A new chapter for the West Shore Historical Society started with a 135-year-old bridge.
Janice Lynx lives a short walk from the 13-foot-high Sheepford Road Bridge iron structure that links Fairview Township in York County with Lower Allen Township in Cumberland County. Walkers and bikers use the single-span, 114-foot-long bridge to cross Yellow Breeches Creek.
Society records state the bridge was built in 1887 using patented Phoenix columns. The Phoenix Bridge Co. was one of the nation’s top developers of metal truss bridge technology in the last half of the 19th century. The company prefabricated the bridges, and another firm, Dean and Westbrook, erected them on site.
Lynx, a 10-year resident of the neighborhood, appreciates the bridge’s beauty and history. When she learned that demolition was possible, the retired New York City public school teacher contacted the society’s president, Don Paul Shearer, who agreed to work to save the bridge. The pair pleaded with county, local and state officials for assistance.
They placed signs stating “Save Our Bridge” in big, black letters on the property and created a website, www.savesheepfordroadbridge.org. Volunteers knocked on doors and collected more than 1,200 signatures on petitions. The Cumberland County Register of Historic Places added the bridge to its registry in June 2021 at the society’s request.
“When these things go away, they can’t be brought back,” Shearer said, of the area’s many landmark structures.
Lynx and Shearer saw a sign of hope when the York and Cumberland county commissioners applied for a $1.4 million PennDOT grant to rehabilitate the bridge for pedestrian and cyclist use.
In mid-April, Lynx was walking on another bridge, thousands of miles away in Paris, France, when her phone rang. The grant was approved, and the bridge was saved.
“It was the perfect place to get champagne and celebrate,” she said.
When construction is complete, the counties will surrender ownership of the bridge to the West Shore Historical Society.
Lynx’s determination and success amazed Shearer, a member of the society since its founding in 2015.
“This thing could have been gone, and nobody could have known about it,” Shearer said. “This was a true grassroots success.”
The bridge connected Shearer and Lynx, but the partnership is not a one-way street. Lynx is now the West Shore Historical Society’s executive director, a path she never could have mapped out a decade ago.
“I have no history at all in history,” Lynx said.
The society now hopes to prevent the sale of the historic Peace Church, located at the northwest corner of East Trindle Road and St. Johns Church Road in Hampden Township. The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission currently owns the 224-year-old limestone structure, but wishes to transfer ownership or sell it.
The society’s headquarters on Kranzel Drive, Camp Hill, is a repository of artifacts from the region it covers—Fairview, Lower Allen and Hampden townships and Lemoyne and Wormleysburg boroughs.
For instance, the society owns a red caboose built in 1916 that sits on Lowther and Maple streets in Lemoyne. It also took the lead in preserving the former Lemoyne High School, which is being redeveloped as apartments.
Volunteers are needed to complete the society’s many goals or to identify new ones. Shearer, an active appraiser, appreciates the many hours that Lynx devotes to the organization. He touts her organizational skills and determination, which all started with the Sheepford Road Bridge.
“The bridge helped the society by the society helping the bridge,” Shearer said.
The West Shore Historical Society relies on volunteers and donations to preserve the area’s history. For more information, visit www.westshorehistoricalsociety.org.
If you like what we do, please support our work. Become a Friend of TheBurg!