In 1817 John Wilson, the state’s civil and military engineer, proposed a toll road through the Saluda Gap in order to “attract a great portion of the trade of East Tennessee to this state.”
Named for Joel Roberts Poinsett, president of the Board of Public Works between 1819 and 1821, the Poinsett Bridge over Little Gap Creek was built during the construction of the state highway from Columbia to Saluda Mountain in 1820. Still intact and in good repair in the early twenty-first century, the bridge may be the oldest in the state. Located on Highway 42 just off Old Highway 25 in northern Greenville County, it was one of three Gothic-style arched bridges and forty-four smaller and simpler ones that spanned creeks and rivers along the ridge between the Tyger and Enoree Rivers.
In 1817 John Wilson, the state’s civil and military engineer, proposed a toll road through the Saluda Gap in order to “attract a great portion of the trade of East Tennessee to this state.” Construction through Greenville District did not begin until the summer of 1820; it was completed in October. Working with Abram Blanding, who was acting commissioner of public works, Poinsett personally supervised the construction of the seventeen-feet-wide state road over the mountain.
The bridge over Little Gap Creek extends 130 feet across the shallow stream. The Gothic arch at its center is 15 feet high and 7 feet wide. Poinsett, who had traveled widely and was trained as an engineer, is credited with its unusual Gothic design. The Poinsett Bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and is protected by Greenville County.
Cooper, Nancy Vance Ashmore. Greenville, S.C.: Woven from the Past. Sun Valley, Calif.: American Historical Press, 2000.
Huff, Archie Vernon, Jr. Greenville: The History of the City and County in the South Carolina Piedmont. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995.