The Pennypack Creek Bridge, established in 1697, also known as the Frankford Avenue Bridge, Pennypack Bridge, Holmesburg Bridge and Kings Highway Bridge is located in the Holmesburg section of Northeast Philadelphia.
Pennypack Creek Bridge is the oldest bridge in America. It is recognized as the oldest bridge in the country by the American Society of Civil Engineers. It is declared as the oldest surviving roadway bridge in America by the Library of Congress. Pennypack Creek Bridge is also considered the oldest built stone arch in the United States.
The three-span, 73-foot-long stone arch bridge carries Frankford Avenue over Pennypack Creek in Pennypack Park. In 1683, William Penn appealed to the English Court at Upland, requesting that a bridge be built across Pennypack Creek to connect his mansion to the new city of Philadelphia. His request was granted, as were other requests for bridges along the King’s Highway. It was an important link on the King’s Highway that linked Philadelphia with cities to the north (Trenton, New York, and Boston).
The bridge was designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1970. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1988 and received a Pennsylvania Historical Marker in October 2012.
Originally 18 feet wide when first built with just enough room for two teams of horse to pass each other. It was widened 1893 to accommodate trolley traffic and again in 1950, to fit vehicles. A toll booth was installed at the bridge's south end when the Frankford and Bristol Turnpike opened in 1803. It remained in place until the roadway was taken over by the city of Philadelphia in 1892.
The bridge played a part in transportation history in 1756, when the first stagecoach service from Philadelphia to New York was founded. The trip took three days, and Frankford Avenue and its bridge were part of the route. By 1783, that three-day trip had been cut down to one day, thanks to a faster coach called the Flying Machine.
In the late 1700s, the Frankford Avenue Bridge began to take part in major historical events. In August 1774, John Adams and the Continental Congress crossed the bridge on their way to Philadelphia. In April 1775, an express rider galloped across the bridge after a five-day journey to give news of the Battle of Lexington.
In September 1781 American and French troops traveled over this bridge on their way to Yorktown, Virginia, to fight the battle that would end the American Revolutionary War. In 1789, George Washington traveled over the bridge en route to the nation’s capital, then New York City, for his presidential inauguration.
In 2018 the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) completed a rehabilitation of the bridge to ensure its continuing viability. The project included rebuilding the north spandrel wall, repointing stone masonry, and reconstructing parapet walls. Today this oldest bridge in the U.S. is still used by travelers. PennDOT estimates that the bridge carries at least 14,000 vehicles a day.