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Cooks Glen Bridge:  A Rebirth

Of all the township bridges spanning the waters of the French Creek the most modern and up-to-date one is Bridge #195, known locally as Cooks Glen.  It is located on the East Vincent side by turning south from the Pughtown-Kimberton Road onto Cooks Glen Road.  That is a rather narrow winding passageway filled with trees and dotted with a few homes.  Only that momentary lessening of those trees would indicate that your path had turned into a concrete and steel bridge.

The original bridge at this site was built in 1897 at what was then known as Cooks Ford.  It was the second of three built for the townships by John Denithorne and Son, well-known bridge builders from Phoenixville.  It was built in a similar fashion as the neighboring Sheeder Mills (1887) and Tysons (1905) Bridges, both of which are still in operation.  Cooks Glen was one of the last of the iron bridges to be erected before steel became widely used for such projects.  That 70-foot bridge was completed for the sum of $1,593.07, a figure that included $1,087 for the ironwork, $394.50 for the stones and $111.57 for the flooring.

Not long thereafter it faced a major problem in the flood of 1902 when its abutments suffered significant damage.  Later in 1925, the bridge was declared to be too light for modern day traffic and it was thought that the normal 60 year life expectancy would not be met; it was said to have only ten more years of useful service left.  However in 1933 it was given a major overhaul and reinforced to raise its weight limit from 1½ tons to a much more practical strength of 15.  Unfortunately, the following year found the abutments split from top to bottom and once more in need of major repair.  In spite of those early difficulties the bridge continued to faithfully carry its assigned traffic for the next half century before its advanced age declared that it could no longer be saved.  By 1988, it had outlived that 60-year prediction by 31 years.

The new bridge is a very modern and attractive structure, one that beautifully blends into the landscape.  Today, as you travel down Cooks Glen Road approaching the bridge, the path widens by four to five feet, allowing for free vehicular and pedestrian traffic.  In this area the French Creek is divided, choosing to flow on both sides of a tiny island.  The result is an almost unnoticed first bridge of 18 feet followed by a roadway about double in length crossing that small island before the main 70-foot structure is finally reached.

The present bridge is a low-rise steel structure.  The low guardrails are a rustic metal but change to a wooden exterior in both sections of the actual bridge, harmonizing well with the rural background.  A bronze plaque, quite in keeping with the setting, gives all the important details.  Besides naming the responsible officials, it specifies that this is Chester County Bridge # 195, originally built in 1897 and reconstructed in 1988.

The other bridges along the French Creek with their highly visible assortment of girders, braces, portals, trusses and sidings leave the traveler no choice but to realize that a bridge is fast approaching and being crossed.  However the very modern type of construction found at Cooks Glen probably allows many individuals to pass through this area without fully noticing that the road underneath them has suddenly turned into a bridge and that a sizable creek, one that challenged many a traveler in days gone by, had been successfully crossed without much notice or effort.

By: Dr. Robert Price
Historical Commission