It is not rare that when a person is on vacation, far far away where he is not reachable that he comes home to an urgent message on the answering machine or in your e-mail inbox begging for help. While I was away at the peninsula of Holnis, located northeast of Flensburg northern Schleswig-Holstein, a gentleman provided an SOS to anyone who could help him save a unique bridge from becoming a pile of scrap metal and replaced with an ugly concrete culvert that is a 20th of the length of the original bridge itself. As I had posted about the call for mystery bridges to be solved prior to my departure in the second week of August, it was not surprising that he asked me for his help.
Wayne Keller needs your help. He is currently compiling some information and ways to save the Mulberry Creek Bridge. Located southwest of Ford in Ford County, Kansas (which is southeast of Dodge City), the bridge features two 85 foot pinned connecting Pratt through truss spans with Howe Lattice portal bracings (9-rhombus with curved heel bracings).
The bridge was built in 1906 by the Kansas City Bridge Company at its original location, Second Avenue in Dodge City. It featured six 85 foot spans over the Arkansas River. In 1935, the bridge was replaced by a concrete span, but the truss spans were relocated to Coronado Road, where it was in service until 1958 when it was replaced by a concrete bridge on a new alignment. Two of the spans were salvaged and relocated to Valley Road, where it has been in place since 1959. The bridge has been susceptible to flooding as it is located near a watershed, which is over 15o square miles. The bridge now serves a general maintenance road and is rarely used. But it becomes a dirt road after passing the Keller Ranch. Yet if the county commissioners have it their way, the bridge will be history before year’s end. The last inspection in May of this year revealed a broken pin in one of the connections between the diagonal and vertical beams and the bridge was subsequentially closed to all traffic. On 4 June, 2012, the commissioners voted unanimously to tear the bridge down and replace it with a concrete culvert that is seven feet long- an intelligent choice given the fact that the creek is wider than the culvert, and culverts are susceptible to erosion caused by high water, as well as flooding upstream. There was an attempt to sell the bridge to Mr. Keller three years earlier but despite his agreement to the proposal, the deal never bore fruit for unknown reasons.
Mr Keller is looking for some information on the bridge to make it eligible for the National Register but also for ways to keep the bridge in service- and on his property, even if it means fixing the structure to keep it open for private use only. Judging by the information found so far, the bridge has potential to be considered historically significant and repairs on the bridge will prolong its life by up to 50 years, while at the same time, is 70% cheaper than replacing it with a culvert and allow the road to be dammed up, causing flooding upstream and potentially lawsuits by farmers and ranchers affected. More information in the form of oral sources and other articles to help justify the case for saving the bridge is also welcomed.
If you have any information that will be helpful to Mr. Keller in his quest to save the bridge, please contact him at the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to address the logic and importance in saving the bridge and cutting down on the cost, please contact the Ford County commissioners using the following information:
Jerry King: 620-385-2975
Christopher Boys 620-225-0800
Terry Williams: 620-225-1104
Update from Wayne Keller:
The plan of the county engineer is to removed the bridge an sell as scrap metal and replace with a metal seven foot culvert. The bridge is 170 long and is about 15 feet above the channel. The proposed culvert will be buried one foot below the channel and the top of the road will be about 12 feet below the deck of the current bridge. So the cross sectional area of the opening for water flow will go from basically a triangle 170 along the top and 15 of depth or about 1,275 square feet to the opening the culvert 38.5 square feet less maybe a square foot that is buried below the channel.
The bridge is on a general maintenance township road and provides me all weather access to my residence(our family residence since 1905) and my ranch and cow calf herd. It is also the mail route. From my driveway going east, the roads become minimum maintenance township roads and are very nasty due to eroded roadbeds that now serve as ditches when it is wet. The bridge is my one and only connection to the outside world in wet weather. During wet weather access to the other lands, which are only farmlands with no residences, that are east of my driveway are not accessible except by ATV or high clearance 4WD vehicles. Therefore, during wet weather, I, my hired hand and the mail man have to use the bridge, along with emergency services if needed at my place, and no other landowner can use the bridge for to access their property because of the minimum maintenance road system past my driveway.
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you informed on the developments with this mystery bridge and would like to thank you for your support.
