The WPA and Maryland Bridges
(See Photos Below!)
The WPA built, repaired, or improved 124,011 bridges across America. Maryland received only a small amount of this work, with 237 bridge projects (Source: Federal Works Agency, Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-1943. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1946, p.135). Still, the WPA's work on Maryland bridges helped develop our state's infrastructure, and also helped move goods and services during the economic boom of post-World War II.
The value of the WPA's bridge-building work was particularly evident after the St. Patrick's Day Flood of 1936. The flood caused a great amount of damage in western Maryland, and several bridges were damaged. WPA workers stood ready to help, and the following was reported in the Baltimore Sun on May 29, 1936:
"Temporary repairs to three Potomac River bridges damaged by the March flood have been completed, it was announced yesterday by the Works Progress Administration, and the spans have been opened to traffic. The bridges are situated at Hancock, Wileys Ford [sic], and Keyser McCool." ("WPA Repairs To Three Bridges Are Completed," Baltimore Sun, May 29, 1936, p. 11)
Photo credits: Unless otherwise noted, all black and white photos were taken by the WPA, are in the public domain, and provided courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives. All color photos--unless otherwise noted--were taken by Brent McKee. Click here for more information on photo credits, permission to use, and exhibit descriptions.
Above: WPA workers placing steel girders on the Sideling Creek Bridge, November 1938. Sideling Creek runs between Allegany and Washington counties. This was Maryland WPA project #3327.
Above: Another view of the Sideling Creek Bridge construction, December 1938.
Above: Another view of the Sideling Creek Bridge, as it nears completion in late December of 1938.
Above: This bridge runs over "15-Mile Creek" near the town of Little Orleans (Allegany County), and was Maryland WPA project #3446. The picture was taken in November 1938. Note the WPA work sign on one of the trees on the far side of the bridge, as well as the interesting design of the bridge.
Above: A picture of the drainage pipes for the Little Orleans bridge (see previous picture), before their placement in the creek. November 1938.
Above: The Little Orleans bridge (see previous two pictures) as it appears today (photo taken by Brent McKee, 2011).
Above: Date engraving on the Little Orleans Bridge (see previous three pictures) (photo by Brent McKee, 2011).
Above: A small bridge in the town of Ellserslie (Allegany County), built in 1936. Maryland WPA project #601.
Above: Another small bridge in Allegany County. This one was located on Slabtown Road, in the town of Mt. Savage. This was Maryland WPA project #678, and the photo was taken in October 1937.
Above: A bridge on Johnson Road, near Cumberland. This bridge was Maryland WPA project #3704-50. The identification card for this picture states: "East side view of bridge after completion. Note: Neat masonry job." Photographed in October 1940.
Above: This bridge ran over the Potomac River and connected McCoole, Maryland (Allegany County) with Keyser, West Virginia. This was Maryland WPA project #517, and the picture was taken in May 1936. This bridge was probably not built by the WPA, but likely a repair job to fix flood damage (see narrative at top of page).
Above: Maryland WPA project #514 was this bridge over "Winters Run" in Harford County. Photographed in June 1936.
Above: Another view of the (now completed) bridge over Winters Run. Photographed in August 1936.
Above: These WPA men are painting and welding new steel on the Stafford Bridge in Harford County, near the town of Darlington. This was Maryland WPA project #475, photographed in April 1936.
Above: This WPA worker is doing some preliminary work for a small bridge near Coopstown in April 1936 (Harford County). WPA workers were sometimes (unfairly) characterized as "shovel leaners." How long could you work on a project like this before you needed to lean on your shovel and take a break? This was Maryland project #477.
Above: A picture of the bridge near Coopstown (see previous picture) as it nears completion in May 1936.
Above: Jenkins Creek Bridge in Crisfield (Somerset County). Maryland WPA project #3763(12). Photographed November 1940.
Above: These WPA men are widening a bridge in Prince George's County in May 1936. This bridge was on Townshend-Grimes Corner Road, and the job was Maryland WPA project #130.
Above: This bridge in Crellin (Garrett County) was Maryland WPA project #95. Photographed in May 1938.