Restoration of the Weisel Bridge
Quakertown, Pennsylvania, USA – September 2006
The Weisel Bridge is an arched masonry bridge originally built to carry horse and buggy traffic on its way to Quakertown. The bridge, now a part of the Pennsylvania state park system, is limited to pedestrians and creates a feeling of historic authenticity for visitors. Sitting near the Weisel Hostel, it draws people to the site. Both park and hostel managers feared that the loss of the bridge would not only diminish the visitor experience but also lead to a loss of revenue needed to maintain the park,
Project and Results
This masonry repair and restoration project proves once again what a group of dedicated volunteers can accomplish when they set their minds to it. In two weeks, 20 team members – working under the guidance of masonry expert Andy deGruchy – diverted the creek, removed a huge tree root that had grown through the stones, cut new capstones and a new keystone, removed Portland cement mortar, rebuilt the partially collapsed arch and the fallen stone parapets, and, finally, repointed with mortar made of natural hydraulic lime and local sand. Phew! The 665 hours of donated labor generated a fully restored bridge once again ready to carry any traffic that comes its way.
With years of his own preservation experience to draw from, Andy not only directed the volunteers’ hands-on experience, he also went out of his way to explain the principles behind the preservation methods. Volunteers received a great deal of information that they will be able to take with them and use in the future.
Hands-on and Beyond
People on this project found the experience particularly satisfying due to the variety of people who came together on the project. Volunteers included a retired physician, a structural engineer, historic preservation students and graduates, an attorney, an architectural historian, a bus driver, a few masons, a retired Air Force Colonel and nurse, a retired steelworker, an engineer, an environmental scientist and a historian. Quite a mix! The team effort and cohesiveness were exceptional. Seeing the project from beginning to completion was a great benefit to all who played a role.
The Weisel Bridge project was a great team-building exercise, and provided lots of physical exercise too, hauling all those materials around. Folks were full of praise for their teammates and leader. According to structural engineer Michael Kramer, “Andy de Gruchy was fantastic; he shared his knowledge and also kept us focused so that we got the job done.”
Diana Barbera-Horwitz found their accomplishment most impressive: The restoration of the Weisel Bridge was a huge undertaking and most of us seriously thought the work would take months to complete. … To have completed this restoration on time was a credit not only to all the participants but also to Andy deGruchy who never faltered with his ‘can do’ attitude and excitement for the project.”