Keeps Getting Better With Age: Exploring The Fingerspan Bridge

Tucked into a trail along the Wissahickon Creek lies one of Philadelphia’s most intriguing and inviting works of art. At 59 feet long, the Fingerspan bridge connects two sides of a deep ravine, allowing visitors the chance to view the creek from a breathtaking vantage point.


In 1987, internationally renowned artist and PAFA alumni, Jody Pinto, developed the 18,000 pound enclosed bridge, built using weathering steel. Weathering steel, also known as COR-TEN, forms a protective layer of rust when exposed to the elements. It ages beautifully and blends harmoniously with the natural landscape. Weathering steel can be seen in other public sculptures throughout the city ( The Clothespin,  The Wedges). The properties of weathering steel which make it so well suited to public art also make it particularly well suited to home construction. Red Oak’s recently built house in East Kensington includes a corrugated COR-TEN facade, and we expect it will age marvelously. 


2401 Emerald Street

Many of Pinto’s works include imagery of the human body, and Fingerspan is no exception. It serves as a literal fingerprint on the landscape, which speaks to the ways in which humans imprint themselves on the natual world. Additionally, the weathering steel material blends so harmoniously into the wooded landscape, that the bridge is often difficult to spot until you’re very close. Because it looks as it it’s an outgrowth of the natural landscape, the bridge is also a reflection on the ways in which human life and the natural environment are deeply intertwined.


To visit  Fingerspan, wear a sturdy pair of shoes and come prepared to do a bit of rugged hiking. The walk down the bridge isn’t very long, but it’s rather steep in some parts. If viewing the bridge by car, plan to park on Allen’s Lane in Mount Airy, and walk down Livezey Lane to the creek at a point where the dam and Canoe Club are visible. Turn left and follow the Orange hiking trail to a small steel foot bridge, and climb stone steps to Fingerspan.