There are many states that have comprehensive historic bridge policies that have successfully preserved as many of these vintage structures as possible. Indiana is one of those states that not only has one of the best historic bridge preservation policies in the country, but is one of a few states that still has over 60% of its historic bridges (bridges built prior to 1945) left in the state.
So it is no surprising that this year’s Historic Bridge Conference will go to Indiana, where pontists and other interested parties can take a look at the historic bridges, restored to their original beauty and ready for people to have a look at, photograph and show to others who are interested. Indiana has some unique bridges that will be part of the itinerary, including the Triple Whipple Truss Bridge in Dearborn County, the only bridge in the country that features diagonal beams supporting three panels. Then there is the Madison-Milton Bridge over the Ohio River, which is undergoing a makeover on its original piers. Then there are other bridges, such as Secrest Ferry Bridge, Pugh Ford Bridge and the Fort Ritner Bridge, just to name a few. Furthermore, there will three hours of speeches by many pontists and bridge experts and a documentary on historic bridge preservation by Julie Bowers. Among those speaking include Nathan Holth, Marsh Davis of the Indiana Landmarks Foundation and most importantly James Cooper, who is deemed the father of historic bridges and has spearheaded efforts to save historic bridges and inform the public about their importance for over 30 years.
The event will take place during the third weekend in September, most notably, 21-23 September. For those interested in participating in the event, please contact Tony Dillon via e-mail at the following address: email@example.com
While the author of the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will not be able to attend due to other commitments, the column will be indirectly involved in the conference which includes providing the readers with the highlights of the events through other pontists who will attend the event and contribute to the report. As soon as the information is available, it will be posted in the Chronicles.
Robert Street Bridge (foreground), the St. Paul Vertical Lift Bridge (middle) and the Wabasha Street Bridge (background) all spanning the Mississippi River in St. Paul. Photo taken in August 2011
Some of us have a sixth sense- when one senses something that will happen in the future in the present and take action to avoid it. Some of us see something that happened and takes measures to save face and avoid further trouble. In this case, it is the latter. Yesterday, I posted the Book of the Month column on Denis Gardner’s book, “Wood, Concrete, Stone and Steel: Minnesota’s Historic Bridges,” encouraging people to read the literature. Early this morning, I received the interview questions from author Denis Gardner himself, which I sent prior to my vacation in Schleswig Holstein two weeks earlier. Contrary to what I wrote about his work, Gardner provides a few answers to my questions from his own point of view, which includes a hint that a book on the history of bridge builders in Minnesota should be on the “To do” List for any author wanting to tackle this project.
Without further ado, here is the interview with the author:
1. BACKGROUND INFORMATION (A SHORT SUMMARY OF YOUR OCCUPATION AND BACKGROUND IN HISTORY):
My B.A. is in history. And, not surprisingly, I never thought I would end up in an occupation with history at its core, but sometimes we get lucky. I also have a Master of Liberal Studies degree.
I was fortunate enough to be hired by a historical consulting firm in Minneapolis that specialized in studying buildings and structures. In other words, the firm frequently was hired by governmental agencies and others to complete studies in areas with cultural resources (buildings, structures, etc.) that may be impacted by a project. For example, if the Minnesota Department of Transportation was completing a road project through a particular community, our firm may be contracted to study the area to determine if there were any historic buildings or structures in the area that may be impacted by the project. Such a study stems from the Historic Preservation Act of 1966, a section of which requires agencies receiving federal funding or federal licensing to discover if their projects negatively affect any properties believed historic—that is, any properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places or any properties eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
Initially, I began working as a researcher for the firm. Over time my role expanded to include surveying and writing as well. Eventually, I wrote many studies on various building and structure types. I also wrote two books that cover these subjects. The first book was Minnesota Treasures: Stories Behind the State’s Historic Places (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2004) and the second was Wood, Concrete, Stone, and Steel: Minnesota’s Historic Bridges (University of Minnesota Press, 2008). In late 2011, I became the National Register Historian in Minnesota, replacing Susan Roth, who retired after occupying the position for many years.
2. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TYPE OF HISTORY THAT YOU ENJOY WRITING AND/OR VISITING? (BRIDGES, WARS, NATIVE AMERICAN, BUILDINGS, OR OTHERS)
It is difficult for me to pick only one type of history as a favorite. I find the subject of history in general fascinating, and I will read just about any historical subject. The field within which I work, however, is that of the built environment (buildings, structures, objects, districts, and sites). My work is intimately tied to the National Register of Historic Places. As a result, much of my reading surrounds this subject. My visits are often to buildings/structures that are either in the National Register or are being considered for listing in the National Register. Still, I enjoy a wide variety of historical subjects and read and visit other things as well when I have the opportunity.
3. HOW DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN HISTORIC BRIDGES?
I became interested in bridges many years ago when I began working in the field of architectural history/historic preservation. When I was hired as a researcher for the Minneapolis historical consulting company, the firm was in the middle of completing a statewide bridge survey. The survey came about because the Minnesota Department of Transportation needed to know which bridges on Minnesota roadways were eligible for listing in the National Register. For Mn/DOT, knowing this allowed the agency to plan ahead, to recognize in advance which bridges were historic via National Register standards and which ones were not. During my first six months at the consulting company I spent every other week on the road traveling about the state, visiting county and state highway departments, local historical societies and libraries, county courthouses, and wherever else research on bridges guided me. I became quite fond of bridges. 4. YOU MENTIONED IN YOUR BOOK THAT THERE WERE TWO OTHER HISTORIANS (ROISE AND HESS) WHO WANTED TO WRITE ABOUT MINNESOTA’S HISTORIC BRIDGES BUT DECIDED AGAINST IT BECAUSE OF CONFLICTS. WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO PURSUE THIS PROJECT? WHAT WERE YOUR MOTIVES?
In truth, there is another historian that I thought might write the book, Robert Frame III. Frame, like Jeffrey Hess and Charlene Roise, was one of the first to study Minnesota’s bridging history in depth.
Author’s Note: Frame wrote at least three reports on historic bridges in Minnesota including a comprehensive report in 1985 which focused on all bridges built prior to World War II, most of them being metal truss bridges whose history was brought to the interest of many people working with historic bridge preservation.
After completing my first book, and concluding that someone else was probably not going to write a Minnesota bridge book anytime soon, I decided that I would write it. Doing it almost immediately after the first book seemed a good idea since I was still in the book-writing mode—I thought that if I did not do it then, I may never get to it.
??5. IT IS SOMETIMES UNUSUAL FOR FAMILY MEMBERS TO BE INVOLVED IN A BRIDGE PROJECT. WHY WERE YOUR MOTHER AND BROTHER INVOLVED?
My mother was only involved to the extent that she liked traveling around and seeing things. So, when I was completing the photography on bridges—running around the state—she often was a companion. Like myself, my brother enjoys photography. As it was going to be difficult for me to get all of the bridges photographed in the allotted time period, I asked if he would be interested in completing some of the photography. ?6. WHY DID YOU STRUCTURE THE BOOK THE WAY YOU DID- BASED ON THE MATERIALS USED AND IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER?
Simply put, it seemed the logical way to parcel the book. Bridges evolved largely according to the material used to build them—wood and stone bridges came first, then metal bridges (first iron and then steel), and then reinforced-concrete bridges. By dividing the book in this way I could provide a mostly chronological history.
7. HOW DID THE USAGE OF MATERIALS INFLUENCE THE DEVELOPMENT OF BRIDGE TYPES (TRUSS, SUSPENSION, ETC.)?
Wood bridges always suffer from the fact that wood does not last as long as other materials. As a result, wood bridges are frequently replaced with bridges made from another material. Stone bridges may last a very long time, but are exceedingly expensive and labor intensive. It is extremely doubtful that we will ever see another large stone arch bridge. We may never see another small one, at least in Minnesota.
Metal and reinforced-concrete provided engineers with flexibility. Metal truss bridges supported substantial loads and yet their members (diagonals, verticals, etc.) did not need to be nearly as large and cumbersome as the members for wood bridges. And again, metal bridges generally lasted longer than wood bridges.
As concrete is relatively plastic, this allowed bridge builders to shape bridges, perhaps adding an aesthetic to them that was not available with previous materials. Concrete is very strong in compression but rather weak in tension, so metal reinforcing was introduced into the concrete to ameliorate this problem. All manner of bridges have been built with reinforced concrete: slabs, girders, arches, culverts. With reinforced-concrete a monumental arch bridge could be erected without the labor and expense that comes with building an arch made of stone. The material is so versatile that I don’t envision it falling from favor anytime soon.
