Born in Wurttemberg, Germany, Lewis Wernwag emigrated to Philadelphia in 1786. By 1810 he was already achieving a reputation as a bridge builder, with his structure to span Neshaminy Creek on the Philadelphia-New York road. He followed that with his innovative "Economy" Bridge across Frankford Creek at Bridgeburg. Here he used a cantilever system in a somewhat conservative manner, but asserted that the same design could be used on much longer spans. In Philadelphia he constructed a single-span bridge, nicknamed "The Colossus of Fairmount," in 1812 to cross the Schuylkill River at what was then (1812) called Upper Ferry, now the Fairmount neighborhood. This single span, with an arch of 340 feet, was then the longest span in the United States. (Unfortunately, this bridge was destroyed by fire in 1838.)
In 1819, after a Philadephia career which included work on the Fairmount Waterworks, Wernwag moved to Conowingo, MD, and in 1819 he built a bridge over the Susquehanna River there. In 1824 he moved to Harpers Ferry, WV, where he operated a sawmill to create timbers for his bridge designs.
Over a career of 27 years Wernwag constructed 29 bridges.
Sandra L. Tatman.
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