Zanesville Ohio’s First Y Bridge: 1814 to 1818

Zanesville, Ohio came into existence when Colonel Ebenezer Zane contracted with congress to build a road from Wheeling, West Virginia to Maysville, Kentucky. In return for this road known as Zane’s Trace, Zane was to receive three 640 acre tracts of land. In addition, he was to establish ferries where his Trace crossed important rivers.

The first settlers in Zanesville were Ferrymen Henry Crooks and William McCulloch who, in 1797, operated ferries across the Muskingum River. Early ferries were planks secured to canoes.

The first bridge in Zanesville was built by the Putnam Yankees in 1813 and named the Third Street bridge. Moses Dillon and others planned to build a bridge "from the point opposite Main Street of Zanesville, to an island at the mouth of the Licking, thence north and south each way across the mouth of Licking Creek."

That first Y bridge was constructed of wooden trestles and stone with logs and planks bolted to the trestles. The center pier was made of limestone and above it stood the toll house.

On November 16, 1814, the Muskingum Messenger reported: Muskingum and Licking bridge. This grand and important work is now passable. Great credit is due to Mr. Rufus Scott, the architect. Now the south and north sides of Licking Creek were joined with Zanesville on the east side of the Muskingum River.

Some Toll Fees

  • Each foot passenger - $0.03
  • Each horse, mule, or ass one year old or upwards - $0.04
  • Each horse and rider - $0.12½
  • Each sleigh or sled drawn by two horses or oxen - $0.25
  • Each coach with four wheels and driver, drawn by four horses - $0.75

Zanesville Ohio’s Second Y Bridge: 1819 to 1832

After the first Y Bridge fell into the river, the stockholders of the Muskingum and Licking bridge built a second three-branched structure on the same sight in 1819: The designer was a strong believer in "camber" in a truss, and his plan gave the structure a rolling prairie appearance.

A sketch of this bridge appeared on a five-dollar bill issued by the old Muskingum Bank of Zanesville. The artist represented the bridge as being completely covered but old records show there was not enough money to finish covering the bridge.

Stephen H. Long, in 1825, described the structure as an "Uncouth mess, contrasting well with the magnificence of the scenery.The bridge appears destitute of solidity, and will probably soon be replaced by a more elegant and permanent one."

About 1830, The National Road, a narrow ribbon of crushed limestone, reached Zanesville from Cumberland, Maryland. Surveyors laid out a new road due westward.

After 13 years of service, the second Y bridge was condemned as unsafe. During the winter a flood carried twelve-inch thick ice against the second Y bridge and weakened it.

The piers were reinforced, but it was necessary to plan a new bridge by the spring of 1832.

The second Y bridge was not strong enough to bear the heavy traffic that poured in from the new roads into Zanesville. When the structure was about to be condemned as unsafe, Ebenezer Buckingham and Company bought a controlling interest. Buckingham’s son, Catherinus Putnam Buckingham, who had studied engineering at West Point, designed the new covered bridge.

While the bridge was under construction a flood threatened the supports under the eastern span. Ebenezer Buckingham hurried the completion of the work. Then he gave orders for the removal of the wedges which held the supports so that the flood waters could carry them away without taking the bridge. When the wedges were removed, the span fell into the river and Buckingham and Jacob Boyd were killed by falling timbers.

In 1832 the other stockholders completed the third Y bridge which stood until 1900.

On January 4, 1902, the new Y bridge was opened for foot passengers. Ten days later, streetcars and wagons started to cross without any opening ceremony.

Muskingum County people were proud of their new Y bridge. They boasted that it was the only Y shaped bridge in the world. To meet the competition of other cities, they started to call Zanesville "The Y Bridge City."

Zanesvillians liked to boast that they had a bridge you could cross and still be on the same side of the river you started from (by going from West Main Street to Linden Avenue).

Zanesville Ohio’s Fifth Y Bridge: 1984 to Present

Newest Y BridgeIn 1979 the fourth Y bridge was deemed unsafe and plans were made to build the fifth Y bridge. Franklin Consultants of Columbus stated: nothing of the Y bridge is salvageable above the piers "and that it is deteriorating rapidly and becoming a serious hazard."

Federal, state and local officials as well as Zanesville citizens who voted in 3 separate meetings, preferred a steel girder construction because it would be the quickest and least expensive to erect.

Federal, state and local preferences were disregarded. Historic Preservation authorities insisted the design of the new bridge must include the same type of railing, light poles and parapets which were included on the existing bridge during the original construction. These solid concrete balustrades were wiped out in the 1913 flood and replaced with pipe railings.

After the fourth bridge was demolished, a project inspector for ODOT announced that only the Linden span had needed to be replaced with the other spans needing surface repairs. A fellow project engineer and his superior, an engineer for ODOT, supported his findings. It was too late, the old bridge was gone.

In 1984 the city wanted to celebrate the opening of the new bridge. Democratic authorities announced the head of ODOT would preside at the Friday ceremony because the governor, Richard Celeste, had a previous commitment. The Republicans could not permit their rivals to be the first to dedicate the bridge. On Friday morning, October 5,1984 an unannounced parade led by former governor James Rhodes marched down Main Street. They cut the first ribbon.

