Island Ford Steel Bridge

Written By Mac Whatley


In 1901 the Virginia Iron and Bridge Company of Roanoke received a contract to build a three-span iron bridge across the river in Franklinville at Island Ford.


The bridge was a gift to the citizens of FV by mill owner Hugh Parks, and was maintained for 68 years by the Town. It was demolished in 1969 in preparation for an expansion of the Lower Mill weave room, which never occurred due to the subsequent death of John W. Clark.


The bridge was more than 350 feet long, and spanned the Deep River in five sections. Three were steel trusses about 85 feet long, with two shorter approach links that spanned the head race on the south and the opposite approach from South Franklinville. The horse and buggy in the first picture above are sitting above the stone pier at the junction of trusses two and three.


In comparison to modern bridges, it was of surprisingly light construction, as is evident from the photograph below. The lady is standing on the east side of the bridge at the junction of two spans. The west end of the Lower Mill is in the right middle ground. The wooden deck and safety railings were the parts of the bridge most subject to deterioration.


A modern view of the site shows that the four stone pillars which anchored the ends of each iron span are still in place, though overgrown with vines. The concrete footing in the river to the left of the abutment in the center is the foundation of the weave room addition to the Lower Mill which was built in the mid-1950s and demolished, along with the rest of the building, in 1985.