NEWELL, W.Va. – After 116 years of ownership by HLC Holdings Inc., parent company of The Fiesta Tableware Co., the Newell Bridge and Railway Co. changed hands at midnight May 5.
Officials of Fiesta Tableware, formerly known as Homer Laughlin China Co., announced that the bridge has been purchased by Frank Six, owner of Six Enterprises in Newell.
The bridge will continue to operate under the same name, although Six Enterprises anticipates some upcoming changes to toll collections.
“We’re focusing on our core business of making dinnerware,” said Elizabeth McIlvain, Fiesta Tableware president. “The Six family has been a partner to us in the maintenance and safety of the bridge for many years.”
The bridge was built in 1905 by the North American Manufacturing Co., an organization composed of area pottery leaders who wished to expand their operations into the newly purchased Newell farm.
With a total length of 1,590 feet, the height reaches 160 feet above the Ohio River. The deck is supported by cables that allow the bridge to move and sway, making it less rigid and allowing it to last longer, so it has stood the test of time, officials said.
The first crossing took place July 4, 1905. When it opened, the bridge was operated by the Newell Bridge & Railway Co., controlled first by the North American Manufacturing Co. and then by Homer Laughlin China.
The bridge initially carried trolley cars from the loop at Ninth Street in Newell, around Laurel Park, into East Liverpool. In 1954, the wooden deck was replaced with steel grating that is still in use today.
Six Enterprises began maintenance on the bridge in 1967. Initially, the company worked on the sway cable seats and performed small maintenance jobs until 1969, when maintenance became a steady project with the beginning of annual inspections.
Unlike state-owned bridges, which undergo inspections every five to seven years, privately owned bridges such as the Newell structure are held to a higher standard and must be inspected annually.
When he learned the bridge was to be sold, Six said he knew of no other option than to purchase it.
“Once I heard it was up for sale, because we did the maintenance, I thought we had a vested interest. I didn’t want to lose the contract for the bridge. I didn’t negotiate. I just went to the bank, got the money and paid them,” he said.
Asked the going price for a 116-year-old bridge, Six responded, “That’s not something I want to discuss,” but added it went for “fair market value.”
Six said the bridge is in “great shape. It gets inspected every year … It’s kept up; that’s why I had confidence in buying it.”
He added, “I was worried about an outsider coming in and buying the bridge, putting the toll revenue in their bank account and letting the bridge go.”
Pictured: Elizabeth McIlvain, president of The Fiesta Table-ware Co., shakes hands with Frank Six, owner of Six Enterprises and the Newell Bridge & Railroad Co.