National Historic Bridges Month 2011

Spring Hill Bridge in Warren County, Iowa. One of the hidden treasures found and photographed by the author in August 2011

Imagine you have a vintage iron truss bridge, abandoned for two decades and left along the roadside to be consumed by nature while being forgotten until a group of people discover it. Noting its unique design and the history of the structure itself and its connection with local history, they band together to try and save it, only to find that they have no knowledge on saving it, no support from others as they have little information on ways to preserve it, and a lack of financial support. Yet they still fight for it as there is still a chance to save it.

These are one of many stories of the strive and struggle of the public to preserve a piece of American history which will be presented in detail this month as November is National Historic Bridges Month. The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, in cooperation with its affiliates in the historic bridge community, will be presenting some stories and essays in connection with this month as the goal of Historic Bridges Month is to present examples of success stories of preservation efforts and stories of historic bridges that are worth saving but need our public support. Already, we have a pair of important announcements that are worth making so that the public is informed of the possibilities to learn from experience so that they can do it themselves.

Bridgehunter Chronicles’ Newsflyer

1.       McIntyre Bridge Taking the Pepsi Challenge:  Between now and 30thNovember, you can vote for the unique bowstring arch bridge through the Pepsi Refresh Everything Challenge. Should the bridge win the competition, presented by PepsiCo (makers of Pepsi Cola and Frito Lay products), the group will win $50,000, which would be much needed to rebuild the 1883 King Bridge Company structure. Located in Poweshiek County in southern Iowa, the bridge was abandoned and slowly leaning to one side until a flood in 2010 knocked it off its foundations and into the Skunk River. The parts were salvaged and it is just the question of reassembling it and reerecting it over the river, something that Julie Bowers and the North Skunk River Greenbelt Association is pursuing.  Information on both the Pepsi Challenge and contact details on how to help are listed below:

  1. McIntyre Bridge: Photo taken by Julie Bowers, used with permission

    The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will do an interview with Julie Bowers and obtain some more information on this bridge and other bridges she and the crew are working on saving and reusing.

2.       Iron and Steel Preservation Conference coming to Lansing, Michigan in 2012: For the second time and back by popular demand, the Lansing Community College is hosting the Iron and Steel Preservation Conference on 5-6 March. Dr. Frank Hatfield, professor emeritus of civil and environmental engineering at Michigan State University will emcee the first day of the event, which will consist of a wide array of presentations, stemming from historic bridge restoration and the bike trail system in the city of Portland (Michigan) by Alan Halbeisen and Paul R. Galdes to restoring various types of steel by Chad Teeples and Jon Brechtesbauer and bridge maintenance by Mark Zimmerman.  The second day will feature on-site demonstrations of metal restoration including straightening metal parts, removing pack rust and using equipment to drive rivets into metal connections.  The cost of the two-day event is $300 ($175 for one day) and contact details on how to register can be found on this link.:

People can register here:


Upper Paris Bridge in Linn County, Iowa: Example of Restoration that People can learn from. Photo taken in August 2011

3.       Othmar H. Ammann Award for Excellence: For the first time ever, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will be awarding the Othmar H. Ammann Award for Excellence to three candidates for their roles in historic bridge preservation and bridge engineering. It will consist of three categories: The Lifetime Legacy Award to the person who has had an enormous impact over the course of many years, the Best Kept Secret Award to the person or group with the best example of historic bridge preservation, and the Best Snapshot Award to the candidate with the best photo of a bridge in general. Entries are being taken between now and 25 November, with the winners announced on 2 December. The winners will be interviewed by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles (which will be posted) and receive a Certificate of Excellence Award.  If you know of a candidate  who has made an impact on the historic bridges community, please send his/her name via e-mail to Jason Smith ( before 25 November at 12:00am Central Standard Time. It is open to all residing in the US, and elsewhere. Nominating yourself is prohibited for the Lifetime Legacy Award and the Best Kept Secret Award; you can nominate your photo as long as it is your own work and not one of others unless you are nominating that of another person’s.

 FAST FACT: The Award is named after the Swiss-American engineer who designed and led the construction of over a dozen bridges in New York City as well as many others in eastern US and his home country of Switzerland. Among those included are the George Washington Bridge (1939) and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge (1964), both located in New York City. The latter was the last of his engineering work (as he died eight months after it was open to traffic)  and was the longest suspension bridge in the world until 1981 and still is the longest in the USA today.

 4.       Pics for 2011: Also a first this year is the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ Pics of the Year. It will be divided up into the following examples- Best example of historic bridge reuse, worst example of historic bridge reuse, the best effort to saving the bridge, the salvageable mentioned, the worst reason to destroy a bridge, the best find of a historic bridge and the biggest bonehead story. You have until the 25th of November at 12:00am Central Standard Time to submit your candidate(s) to Jason Smith (, who will announce the winner and the honorably mentioned on 2 December. Open to the US, Canada and Europe.


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