Bridge in Belmont County

Annual Banquet Raises Money for Historic Great Stone Viaduct

The annual Great Stone Viaduct Banquet will be held Tuesday, Sept. 17 at the Sons of Italy Lodge in Bellaire. It is a major fundraiser for the Great Stone Viaduct Society’s plans to develop the historic structure into a park.

The Great Stone Viaduct Society invites you to the 5th Annual American Heritage Banquet on Tuesday, September 17, 2019 from 5-9 p.m. at the Bellaire Sons of Italy Lodge. This is a fundraiser for support of their mission to preserve the Great Stone Viaduct in Bellaire.

The Society, through grants and fundraising, has an ambitious plan to develop the historic structure into a stunning tourist attraction.

Construction of this Great Stone Viaduct began in 1870 at Union Street as an Ohio approach to the railroad bridge spanning the Ohio River. It was completed to Rose Hill in April 1871, and the entire bridge span connecting Ohio to West Virginia, of which the Viaduct is a part, was opened to rail traffic on June 21, 1871. Jointly constructed by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and the Central Ohio Railroad, its sandstone piers rise in varying heights 10 to 20 feet above the streets, from which are placed 43 stone arches supported by 37 ring stones (18 on each side of a keystone) intended to symbolize a united Union consisting of 37 states. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, this Ohio River crossing became known as the “Great Shortline to the West.”

The B&O Railroad’s first bridge across the Ohio River, built in 1857, served a rail line through Parkersburg, West Virginia. But the growing center of Chicago, Illinois made a span between Benwood, W. Va. and Bellaire more desirable.

In 1865, the B&O obtained the Central Ohio Railroad and later the Sandusky, Mansfield and Newark Railroad. These acquisitions linked Bellaire to the port of Sandusky on the shore of Lake Erie, and thence to Chicago. The proposal to build a bridge at Bellaire threatened a ferry business there, whose owners sought and obtained an injunction was filed in court. The railroad fought the injunction to the U.S. Supreme Court and won.

Discussions into the building of the bridge began in the late 1860s and it was decided that the bridge would be a long-span wrought-iron-truss. The design of the bridge was handled by Jacob Linville, president of the Keystone Bridge Co., which manufactured its trusses. The bridge was completed in 1871. The approaches are made of cut sandstone blocks that elevate the rail line to the recommended height. The bridge itself consists of all wrought-iron trusswork resting on six cut stone piers sunk into the river bed.

The bridge was featured in the 2010 film Unstoppable starring Denzel Washington. Filming on the bridge in Bellaire ran from November 9 to 14, 2009.

Some highlights of the banquet will be: A social hour with appetizers, cash bar, and music by Michael Murphy from 5-6:30 p.m. in the courtyard. A steak dinner, provided by Outback Steak House with reserved seating, will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Lodge Hall, with a cash bar. The featured speaker will be our own Belmont County Tourism Council Director Barbara Ballint, who will highlight the council’s efforts to promote the county’s museums and attractions. Her presentation will include a video created by our Digital Marketing Director Brooke Robinson.

Paul Cramer, Board Chairman, will give a status of the Great Stone Viaduct. Throughout the evening their will be a Chinese auction, raffles, door prizes and 50/50 drawings. A specialty auction by David Jones will feature many valuable, memorable and historic items, and is not to be missed.

Limited tickets for $30 per person are available by calling 740-963-3500, Ext. 3 for reservations. Downdoad 2019 All-American Banquet Flyer here