Historic Structures

Bridge Description Macombs Dam Bridge, New York City New York

The Macombs Dam Bridge is composed of: A) A 415-foot steel 19-panel Pratt throught-truss central Swing Span over the Harlem River; B) Approximately 140 foot steel (with masonry abutment) V-shaped, double approach on the Manhattan side (over Harlem River Drive), which connects the bridge to the 155th Street Viaduct and Macombs Place (formerly Macombs Dam Road); and C) Approximately 1,800-foot long Jerome Avenue Approach Viaduct on the Bronx side, which consists mostly of steel double-intersection Warren Fixed deck truss spans, carried by masonry piers, but has, additionally, a 221-foot subsidiary steel nine-panel Camel back Through-Truss Span over the railroad tracks, replacement steel spans set on concrete bents (dating from 1949-51) over the Major Deegan Expressway, and an end masonry abutment.

The central Swing Span, roughly 65 feet in width, has a square central tower, with ornamental finials, which is flanked by trusses having top chords with concave profiles; it is built up of a variety of steel structural members, such as riveted latticework and eyebars, and is braced laterally and diagonally. Boiler relieved the angularity of the latticework by using such elements as steel disks at the intersections of members. The ends of this span form decorative "portals". The curbed brackets of the lateral truss bracing above the roadway were originally opened latticework, but are now solid. The Manhattan end carries a plaque which bears the date 1894 and name "Central Bridge" (as well as the names of the Engineer, Contractors and City Officials), surmounted by the New York City coat of arms (executed by the Hecla Iron Works). Other surviving decorative elements include three projecting wrought-iron signs and two wrought-iron electric lamp brackets (a 1901 design). The Swing Span is supported by a large round central pivot pier, which has a double drum and coned rollers, located on an oblong Island with wooden fenders. The wide end piers, battered and roughly H-shaped, are built of dark rock-faced granite, with cut light granite copings and trim, are pierced by semi-circular arches below the bridge deck, and terminate on either side of the span with stone shelterhouses (gate tender's houses) that have red (originally tile, now shingle) roofs and (altered) finials. Pairs of latticework gates (replacements) are set at both ends of the span. The cantilevered sidewalks have steel replacement facias and railings (circa 1963) at the outer edge, as well as chain link fencing; the original Swing Span fascia had a molded cornice, and the original ornamental railings were of bronze and cast and wrought-iron.

The V-shaped, double approach on the Manhattan side, formed by the juncture of the l55th*h Street Viaduct on the north and Macombs Place/Seventh Avenue on the south, is composed mainly of steel plate girders, except for three steel double-intersection Warren truss spans on the south face of the approach, set along a polygonal outline (originally set at a straight angle, but altered in 1929-30 and 1960), carried by box girder columns with flared latticework brackets (the columns on the edges have two brackets, while the interior ones have four, some of these are altered). The replacement cantilevered sidewalks and railings (added Circa 1963), as well as the chain link fencing, are similar to those on the Swing Span; the original fascias had two roll moldings and rosettes. The abutment pier (extended and altered in 1929-30 and 1960, apparently of recycled original masonry), supporting the roadway of Macombs Place, has a wingwall on the west side of Macombs Place, is built of rock-faced limestone and granite, and terminates at the approach sidewalk level in cut granite posts (that on the east side dates from Circa 1960). A stairway (originally one of two), adjacent to the wingwall and leading from the approach to 155th Street below, has about half of its original decorative cast- and wrought-iron railing by Valentine Cook (including a section at the top landing).

The long Jerome Avenue Approach Viaduct on the Bronx side, approximately 60 feet wide, is composed, from west to east, of two steel, double-Intersection Warren deck truss spans, the steel Camel back Through-Truss Span, six steel and concrete spans (1949-51), which replaced three original truss spans (and two pairs of masonry piers), and six more double-Intersection Warren deck truss spans set on a curve to the northeast. The original spans are carried on pairs of battered rectangular, dock, rock-faced granite piers, with cut light granite openings. The replacement span are carried on pierced concrete "bents", faced with granite. The Camelback Truss Span is built of structural members similar to the central Swing Span; the curved brackets above the roadway (originally latticework) lhave also been replaced by solid ones. The original railings and fascias (similar to the Manhattan Approach) have been replaced on the Viaduct (Circa 1963) and chain link fencing installed. The approach is terminated at the eastern end by a limestone and granite abutment on the north side. East 161st Street is flanked by granite piers and stairways (with replacement railings); the pier and stairs on the west side were originally on the south side of the approach, but were dismantled and reinstalled when the ramps at 161st Street were built in 1920.

The 155th Street Viaduct, approximately 1,600 feet long and 61 feet wide, consists of a fixed deck, steel girder superstructure, carried on two parallel rows of steel box girder-type columns (varying in height from about 20 to 60 feet), with two riveted lattice-braced sides (the interior sides have been covered with plates). The columns of the westernmost 22 spans of the Viaduct are braced, every alternate span, by horizontal, lateral and diagonal latticework, with curved latticework brackets, while the columns of the easternmost nine spans are unbraced; a deck truss spans Eighth Avenue. The concrete road deck and cantilevered sidewalks are replacements (Circa 1960); the sidewalks were originally supported by curved latticework brackets, and the original fascias were similar to those on the approaches of the bridge. Two long flights of stairs (originally there were four, the eastern pair was removed between 1938 and 1960), which once connected the Viaduct with the station of the elevated railway and the New York & Norther Railroad and lower 155th Street, are located at the west side of Eighth Avenue; roofs (of wood and corrugated metal) cover the stairs on the upper portions, which terminate in cantilevered pavilions (with hipped roofs) at the top and midway, while the lower stairs are open. A walkway below the Viaduct connects the two lower pavilions (both have wood plank flooring). The original ornamental Iron railings (with an Art Nouveau design different than the other bridge and Viaduct railings) by Heel a Iron Works survive on these stairways, pavilions and connecting walkway, as do the slender colonnettes supporting the roofs and railings and riveted fleurs-de-lis on the fascias. The west end of the Viaduct is supported by a large rock-faced granite and limestone abutment pier, which 1s terminated at the Viaduct sidewalk level by cut limestone posts and has a wingwall on the north side. Two panels of original cast- and wrought-iron railing by Heel a Iron Works survive on the south side of the Viaduct, west of the termination post; a long section of original railing (as well as one original cast-iron gas lamp base and post) survives on the north side of the Viaduct, west of the termination post. A long stairway, adjacent to the abutment wingwall connects the Viaduct with lower 155th Street; the stairway has cut granite steps, the majority of its original railing and three original gas lamp bases (and two posts). The roadbed of lower 155th Street, from the abutment pier to Bradhurst Avenue, is paved with exposed Belgian block.

At the southwest end of the 155th Street Viaduct is a paved island known as Maher Circle (included in this designation), which contains the John Hopper fountain, designed to provide drinking water for humans, horses, dogs and cats, now consists of a large round horse trough, carved pedestal drinking fountain and a base (that originally held an Ionic column with a glass globe and weathervane), flanked by two small basins.