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Chain Bridge (Potomac River)
The Chain Bridge
is a major viaduct which crosses the Potomac River at the Little Falls in Washington, D.C. It connects Washington with affluent sections of Arlington and Fairfax counties in Virginia. On the Washington side, the bridge connects with Canal Road and the Clara Barton Parkway. On the Virginia side, the bridge connects with State Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road), which provides access to State Route 120 (Glebe Road) and the George Washington Parkway.
The Chain Bridge has three lanes (of which the center is reversible) and can be safely accessed by pedestrians and cyclists. The pedestrian sidewalk provides access to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath via a ramp.
The first bridge at the location was opened on July 3, 1797. Around 1810, it was built of large-linked chain trusses, from which its name was derived. The bridge collapsed in 1852 and was replaced by a crossbeam structure that resembled a long garden arbor or pergola, but retained its historical name. During the American Civil War, the Chain Bridge was a popular place for the Union Army to access the countryside encampments from Fairfax County.
The bridge is the site of the first Union Army Balloon Corps balloon crossing, which took place overnight on October 12, 1861, conducted by Professor Thaddeus S. C. Lowe and a band of handlers who had to precariously traverse the outsides of the fully trellised bridge. In a nine hour ordeal, the balloon Eagle
was fully inflated in Washington and walked out to the battlefield at Lewinsville, Virginia.
The eighth and present version of the bridge is a continuous steel girder structure, completed in 1939 on piers dating from the 1870s.
*History of the Chain Bridge, from the Johns Hopkins University Press
[in Washington, D.C.]
[completed in the 1790s]
[completed in 1939]
[of the Potomac River]