The original Centre Bridge — an uncovered wooden structure — was constructed in the vicinity of a York Road ferry known as Reading’s Ferry, Howell’s Ferry, and Mitchell’s Ferry. It was designed and constructed by Peleg Kingsley and Benjamin Lord. News clippings from that era show the bridge opened on January 10, 1814. It was the third private toll bridge to be opened along the Delaware River — the first at Trenton in January 1806 and the second at Easton in September 1806. Owned and operated by the Ccntre Bridge Delaware Bridge Company, the structure soon competed with the nearby New Hope Bridge after it opened in September 1814. The Centre Bridge, however, had structural problems and had to undergo significant reconstruction within 20 years.
Portions of the reconstructed bridge were carried away by the Bridges Freshet of 1841, prompting the Centre Bridge Company to raise the structure and replace the missing spans. This covered bridge must have been exceptionally good, for it was the only bridge between Trenton and Easton not seriously damaged by the flood of October 10, 1903. This covered wood bridge consisted of six spans, with latticed type trusses known as the “Towne Truss”.
On the evening of July 22, 1923, disaster struck in the form of a fire that completely demolished the structure. Fifteen firemen went down with the last span, several being badly injured but miraculously all survived. With the assistance of the now-defunct Joint Commission for Elimination of Toll Bridges, the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey jointly purchased the destroyed river crossing and adjoining properties from the Centre Bridge Company’s shareholders in 1925. The Joint Commission then moved to build a new steel truss bridge with equal-share tax subsidies provided by the two states. It was constructed on the remaining, charred piers and abutments that were originally constructed in 1813. These substructures were made of stone-filled random ashlar masony and rest upon crib foundations. These piers and abutments were encased in reinforced concrete in 1926.
The existing bridge opened to traffic in 1927. It is a six-span, riveted steel Warren truss structure with a total length of 825 feet. It was designed by former Bridge Commission Chief Engineer Edwin W. Denzler, Jr. A steel open-grate deck, added to the bridge in 1990, provides a clear roadway width of 20 feet between thrie-beam railings. A six-foot timber-plank pedestrian sidewalk, also replaced in 1990, is supported on the downriver truss by steel cantilever brackets.
The bridge has a five-ton weight limit; structural analysis shows a reduced load-carrying capability for a number of the bridge truss components. The posted speed limit is 25 MPH.