St. Albans-Nitro Dick Henderson Bridge
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.
Backstory and Context
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.