Kinzua Bridge Inspirations

February 19th, 2020

Dear Readers,

To celebrate our one year anniversary, William and I made our way to the Allegheny National Forest, located in Northwestern Pennsylvania. As you have probably come to realize, we really love trees…

We decided to make one of our stops the Kinzua Bridge Viaduct. An incredible feat of engineering and a testament to the determination and indestructibility of human will power, the bridge once allowed trains to cross from one small mountain to the next. When it was originally built in 1882, it was the “highest railroad viaduct in the world”… an iron beast measuring 301 feet high, 2,053 feet long, and weighing 3,105,000 pounds.¹ As trains became heavier and time went on, the bridge went through a couple modifications and reinforcements, the final one being in 2003. The final bridge alterations were never completed due to an F1 tornado in the summer of 2003. The bridge was devastated. Eleven bridge towers were ripped from their concrete bases, their metal twisted and distorted, and cast onto the forest floor.  

Kinzua Bridge Remains 

To visit the state park, and to witness the awesome and terrifying power of mother nature, is a humbling experience. Pennsylvania’s DCNR has done an incredible job of giving respect to the strength and, at times, terrible beauty of nature, while also upholding a testament to the human urge to create. Within their main center, they provide the individual accounts and tall tales of the men who built and maintained the Kinzua Bridge. There are tales of stupid bravery and pure strength displayed within the confines of the building’s interactive display room… while all the while, right outside the window is the visible wreckage of the Kinzua Bridge. No matter the technological advancement… no matter the pure, staggering will power of men and women… nature will bring everything, eventually, back to the dirt from which it came. William and I highly recommend visiting the Kinzua Bridge State Park, if you ever have the chance! 

While the wreckage was terrible, and the twisted metal a humble nod to nature, the visit provided a decent amount of inspiration for our first home. To build a home or structure that will last forever is impossible when one realizes their own mortality. Stone erodes…continents shift, water levels change… the Earth is not stagnant. Time is not stagnant. So, to build a home which is composed of renewable resources, and is just about entirely recyclable, is an admittance to the reality of time. However, the human urge to create safe havens for the people they care about remains. Our home should not be made of paper, which can be whisked away when heavy winds come. Our home should be built to withstand most forms of natural disasters. Our home should be equipped to protect those who are finding shelter inside. By using a pier foundation system, and cross laminated timber for our walls, we hope to achieve a harmonious balance between building a structure that will one day admittedly return to the earth from which it came, and building a home which safely harbors a family inside.


Shelby Aldrich

1. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “History of Kinzua Bridge State Park.” Accessed on 18 Feb. 2020.


  1. You two are amazing, I had no idea how you felt about trees. How lucky did I get when I picked out the fabric for your quilt. , love you both, Aunt Rose

  2. Thank you, Aunt Rose!! And thank you for the quilt, it really is perfectly beautiful…it depicts just about all the seasons of a forest!

  3. I see this bridge has a lot of the triangular strength I was thinking about when reading your July 22, 2020 blog, but nature still took it down. Perhaps it was the sheer length of the bridge as opposed to the size of your little dream house?

    • The main fault of this bridge’s collapse was due to the anchor bolts in the concrete bases. They had recently finished updating the main structure, but did not replace the original bolts that held it down. When the tornado came through, it sheared the bolts in half and ripped the structure from the ground. A lesson to learn: a structure is only as strong as its weakest part.


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© 2020 Sustaining Tree

© 2020 Sustaining Tree