As for suspension bridges—I am hardly an expert, but it appears that these have typically been made from metal, although concrete may sometimes encase metal. For example, the girders beneath the deck of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge are steel girders. However, the towers, from which the cables descend that carry the deck, are made of reinforced concrete. Concrete allowed engineers to shape the towers relatively easily into a pleasing form. Very large suspension bridges (such as the Golden Gate) are acted upon by terrific forces. The gales blowing through the bay would likely wreak havoc on bridge reinforced-concrete members that were employed in areas of great tensile stress. I assume that such members would begin to wear and crack in a short period of time.
8. WHEN THE 28 BRIDGE BUILDERS CONSOLIDATED TO CREATE THE AMERICAN BRIDGE COMPANY, THE BRIDGE BUILDERS FROM MINNEAPOLIS (SPECIFICALLY, THE DYNASTIES OF HEWETT, JONES AND BAYNE) FILLED IN THE VACUUM AND BECAME THE COUNTERPART TO AMBC. HOW INFLUENTIAL WERE THEY IN MINNESOTA AND BEYOND IN COMPARISON WITH AMBC?
I hate to admit it, but I cannot truly answer this question. As I note immediately below, we need someone to write the book on Minnesota’s bridge builders. With my bridge book, the focus was chiefly on the bridges themselves. There was discussion of bridge builders, certainly, but it was mostly peripheral to the bridges. The question that you raise is an interesting one, but I simply cannot answer it with confidence. We need more information on the builders.
9. ANOTHER BRIDGE BUILDER, LAWRENCE JOHNSON WAS AN IMMIGRANT FROM FLENSBURG IN PRUSSIA (NOW SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN GERMANY). HOW INFLUENTIAL WAS HE AND IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT CAUSED HIM TO GO INTO POLITICS? (NOTE: IT IS RARE FOR BRIDGE BUILDERS TO BECOME POLITICIANS, OR IS IT?)
Similar to my comment above, I don’t think that I can do justice to this question. I have always felt that the early bridge builders in the Upper Midwest deserved an entire book. We know so little about them, yet they built so much of our infrastructure. Fredric Quivik penned “Montana’s Minneapolis Bridge Builders,” which offers more history on area bridge builders in one source than just about any other source. My assumption is that Johnson was influential, for he was one of these early bridge builders—in truth, it was a rather small fraternity. Am I surprised that he became part of the Minnesota legislature for a spell? Not really. Early Minnesota was littered with personalities that were prominent within their field of expertise. Many of these individuals transferred their skills to politics—at least for a time. It was not uncommon for prominent men within a relatively new community to become representatives in the state legislature. I’m assuming Johnson was a prominent personality within the community or region that he lived. We would know for certain once someone takes on the task of penning a book on Minnesota’s early bridge builders.
Author’s Note: The information in the book was only meant to scratch the surface as focusing on the tiniest aspects of the bridge engineers would warrant not only a book on Minnesota’s bridge builders, but also on the dynasties themselves, like the Hewetts, for example.
10. HOW HAS THE I-35W BRIDGE DISASTER OF 1 AUGUST 2007 INFLUENCED THE WAY WE THINK OF BRIDGES AND INFRASTRUCTURE IN GENERAL?
I think that it has made us more aware of bridges, and perhaps it has made us worry more about bridges. This worry is sometimes warranted, since many bridges are exhibiting wear, sometimes substantial wear. Bridges can last a long time, but like anything else they need regular maintenance. I don’t think most people defer maintenance on their houses for years, yet it seems that some of our bridges have been left to wither. I don’t think we can necessarily blame the counties for this (the counties oversee most, but not all, of the bridges in Minnesota). If the counties do not have the money to complete required maintenance, it is difficult to place blame at their door. The state highway department may be in a similar predicament with some of its bridges. The simple fact is that we need funds to take care of our bridges—indeed, to take care of our infrastructure as a whole, as it is plainly suffering.
?11. AND WHAT ABOUT THE HISTORIC BRIDGES? MANY OF THEM HAVE BEEN REPLACED SINCE THAT TIME CREATING THE DISTINCTION THAT THEY WILL BECOME EXTINCT IN 20 YEARS.
