Warren County Historical Society Presents …
The Digital Version “REWIND”
There was a spiral staircase off the Glens Falls-South Glens Falls bridge from about 1915 -to the early 1960s that allowed people to go down to Cooper’s Cave.
The Stairway to Cooper’s Cave
The bridge over the Hudson River on Route 9 from South Glens Falls to Glens Falls was taken out in 1913 when a flood in the river hit the structure. What came after that was an excellent architectural design, a viaduct with a spiral staircase at low cost. On the main highway to Lake George with a single track trolley line, the bridge saw heavy tourist traffic over time until the Northway was completed and took much of the traffic off Route 9. It was constructed in halves keeping traffic moving all the time.
The bridge extended in a north – south direction with 6 arch spans, one of 90 feet, four clear spans of 115 feet each, and one clear span of 60 feet. The arches were of Melan type. The total length of the reinforced concrete structure was 679 feet.
For many years the bridge had a unique added feature – an ornamental spiral staircase. A main shaft with steel reinforcement which allowed the staircase to spiral two complete turns reinforced by 2 angles laced together and held in place by 5 circular hoops. The staircase wound to the rock ground below the bridge and to Cooper’s Cave, the unique natural curiosity of James Fenimore Cooper’s historic novel, The Last of the Mohicans. Many tourists and local people visited the cave via the staircase until it became unsafe and was closed to the public in 1961. Pieces of the staircase lay on the ground for many years.
The cost of the staircase was about $4,000, representing 2.7% of the bridge structure which cost approximately $50,000. The staircase was designed by Concrete – Steel Engineering Co. of New York, supervised by E.H. Harder, resident engineer of the company. It was constructed by Callanan and Prescott of Albany, NY.
Gardner Congdon and Billy Hayes, South Glens Falls
Engineering Record, Vol. 72, Nos. 18 and 19, 1915
Photos courtesy of the internet and from the Engineering Record article
This article was prepared by Dr. Marilyn Van Dyke for the Warren County Historical Society.