The village of Centre Bridge was first known as Reading’s Ferry, named for Col. John Reading who established the first ferry river crossing in the early 1700s. Reading’s Ferry was on the New York Road, which later became Upper York Road (Route 263), so named because at that time it was the main route between Philadelphia and New York City. The ferry operated for about 100 years under various ownerships, until the first bridge was built in 1813. From that time, the village has been known as Centre Bridge.
The wooden covered bridge was damaged many times by floods and threatened frequently by fire. Each time it was rebuilt and survived. But on July 22, 1923 the structure was struck by lightning and the resulting blaze completed destroyed it. Among the witnesses of the fire was village resident Edward W. Redfield, a famous American landscape painter. The next day Redfield put his impressions of the scene to canvas in a strikingly realistic painting that can be seen today at the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown. The present steel bridge was erected in 1925.
The Delaware Canal built in the 1830s brought business and settlement to the village. The small village of six dwellings, a general store, and a tavern and inn began to grow. A post office was established and soon a schoolhouse became necessary. About 30 more homes were built and a host of businesses moved in. Even after the railroad was built and reduced canal traffic, the village remained a primary trading place for farmers. In addition the nearby lime quarries and kiln produced building material and fertilizer that was hauled across the bridge to New Jersey. The natural beauty of the village attracted artists like Redfield and tourists.
Today this National Historic Village maintains its charm and historic character and is a popular stopping place for hikers and bicyclists along the Delaware Canal towpath.
View an interactive map of the locations of nationally recognized properties and districts in Solebury Township.
Read more about Centre Bridge on the Solebury Township site.
Read the book Centre Bridge, Pennsylvania by Willis M. Rivinus.