This has long been a topic that has bothered preservationist. The convention in Minnesota has been that the Minnesota Department of Transportation (in other words, the state) will take care of its historic bridges; it will do its best to do right by those bridges it oversees that have been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. However, it has been left to the counties to decide what each will do with its bridges that have been determined eligible for listing in the National Register. The general consensus among those familiar with the topic is that the counties have not been anxious to preserve these bridges. To Mn/DOT’s credit it created a bridge preservation plan, which it distributed to the counties in hopes that it would spur counties to preserve historic bridges. My sense, however, is that it has not been all that successful.
12. DO YOU THINK THE STATE AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENTS ARE DOING A GOOD JOB IN ADDRESSING THE ISSUE OF STRUCTURALLY DEFICIENT BRIDGES?
The simple answer is “No.” As I noted above, our infrastructure is suffering. Money, of course, solves the problem, but we just don’t have the funds to take care of everything we would like. Again, a bridge can last for a very long time but, like anything else, it must be maintained, and that takes dollars.
??13. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE MORE OF WITH REGARDS TO HISTORIC BRIDGES AND PRESERVING THEM?
I would like to see the counties preserve more bridges. The counties have oversight over the vast majority of bridges in Minnesota. Regrettably, the counties often view older bridges (some may even be historic via National Register standards) as something of a nuisance. I welcome Mn/DOT’s bridge preservation inclinations, but I wish those notions would filter down to the counties. Again, if the counties had more money to maintain their bridges, preservation would likely be more of a focus.
14. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BRIDGE IN MINNESOTA? THE US? INTERNATIONALLY?
This is a difficult question. I really like the stone arch Point Douglas-St. Louis River Road Bridge in Stillwater. It is the oldest bridge in Minnesota that we have found, although we are not precisely sure how old—perhaps early 1860s, or maybe even 1850s. It is in rough shape at the moment. I also like Split Rock Bridge in Pipestone County. It is the last stone arch to be built in Minnesota (1938). It was a Works Progress Administration Project that used pink Sioux quartzite to shape the bridge. But I also need to acknowledge the Soo Line High Bridge. Frankly, it is one of the most impressive arch bridges in Minnesota, but few ever see it because it is hidden in the St. Croix River Valley north of Stillwater. It is a huge open-spandrel, steel arch built by the Soo Line Railway. Besides looking rather elegant, its engineering is fascinating. It is a three-hinged arch (which means it is not terribly rigid) but it becomes a two-hinged arch when a load passes over the bridge (in other words, it becomes more rigid).
Nationally, I like the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge in Boston. It is relatively new and it is a big cable-stayed bridge. We don’t have a roadway bridge in Minnesota like this, which is probably one reason I like it—it is novel. Also, its aesthetic is impressive, and the aesthetic is a product of the engineering. In other words, we get this wonderful impression of sails, but the sails come about simply because that is how a cable-stayed bridge is put together.
There are many notable bridges around the world, but I have always been greatly impressed by the Forth Bridge over the Firth of Forth in Scotland. It is located in an unforgiving location and it is so monumental. It almost looks as if it could stand forever. For me, it resembles three Apatosaurus dinosaurs nose to tail.
15. IF YOU HAVE A WORD OF ADVICE TO ANYONE WANTING TO WRITE A BOOK ON HISTORIC BRIDGES, WHAT WOULD YOU GIVE THEM? WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THE PROJECT?
Studying bridges is very much like studying other types of structures in the sense that you must thoroughly enjoy history and welcome researching for hours on end. But I also would add that if one does not appreciate technology/engineering, then one probably should not be writing a history on bridges, as these things are central to in-depth study of the resource. Of course, if one was penning a bridge book that was largely literary, perhaps even romantic, that is somewhat different.
15a. WHAT WAS THE ROLE OF ERIC DELONY WITH THE BOOK?
Eric was kind enough to write the Afterword for the book. Eric has years of experience with bridges. He was chief of the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) program for years. As a result, he is very familiar with engineering subjects, especially bridges. I was grateful that he was willing to offer his bridge knowledge to the book on Minnesota bridges.
