Construction of this Great Stone Viaduct began in 1870 at Union Street as an Ohio approach to the railroad bridge spanning the Ohio River. It was completed to Rose Hill in April 1871, and the entire bridge span connecting Ohio to West Virginia, of which the Viaduct is a part, was opened to rail traffic on June 21, 1871. Jointly constructed by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and the Central Ohio Railroad, its sandstone piers rise in varying heights 10 to 20 feet above the streets, from which are placed 43 stone arches supported by 37 ring stones (18 on each side of a keystone) intended to symbolize a united Union consisting of 37 states. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, this Ohio River crossing became known as the “Great Shortline to the West.”
The B&O Railroad’s first bridge across the Ohio River, built in 1857, served a rail line through Parkersburg, West Virginia. But the growing center of Chicago, Illinois made a span between Benwood, W. Va., and Bellaire more desirable.
In 1865, the B&O obtained the Central Ohio Railroad and later the Sandusky, Mansfield and Newark Railroad. These acquisitions linked Bellaire to the port of Sandusky on the shore of Lake Erie, and thence to Chicago. The proposal to build a bridge at Bellaire threatened a ferry business there, whose owners sought and obtained an injunction was filed in court. The railroad fought the injunction to the U.S. Supreme Court and won.
Discussions into the building of the bridge began in the late 1860s and it was decided that the bridge would be a long-span wrought-iron-truss. The design of the bridge was handled by Jacob Linville, president of the Keystone Bridge Co., which manufactured its trusses. The bridge was completed in 1871. The approaches are made of cut sandstone blocks that elevate the rail line to the recommended height. The bridge itself consists of all wrought-iron trusswork resting on six cut stone piers sunk into the river bed.