Great Stone Viaduct Walking Trail Dedication October 23 in Bellaire
Few structures in Belmont County are as iconic as the Great Stone Viaduct. For over 150 years, the towering stone arches have greeted visitors to Bellaire and continue to be a lasting reminder of the area’s importance in transportation, industry, and innovation. On June 21, 1871, the first train traveled over a new, 43-stone arch bridge connecting Bellaire, Ohio, and Benwood, West Virginia. It was part of the country’s longest railroad system, and parts of it are still in use today!
Reminiscent of a Roman aqueduct, each arch consists of 37 ring stones, representing the 37 states of the union at the time of the viaduct’s construction in 1870. Around 1900 the steel portion, made famous in the Denzel Washington movie, Unstoppable, was added to carry southbound traffic. These bridges intersect at 31st Street in Bellaire.
In 1996, owner CSX Railroad abandoned a 20-arch portion of the stone viaduct structure but retained the balance, which is still in use today. Twenty-two of the arches and the surrounding six acres in Bellaire are owned by the Society, which acquired the site from CSX Transportation. Clean-up of the property and restoration of the stone began in 2016.
On October 23, that portion will be opened to the public as a plaza, walking trail, and overlook. In cooperation with the Belmont County Port Authority, the Society was awarded $2 million in Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) funding to construct the walking trail/bicycle path from 26th Street to an observation platform and turnaround on the Viaduct at Guernsey Street. The trail will provide access over the old Baltimore and Ohio Railroad line along a quarter-mile approach to the Viaduct at Hamilton Street, where it will continue atop the historic stone arch bridge. The stonework was done by a local company, Angelina Stone and Marble.
The society leveraged donations and money from fundraisers to leverage state funds and secured a $100,000 grant with the assistance of state officials.
Plans include the development of a four-acre park on the northern end of the society’s property from the viaduct to 26th street.
The 7th Annual All-American Banquet, benefiting the viaduct restoration project, is Tuesday, Sept. 20, at the Sons of Italy Lodge in Bellaire, beginning at 5:30 pm. The event includes a steak dinner, live auction, basket raffles, door prizes, and a 50/50 drawing.
The October 23 dedication ceremony will include music, speakers, and an official program. Those attending can ride a bus from the plaza to the trail.
Visit the society’s, Facebook Page for more information about the banquet and the dedication ceremony.