16. DO YOU HAVE ANY FUTURE PLANS REGARDING WRITING BOOKS (ON BRIDGES)?
I would not be surprised if I wrote another book or two, although I am not sure if they will be on bridges. A few years back I was approached about doing another bridge book, but one that looks at bridges beyond the state of Minnesota. The idea is interesting, but I have not pursued it. Committing to a book is committing to a lot of time and work. I will always be fascinated by bridges, of course, but at the same time there are other subjects I would like to study and write about.
Also, I found the directory of the existing historic bridges in MN to be very helpful. Could you summarize why you did that and would you recommend any author doing that?
It seemed like a commonsense thing to do. My feeling, and my publishers feeling, was that readers naturally would like to know what other historic bridges are out there. Providing the appendix gives readers a guide to the other Minnesota historic bridges (by “historic,” I mean bridges that are in the National Register of Historic Places or bridges that are eligible for listing in the National Register). And yes, I think it a good idea to include such information in books like this. Whenever we address subjects of tangible things like buildings, bridges, grain elevators, etc.—it is a courtesy to give others an idea of what else may be worth exploring.
Book of the Month for August 2012: How Gardner’s book brings the materials together in chronological order
In the summer of 2008, while compiling a book on the bridges in my county of childhood, Jackson County, Minnesota, Denis Gardner, a historian at the Minnesota Historical Society, published a book on the history of bridges in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, where I was born and raised. I purchased the book not only for the use of information for my book, but also to find out more about the development of the bridges in Minnesota from the time of its statehood in 1858 to date. Furthermore, I wanted to find out more about the I-35W Bridge Disaster in 2007 and its effect on the future of the remaining historic bridges in the state. After all, Gardner was in the finishing stages of his work when the Minneapolis Bridge disaster happened on 1 August, 2007 and some information on this event was mentioned in the work. Yet, the book deals with the historic aspect of the bridges that helped shape the way people traveled throughout the state, thanks in part to the bridge builders that contributed a great deal to the state’s infrastructure. Yet the way Gardner structured the book, he may have set the precedent for other bridge book authors to follow.
Gardner divided his piece up into materials that were used for the development of bridges in the state: stone, wood, iron/steel and concrete, and arranged them in chronological order for a simple reason: these were the materials that were readily available for use. When the materials were exhausted or had enough flaws to cause potential disasters, they were replaced with newer materials that were sturdier and lasted longer. While it was used mainly for log cabins, wood was abundant and also used for the first bridges designed to bring commerce to the settlement and visitors to the farmsteads. Stone was also used for bridge crossings, but they needed to be quarried and transported, which took an ample of innovative efforts, money and especially, manpower. Both were prone to natural disasters, with wooden bridges being destroyed by the spring thaw and floods and the stone arch bridges failing due to erosion. Then there was the usage of iron and steel for bridge construction, whose advantages included being lightweight and can be (re-) assembled, yet the problem with these structures have to do with rust and corrosion caused by not maintaining (and painting) the bridge on a regular basis. Then there is concrete, which most bridge builders use today, despite the fact that the lifespan of these bridges are shorter than those made of metal.
Gardner connects the usage of materials with the development of bridges in the state, and the bridge builders and engineers who contributed to the construction of these structures. While some background information on the bridge types (as with the diagrams) were deemed necessary for the readers to understand, Gardner focused more on the role of the bridge builders in Minnesota, for the state became a primary breeding ground for bridge building empires to rise and dominate the landscape west of the Mississippi River beginning in the 1890s. This includes the empire consisting of Commodore P. Jones, the Hewett Family (Seth M., William S. and Arthur), Alexander Bayne and later Milo Adams. These gentlemen established numerous bridge companies based in Minneapolis and were in business for a total of five decades. There was also Horace Horton before he emigrated to Chicago, and Lawrence Johnson, an immigrant from Flensburg (Germany) who later became a politician after establishing his own bridge company. Gardner takes the reader behind the scenes to reveal how these bridge companies filled the vacuum that was left behind after many bridge companies based in Chicago and eastward became part of the American Bridge Company consortium in 1901 and for the most part, left the bridge building scene in Minnesota afterwards.
