Staunton Celebrates Return of Sears Hill Bridge with Soft Opening
Staunton is celebrating the return of a downtown landmark after three years of painstaking restoration. A soft opening and guided tour Friday offered a sneak preview of the Sears Hill Bridge.
In terms of size and price tag, the pedestrian bridge is among the more modest of the many historic rehab projects in Staunton over the past decade - but it happened entirely with private fundraising and donated labor, expertise and materials.
Friday afternoon, the city of Staunton removed the barriers to the 107-year-old span, restoring the link between the Sears Hill neighborhood and the downtown district. The Historic Staunton Foundation also led a guided tour of the bridge and nearby landmarks. Together they recreate the railroad-driven boom time of a century ago.
"All of those buildings... light posts very similar... the train concourse, the water tower... the telegraph station, overall factory, White Star Mills. It's all from that time period. You've gone back in history. It's pretty cool, isn't it?," said Frank Stassler, of the Historic Staunton Foundation.
The Sears Hill Bridge was closed in January 2010 after it failed a safety inspection. Removal, rehab and replacement of the span cost about $250,000.
Although the bridge over the CSX Railway is back in service, the city will celebrate its grand reopening next Saturday with Bridge Day on April 13.
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