On Saturday, October 6,1984, amidst much local gala, the Fifth Y Bridge was dedicated. ODOT then found defective expansion joints and the final ceremony heralding the actual opening of the bridge was held November 9, 1984.

While Zanesvillians were relieved to have the convenience of the new bridge, they were dismayed at the tunnel- like effect the bridge had. No longer could they see the convergence of the Muskingum and Licking Rivers through wonderfully open railings. Only a new generation will be able to completely accept the "bridge without a view. "

Related Reading

  • Zanesville: A Forward-Thinking Community - by Marsha Lewis
  • Article from Cities and Villages, the Journal of the Ohio Municipal League
    January/February - 1998 Issue

The best way for a city to deal with issues concerning the entire community is to get the entire community involved. But how does a city government get broad input from all its citizens and develop strategies based on those concerns? Zanesville Mayor Jack Fenton and other city officials began using a unique goal setting and planning program last fall to do just that. And they are so pleased with the results, they can hardly wait to continue into the new year. The Goal Setting/Team Building Program - a partnership between the Ohio Municipal League and the Rural Universities Program, which consists of Ohio University, Miami University and Bowling Green State University - has created a strategic goal setting and planning "toolbox" for Ohio’s small and mid-size municipalities. The City of Zanesville agreed to pilot the program and began to work with Ohio University’s Institute for Local Government Administration and Rural Development (ILGARD) in the fall of 1997.

Zanesville city officials are working at proactive decision making by creating and trying to maintain an open dialogue with the citizens. "With a $33 million budget, we need goals and strategic planning to do our best," says Fenton, "and we’ve tried to get input from everyone in the community."

The Goal Setting/Team Building Program consists of gathering information (which may include a citizen satisfaction survey and town meetings), demographic research, and a survey of city officials. Administration and council members then spend some concentrated time examining the information and developing strategic issues, goals, and action steps. For Zanesville officials, an intensive weekend work session was conducted in October to develop these components. Two additional work sessions were held to finish identifying initial goals and developing action steps. Officials have a written plan, but it is not a "final report." It is an active document that will be revisited and revised on a regular basis as goals are achieved and new ones set.

"We really enjoyed working with Mayor Fenton’s administration and the city council on this initial phase," says Marsha Lewis, assistant director of ILGARD’s management advisory services. "It’s clear that they are committed to an ongoing dynamic process of team building and goal setting and not simply interested in creating a report that becomes a shelf document."

The Goal Setting/Team Building Program is based on a similar program developed by Dr. Joe Ohren, a professor at Easter Michigan University and a consultant with the Michigan Municipal League. Dr. Ohren spent many years working with local governments to develop the model for identifying goals and objectives for small to medium sized cities, creating action plans to meet those goals, and building more effective relationships among community leaders.

Fenton was eager to have Zanesville as the pilot city in the Ohio version of the program, "I was real excited at the start, because we (Zanesville) did basically the same thing with labor and management within the city government, and it worked great. I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish when we have the support of Ohio University and the OML."

Central to the program is citizen input. The first step for the City of Zanesville was a "Consumer Satisfaction Survey," which gauged citizens’ perceptions of city services, such as effectiveness of delivery of those services and problem areas within city government. The survey was conducted by the Institute for Local Government Administration and Rural Development (ILGARD) at Ohio University. The survey found that Zanesville residents are fairly satisfied with their services and the manner in which they are provided, but also pointed out a few problems the city faces, and suggested what the administration can do to solve them.

In addition to the citizen survey, Fenton set up a series of town hall meetings in each ward of the city. All citizens were invited to voice their concerns, support, and ideas to Fenton, city council members, and department heads. Fenton says the meetings "started slow but progressed and got more constructive, many people even stayed after the meetings to continue discussions."

Based on input from the survey and community meetings, as well as their own knowledge of the city, elected and appointed officials developed a list of strategic issues impacting the city. Officials then began focusing on issues such as taking advantage of Zanesville’s location to make it a regional hub for tourism and strengthening the city’s investment strategies.

One of the goals Zanesville developed relates to improving the quality of residential neighborhoods. A task force of representatives from administration, council, and the court has been set up to discuss code enforcement issues and develop solutions. The city has also aggressively sought state and federal grant money to improve housing quality and supply. Tackling residential neighborhood issues has been a major initiative of Fenton’s in the program during the last part of 1997, but he says "I’m looking forward to next year, to get even more done.

An important component to the program is team building among elected and appointed officials. Administration departments and council members spent time at the weekend work session examining barriers to effective communication and developing ways to overcome those barriers. Since the Goal Setting/Team Building Program is an ongoing process, this dialogue will continue as officials examine progress and continue to plan together.

Although the Goal Setting/Team Building Program is a work in progress, Fenton has already seen results. He states that communication between city officials in various departments and residents of Zanesville has improved significantly. According to Fenton, the greatest beneficiaries of this program are the citizens, "they loved contributing at the town hall meetings; they can’t wait to have them next year."

City Council

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