bridge has connected the two communities of Nitro and Saint Albans, allowing the cities to grow together and providing a vital link between WV Route 25 and US Route 60 for residents of the area. Deteriorating conditions caused the original bridge to be torn down and replaced in 2013. At the time of its demolition, the 80-year-old structure was the oldest cantilever bridge over the entire Kanawha River.
The building of the bridge was first initiated in 1925 by
the St. Albans Business Men’s Association to link the two cities of Nitro and Saint Albans together. By
1926, rights for a bridge were owned by the St. Albans – Nitro Bridge Company
and a permit to build was granted. Unfortunately, the Great Depression slowed
the process and the permit was allowed to expire. Construction was finally able
to begin on February 16, 1934 and the structure was completed nine months
later. The bridge was built by the McClintic-Marshall Company of Pittsburg and
the majority of the construction workers for the project were Saint Albans’
residents. The total cost of construction was $328,000. At the time of its
completion, the structure was the only bridge across the Kanawha River between Point
Pleasant and Charleston. A Ferry service was in operation before the bridge was built and continued for 10 years after its 1934 construction...as it was cheaper than the bridge's toll.
The bridge initially operated a toll booth on the Saint
Albans side to help pay back the cost of construction. Tolls were 25 cents a
car with an additional 5 cents per passenger (1). A ferry had been running back
and forth between Saint Albans and Nitro since the early 1900’s. Despite taking
more time to cross the Kanawha, the ferry remained popular because its tolls
cost less than the bridge. When the bridge became free in 1945, the ferry was
no longer used.
The bridge was renamed the Richard J. “Dick” Henderson
Memorial Bridge by the WV Legislature in 1999. Henderson was a long-time resident
of Saint Albans and a former Carbide employee. He was also a member of the WV
House of Representatives who died at age 71 in 1998. The bridge became a vital
part of Nitro and Saint Albans over the years. Over time, however, the
structure continued to deteriorate. Due to safety concerns a 12 ton weight
limit was placed upon the bridge in 2008. The width of the lanes was also a
concern as they no longer met design standards and there were also no roadway
shoulders on the original structure (2). The original bridge was closed in
January of 2013 and the new bridge was completed ten months later. Citizens of
both Saint Albans and Nitro felt the loss of the bridge as the other closest
span across the river was five miles away. The bridge's closure also had negative effects on businesses on both sides of the river (3). The ribbon cutting ceremony for the
new “Dick” Henderson Bridge was held at noon on November 1, 2013 and was
attended by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and Senator Joe Manchin.