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Views of Narberth Past

Rockland Ave. bridge, about 1905

Image source: Hagley Library Digital Archive

modern view of the historical image seen from the same viewpoint
19 May 2019

Narberth's "other" bridge may have been its first. What became Rockland Avenue appears on the 1877 map as a farm road separating the properties of James Sullivan and C. S. Wood. On this map it crosses the tracks and covers its entire modern extent between Merion Road in Merion and the location of present-day E. Wynnewood Road, opened two years later to connect to the 1879 Wynnewood Ave. railroad tunnel. It is depicted as a bridge starting in 1881, when Narberth Avenue terminated at Haverford Avenue. So we may declare Rockland Avenue the earliest track crossing within the bounds of Narberth, as well as the first street on the southside, and one of the earliest overall.

The demise of the Pennsylvania Railroad, once the largest corporation in the world, then Conrail, left the bridge an "orphan", its care and maintenance the responsibility of the Borough. Structural deterioration closed it to vehicles in the early 1990s, then to pedestrians about 10 years later. There was widespread interest in converting it to a permanent walkway. One idea was to build a temporary pedestrian bridge to replace the Narberth Avenue bridge during its "imminent" reconstruction, and thereafter re-situate it on the Rockland foundations. But with no funding forthcoming, the Rockland Avenue bridge was condemned in 2009, and demolished in August 2013. In 2019 we are left with its foundations on either side of the tracks.

The 8×10 or 4×5 photograph is from a series of Main Line bridge photographs created by the Pennsylvania Railroad between 1900 and 1910 as property documentation. The originals were rescued by Conrail employee Stephen Agostini when Conrail disposed of them.

Full Citation

Rockland Avenue bridge, Philadelphia Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Main Line bridge photographs #DA_PRR_2012_001_031. Hagley Museum & Library, Wilmington, DE 19807