Fayette Station Bridge (Tunney Hunsaker Bridge)
The Tunney Hunsaker Bridge (now known as the Fayette Station Bridge) was built in 1889. It gardered the name "Tunney Hunsaker" after the bridge's rehabilitation in 1997. The bridge's namesake was a professional boxer from Fayette County, West Virginia. Hunsaker was the first person to fight Muhammad Ali (who was known as Cassius Clay at the time) professionally. Hunsaker was defeated by Ali, and Hunsaker went on to become a police chief. Despite the loss, Hunsaker's legacy was secured and memorialized. This bridge was also the first bridge built across the the New River and is still in use today.
Backstory and Context
The Fayette Station Bridge was built in 1889, but there is a mystery as to who constructed the bridge. The Virginia Bridge and Iron Company is noted as being the builders but a plaque found on the original structure indicates that it may have been built by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company. There is now no way for historians to identify the original builders as the bridge deteriorated after the opening of the New River Gorge Bridge in 1977. It took 20 years for the Fayette Station Bridge to be restored. So, most of the bridge's original pieces were discarded.
In recent years, the bridge has seen more traffic. It connects the lower portion of the valley together while the New River Gorge Bridge connects the higher portion of the valley. For years, it appeared that the Fayette Station Bridge was rendered useless. However, activities such as white water rafting and canoeing have brought in millions of people around the world to explore the lower ends of the gorge.
The bridge also rests on Fayette Station Road. This road is a sector of the New River Gorge National Park. Travelers can venture through this 100-year-old road and explore empty mining towns that have been deserted for decades. Old railroad tracks also remain, allowing individuals to see how coal was once the main source of income for this portion of Fayette County and how that source has changed throughout the years.
Fayette Station Road , National Park Services. Accessed July 22nd 2020. https://www.nps.gov/neri/planyourvisit/fayette-station-road.htm.
Fayette Station Bridge , Historic Bridges . Accessed July 22nd 2020. https://historicbridges.org/bridges/browser/?bridgebrowser=wvirginia/fayettestationbridge/.