Not so far south from Charles City, Iowa and just east of the Avenue of the Saints (US Hwy. 218 and Iowa Hwy. 27), one will find on the map, two crossings over the Cedar River: one carrying the name 240th Street (or County Highway B-59) and the Ripley Bridge Road, located just a few hundred feet to the south. While B 59 Bridge represents a modern bridge crossing with little aesthetic and historic value that is still used today by farmers tending to their fields, the other crossing, albeit extant on the Google Maps, no longer exists.
I inquired about this bridge with a colleague at the Floyd County Historical Society to find out whether this bridge existed, let alone what it looked like before its removal. This is what I was provided with:
As you can see in the old black and white photo, the bridge was rather a large structure, consisting of a pin-connected Parker through truss bridge with Town Lattice portal bracing featuring curved heel support bracing. A builder’s plaque was located at the top of the portals, but one cannot see the print, leaving the historian in the dark as to determining when it was built and who the bridge builder was. However, according to the information provided by the museum, the bridge was named after the family who resided near the structure, together with another family, the Parkers- even though it is highly unlikely that they are related to the inventor of the truss design, Charles H. Parker. He patented the truss design in 1884 and this type was the second-most constructed in Iowa between 1890 and 1940 behind the Pratt truss.
It is very likely that the bridge was replaced by the current structure built to the north, although it is unknown whether the truss span was removed shortly after it was open to traffic, left into place but later removed due to structure deterioration or even destroyed by natural disaster, or if the two bridges were in service side-by side but the truss bridge was taken down and not replaced because of its expandability. In either case, there are a lot of questions to be answered about this bridge; among other things:
When was the bridge built and who built it?
What is the history behind the bridge? What stories can be related to this unique structure?
When was it demolished and why?
It is known that Floyd County is rich with history related to the bridges that existed. This included the pedestrian suspension bridge in Charles City (lost to flooding in 2008 and now replaced), the Marble Rock Bridge (replaced in 1995) and the Philips Mill and Crossing over Lime Creek, one of the most unusual truss bridges ever built (now replaced). While these bridges no longer exist, they have been extensively documented and can be found in the county history books. It is likely that the existing historic structures, like the Rockford Bridge, the Nora Springs bridges, and the Main Street Bridge in Charles City will follow suit, if they have not been documented in its entirety already. It is the question of including the Ripley Bridge in the history book. Given the unique appearance and potential for history, it definitely deserves to be in the history books.