There’s a new owner for the Newell Bridge | News, Sports, Jobs

Luna Ruth

NEW OWNER — The historic Newell bridge has been a fixture of life in the Upper Ohio Valley since its construction in 1905. Long maintained by the former Homer Laughlin China Co., it changed ownership on Wednesday. — Stephen Huba

NEWELL – The Newell bridge, a historic landmark that has provided a vital link between Ohio and West Virginia for more than a century, has a new owner.

Frank Six of Six Enterprises in Newell, assumed ownership Wednesday of one of the oldest suspension bridges on the Ohio River for an undisclosed sum from HLC Holdings Inc., parent company of the Fiesta Tableware Co., formerly known as the Homer Laughlin China Co.

Six Enterprises has been involved in the annual maintenance of the bridge for 55 years, so it seemed like a natural fit, Six said.

“Our involvement in the upkeep of the bridge gave me confidence that it is a good investment, because it is a sound structure and will be sustainable for many years to come,” Six said.

Fiesta Tableware President Elizabeth McIlvain said her company finally decided to get out of the bridge business after 116 years.

“We’re focusing on our core business of making dinnerware,” she said. “The Six family has been a partner to us in the maintenance and safety of the bridge for many years. We know the iconic bridge is being passed to an organization that has as much passion and pride for it as we have had all these years.”

Homer Laughlin sold its food service lines to Steelite International in 2020 but continues to make the familiar, colorful Fiesta dinnerware in Newell under the Fiesta Tableware name.

The privately-owned toll bridge, one of the oldest suspension bridges on the Ohio River, was built in 1905 as a way to connect the pottery capital of East Liverpool with a new company town called Newell.

A group of area pottery leaders known as the North American Manufacturing Co. built the bridge to expand their operations into the newly purchased Newell farm — plans that included a factory, housing for workers, infrastructure, supporting businesses and a park.

They got permission to build in 1904, and the first crossing occurred on July 4, 1905. By then, the bridge was operated by the Newell Bridge & Railway Co., which became a subsidiary of Homer Laughlin.

Six said the bridge will continue to operate under the Newell Bridge & Railway name.

The bridge carried trolley cars from the loop at Ninth Street in Newell, around Laurel Park and into East Liverpool until 1954, when the wooden deck was replaced with steel grating that is still in use today. It currently carries a two-lane road and a pedestrian sidewalk.

The bridge was designed by Edwin Kirtland Morse of Pittsburgh, and the general contractor was the American Bridge Co., also of Pittsburgh. It took just over a year to complete at a cost of $250,000.

With a total length of 1,590 feet, the bridge sits 160 feet above the Ohio River. The deck is supported by cables, which allow the bridge to move and sway, making it less rigid and contributing to its long life span, Six said.

Six Enterprises started doing maintenance on the bridge in 1967 under the direction of Frank Six’s uncle and the former owner of Six Enterprises, Wayne Six.

Six Enterprises initially worked on the sway cable seats and did small maintenance jobs until 1969, when general maintenance and annual inspections of the bridge became a steady project, Six said.

“Everything is inspected from the top of the towers to the foundations under water. Every year inspections identify any problems that need to be addressed and are fixed accordingly,” he said.

Six said there likely will be a toll increase in the near future because of the rising cost of maintenance and insurance. Cars and pickup trucks currently pay a 75-cent toll to cross the bridge one way.

“The first goal of the new ownership will be to modernize payment methods to include credit card and Apple pay, as well as a membership program,” he said. “These methods will be put in place to make the toll experience more convenient.”

Six said he also hopes that bridge revenue proceeds can be used to fund economic development and improvements in Newell.

“Newell is unincorporated, so therefore does not receive any tax revenue to make improvements,” he said. “Bridge revenue proceeds used to fix up the town will attract more business, which will attract more people. More people means more traffic going across the bridge.”

Six said he hopes such a “self-driving” economy will bring new life to Newell.

“I think it’s important for people to keep in mind that each crossing on the bridge means more improvement to the town,” he said.

According to, the Newell bridge has been “extremely well maintained” and contributed much to the success of the Homer Laughlin China Co. and the town of Newell over the years.

“The bridge appears to retain integrity of design and materials,” the website said.

Six has long been involved with economic development projects in Hancock County. Six Recycling was the general contractor on the 2012 cleanup of the old Taylor, Smith & Taylor pottery site in Chester. A 30,000-square-foot light manufacturing building was built on the TS&T property, but it currently sits empty.

In 2016, Six purchased the old Newell Porcelain site in Newell in the hopes of cleaning it up and making it available for office and warehouse space.

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