Barrel Arch Bridge in Lorton, Virginia

Barrel Arch Bridge

This bridge was built in 1946 by imprisoned laborers from the nearby Lorton Workhouse using bricks made in their brickyard. It is the only structure of its kind in the state of Virginia.

Known as voussoir arch bridges (so named for the wedge-shaped or tapered stones used to construct arches) or barrel arch bridges (due to the resemblance to the inside of a wooden barrel), this complex building style is among the strongest and most durable forms. (One of the oldest examples is the Caravan Bridge, which spans the Meles River in Turkey, and dates back to 850 B.C. It is one of the oldest human-made structures in continuous use.)

The Barrel Arch Bridge in Lorton is 23 feet wide and produces an interesting echo effect for those traveling underneath it. The bridge originally crossed a spur of the Lorton & Occoquan Railroad, but the passage is now a recreational trail, and atop the bridge is another trail that runs between historic Barrett House and Central Green at Laurel Hill Park.

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