March 2009 Issue
Bridges of the National Road
Ohio’s portion of the Historic National Road offers eclectic insights into the past.
In what seems like only minutes, you pass from the neck-arching heights of downtown Columbus office buildings and the Greek Revival splendor of the Ohio Statehouse, into the picturesque hill country of eastern Ohio. There is something effortless and free about following the contours of its rivers and valleys, like riding gentle ocean waves on a raft.
Here, the National Road is all about bridges — from Zanesville’s famous Y-Bridge to the nearby 1830 John Carnahen Stone Bridge, the only old stone bridge on Ohio’s National Road engraved with the builder’s name and date.
There are many opportunities to venture a few yards off the modern blacktop of U.S. Rte. 40 to explore well-preserved portions of the original road. The National Road may have had its beginnings in Jefferson’s imagination, but it was muscle that cut the trees, moved the dirt, built the bridges and laid the bricks.
One of the best places to walk in the footsteps of these laborers and craftsmen is the irresistibly named Cinder Tipple Road in Heath in Licking County. There you’ll find an original concrete section of the old road, as well as a stone bridge spanning a ravine. You can run your hands over blocks of red and gray sandstone and feel the marks left by a mason’s chisel long ago. You can almost hear the echo of his hammer ringing through the trees.
No journey on the National Road would be complete without exploring its signature S-bridges. One of the most accessible is the beautifully restored Fox Run S-Bridge, set in a small Muskingum County park. Escaping slaves once took shelter beneath this bridge on their way to a nearby stop on the Underground Railroad.
A historical marker notes the convergence here of five major inroads to the interior of Ohio and the nation: Zane’s Trace, the National Road, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, U.S. Rte. 40 and Interstate 70.