“Bridgeport” is the local name for the place where two major arteries, the Old Philadelphia Pike (Rt 340) and Lincoln Highway East (Rt 462) converge to cross the Conestoga River and become East King Street, Lancaster. For the purposes of this discussion, I have chosen to divide the river in to upper and lower sections with Bridgeport being in the center. This is because the river from this location downstream has once been navigable which is the reason the Conestoga is designated as a “river” and not a “creek”. It was possible at one time to board a boat here and travel all the way to Baltimore or Philadelphia.
This site is the location of an earlier bridge that was build by Abraham Witmer in 1799-80. Witmer’s bridge was a nine arch stone bridge. Before Witmer’s bridge was constructed, traffic had to cross the river by ford if the water was low or otherwise by ferry. Witmer’s bridge was 19 feet wide and 540 feet long. Witmer charged a toll to cross the bridge. The tolls were as follows:
- For every coach, landau, chariot, phaeton, wagon or other four-wheeled carriage, the sum of 1 shilling and 6 pence.
- For every chaise, riding chair, cart, or other two-wheeled carriage, the sum of 9 pence.
- For every sled, the sum of 1 shilling.
- For every single horse and rider, the sum of 4 pence.
- For every foot passenger, the sum of 2 pence.
- For every head of horned cattle, sheep, or swine, the sum of 1 pence.
Heavy traffic could not climb the grade up King Street and instead made a right turn by the Conestoga Inn and followed North Conestoga Drive and made an easier grade onto East Orange Street.
A marble marker was located on the north wall of the bridge. This marker is embedded in the wall of the current bridge.
Erected by Abraham Witmer 1799-1800. A Law of an Enlightened Commonwealth Passed April 4, 1798. Thomas Mifflin Governor Sanctioned this monument of the Public Spirit of an Individual.
Abraham Witmer collected tolls until the county took over the bridge. In 1933, the state took control of the bridge and, in spite of pleas to preserve it, demolished the bridge and replaced it with the current concrete structure.