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History of Stone Bridge and Tollhouse
On February 3, 1809, the Virginia General Assembly passed an Act Incorporating the Leesburg Turnpike Company for the purpose of building a road from Leesburg to the Little River Turnpike at Alexandria or for at least 10 miles in that direction. The road, which was to be fifty feet wide, was to be paved for only eighteen feet of its width. The road, which roughly followed the route of an earlier Indian trail, was used to roll large wooden barrels or hogsheads filled with tobacco from Leesburg to the docks in Alexandria.
Work on the Leesburg Pike started in 1816 and progressed slowly, but by 1822 the road extended fourteen miles to Dranesville. There is a stone with an 1820 date on the Broad Run Bridge, indicating it was built around that time. At least three successive wooden bridges had been erected over the creek between 1771 and 1803 but all three had washed away. Broad Run is a tributary of the Potomac River and subject to occasional flooding.
The stone bridge was in use until 1949 when it was replaced with a concrete and steel bridge. The original old stone bridge had two 6-foot spans that were begun in 1818. The builders quarried large sandstone blocks from the Blue Ridge Mountains and transported them to the bridge site.
State engineers involved in the bridge replacement project said the old stone bridge "is nearly perfect from an engineering standpoint and demonstrates remarkable ingenuity on the part of the original builders." Marks from the hand chisels used in the construction were still visible on the stones.
Tolls on the bridge were based on the type of vehicle. "For coach or any other riding carriage, one shilling; a two wheel chair or chaise 8 pence; a loaded or unloaded wagon, one shilling; a cart, 8 pence."
By the mid-1830s, the Leesburg Turnpike Company was in debt due to decreased tolls and increases in the cost of repairs. The September 1843 flood, which washed away the Goose Creek bridge, and completion of the Chesapeake and Ohio canal combined to doom the company. At the beginning of the Civil War, the toll road concept was abandoned. Broad Run Bridge and Tollhouse are probably the only extant combination remaining in Virginia, although there are several other stone bridges.
Description of Broad Run Bridge and Tollhouse
Note: The bridge was severely damaged during the 1972 flood. The following describes what the bridge looked like before that.
The bridge itself consists of a double span of arches supported by a central pier and massive abutments on either bank. Conical buttressing flanks the arches and squared-off buttresses support the stone walls on land. The original one-story, three-bay tollhouse structure was later enlarged by three wings but the old walls are relatively intact.
The asphalt-covered roadway rises at the center of the bridge span and the low parapet walls which line the roadway connect to the south side of the stone tollhouse at the western end of the bridge.
Files of the Virginia Department of Highways by Mr. E. W. Turner, Landscape Engineer.
"Broad Run Bridge," Virginia Highway Bulletin, March 1949 by Mrs. Frank Osborne.
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