Faust Street Bridge

Comal County

Faust Street at the Guadalupe River, New Braunfels, Texas


Above photograph by Billy Moore, LCRA.

Built in 1887, this impressive Whipple Truss Bridge towers high above the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels. Scorched in a fire more than 20 years ago, the majestic structure now carries pedestrians and bicyclists.

The Faust Street bridge was constructed by King Iron and Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio in 1887. This monumental truss structure extends more than 640 feet in length across the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels. The structure is comprised of two, central 220-foot double-intersection Pratt (or Whipple) through trusses(one on each side). The truss members are connected by a pin-and-hanger system which was the common connection method for trusses in the late-19th century. The spans are supported by massive oval-shaped masonry piers with articulated stone work and pointed or lancet-shaped ends.

The county opened the bridge as a toll-free structure in late 1887. At the time of its opening, the Faust Street Bridge was one of the first permanent "toll-free" structures completed over a major waterway in Texas. Most major bridges built during the 1880s were built by privately-funded bridge corporations which charged tolls or fees to cover construction and maintenance expenses of the bridge. Comal county's $33,269 investment in the opening of a "free bridge" across the Guadalupe was a testament to the county's prosperity and civic-mindedness at the time.

The Faust Street Bridge is also a rare type structure that is an extremely significant engineering accomplishment for its time. The structure is one of a very small number of large, multiple-span Whipple truss bridges remaining in the country and is the most complex and intact example of a Whipple truss roadway bridge surviving in Texas. While six Whipple roadway trusses remain in the state, the Faust Street Bridge is the only multiple-span example surviving at its original site.

The Whipple is an unusual truss type that was popular for only a short period of time during the mid-to late-19th century. The Wipple is a variant of the Pratt, a more common 19th century truss type which featured horizontal upper and lower chords joined by a complex system of vertical compression posts and diagonal tension members. The Whipple truss is similar to the Pratt except that each of the diagonals cross two vertical posts instead of one, creating a stronger and more rigid truss framework. The Whipple or Double-intersection Pratt truss was patented by Squire Whipple, an American inventor in 1847 and almost immediately gained popularity as the preferred truss type for long railroad bridges. The Whipple design was also used, to a much lesser extent, for roadway bridges with spans of 150 to 300 feet. Because the Whipple was more expensive to construct than other types of trusses, it was used only for highway crossings carrying extremely heavy traffic loads. The Whipple truss reached its popularity in the 1880s, but by the turn of the century it had been replaced by the Parker, which was the predominant long-span truss type in the United States through the 1940s.

While the bridge's Whipple trusses are important, the structure is also significant as one of the earliest and largest, truss bridges surviving in the state. The Faust Street Bridge is one of less than twenty trusses in the state constructed prior to 1890, and is the longest, most complex and important of these examples. It is also the only early truss bridge in the state with multiple spans built as part of the structure's original construction. The bridge's use of Whipple trusses, its combination of truss types (Whipple and Pratt), and its distinctive masonry piers make it one of the most important historic bridges in the state.

The Faust Street Bridge is also significant for employing wrought iron truss members. Wrought iron was first employed in trusses during the 1840s, and by the mid 19th century American rolling mills were using this material to generate a wide variety of structural shapes, such as I-beams, angles, plates and other members. By the 1890s, however, steel had replaced wrought iron as the universal material for trusses. Because Texas experienced its most rapid expansion in the decades following 1900, it is not surprising that virtually all of the 1,200 truss bridges surviving in the state were constructed from steel -- rather than wrought iron. The Faust Street Bridge is one of a relatively small number of wrought iron bridges ever constructed in the state, and survives as a very rare survivor of this technology for Texas.

The county built the Faust Street Bridge within feet of the Guadalupe River crossing of the Old San Antonio Road (or Camino Real). The bridge is located in the city of New Braunfels, Comal County, Texas. The county selected the Faust Street site for the bridge because of its strategic location on this important regional route. Prior to the completion of the bridge in 1887, travelers often waited for long periods of time at this crossing until the waters were low enough to ford. According to the History of New Braunfels and Comal County, Texas 1844-1946, agricultural products were brought to the New Braunfels market over the Faust Street Bridge from as far away as Johnson City. The bridge also served as a major crossing for all traffic between Austin to San Antonio from 1887 to 1934. In 1917, the newly created Texas Highway Department designated the structure to serve as part of State Highway 2, the predecessor route to US 81 and IH 35. The Faust Street Bridge accommodated highway traffic between Dallas-Austin-San Antonio until 1934 when the highway department completed a "new" concrete arch highway bridge at the foot of San Antonio Street. The Faust Street Bridge is important for its long history serving transportation needs in the region and for its role as a state highway bridge from 1917 to 1934. The monumental structure has additional significance as one of few early landmarks surviving along the Old San Antonio Road. In 1978, the Faust Street Bridge was closed to local traffic due to fire damage. Now the Majestic structure has been reopened to carry pedestrians and bicyclists.


Photograph by Jim Steely.


© 2003 Historic Bridge Foundation.