Gardner presented many examples of historic bridges in the present that are historically significant because of their design and connection with the bridge builders of that time, but are in danger of being replaced, especially in light of the I-35W Bridge tragedy of 2007. Most helpful was a directory containing a list of bridges that are either listed or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places with information about its design and history and (for most cases), bridge photos accompanying them. This provides the reader with an opportunity to examine them, plan a trip to these structures (assuming they are still standing, for the number has dropped dramatically since the book was published), and further their research on bridge builders and other bridge designs for their own projects.
Gardner made sure that the bridge book was not too technical and that the history behind the construction of these bridges and the photos that accompanied the examples presented were easy for the people to understand. As a pontist, this book is very easy to read in comparison to the works written by authors that were too technical and lack the photos and diagrams needed to support their arguments. But for a non-pontist, the book provides some easily accessible information on the history of bridges in the state and how it contributed to the history of the USA in general. There have been many books written on the bridges in certain states. Yet this one brings bridge building and history together, putting the materials used for bridge construction in chronological order and bringing historic bridges home to the people who grew up knowing them, people who knew about them and the people who want to know more about them for their own purpose.
Note: The author submitted the interview questions to Denis Gardner via e-mail prior to his departure for the north of Germany two weeks ago and as soon as the interview is completed, it will be posted.
While the author has been busy profiling some of the historic bridges, providing readers with tours of areas with high numbers of historic bridges, following up on preservation attempts on many, writing about ways to preserve them and digging out some interesting facts on them, or should I say how to find them, there are many historic bridges out there that are threatened with demolition but preservation groups are working to save them and need your help. This includes the Orange Road Bridge in Ohio, the Ft. Atkinson Bridge in Iowa and the Amelia Earhart Bridge in Kansas, just to name a few.
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles would like to help you bring these historic bridges to the attention of the readers, with the goal of providing support and addressing the issues involved with these precious vintage structures.
If you are part of an organization that is working to save a historic bridge or know a historic bridge that is threatened with demolition but would like to save it, please provide a short summary of the structure (history, status, etc.) as well as plans for preserving the structure and a couple photos and send them to Jason D. Smith using the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. The information will then be posted on the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, where you will receive some feedback and support for your historic bridge with hopes that you will garner enough support and interest to save the structure. These articles will be posted starting in September.
In addition to that, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is also looking for any mystery bridges that deserve to be posted. If you have a bridge, whose information is missing and would like to know more about its origins, please send the author a photo with some information (including what questions you want solved on this structure) to the above-mentioned address. The mystery bridges will be posted in the Chronicles beginning in September and listed under the heading “Mystery Bridges.” An example of one is found here. Please be aware that these mystery bridges you present must be those that were built in 1945 and earlier.
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is a column that brings the past of historic bridges to light, and provides support for preserving historic bridges for future generations to come. After all, historic bridges are relics that deserve our attention.
There are many communities in the US and parts of Europe that engage in projects where either historic bridges are preserved in their original place or relocated into the communities, where they in the end are designated as places of interest and become part of a bike trail or park. In Fort Scott in eastern Kansas, the city is working on a Herculean task of bringing one of Bourbon County’s finest bridges in to be erected as part of Riverfront Park over the Marmaton River.
The Long Shoals Bridge, located over the Little Osage River at 265th Avenue in eastern Borubon County, has been closed to traffic for over three decades with the deck removed. Built in 1902 by the Midland Bridge Company in Kansas City, the 175 foot long Parker through truss bridge is one of the rarest gems one will find. The portal bracing is one of the features the locals will associate with the bridge because of its heavy lattice design with the builder’s plaques on top, combined with strut bracings representing the A-frame design. The end posts are vertical and thick, almost resembling the usage of Phoenix Columns even though the columns appear to be four-shaped. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of Kansas’s historic bridge inventory.
While plans have been approved to relocate and restore the bridge with estimates of up to $400,000, there is one major task that the engineers and contractors will have to grapple with: battling the flora that has seized the entire structure. As you can see in the pictures provided by Julie Bowers, a lot of work has to be done in order to pull the bridge from the river and haul it to town.
Tree growing on the railing.
While the Belle Fountain Bridge in Mahaska County, Iowa only has vines growing on the easternmost portal bracing which will make its removal easily before the bridge can be converted to recreational use, the situation is dire with the Long Shoals Bridge, for not only the vines have overtaken both ends of the bridge, but also the trees have undermined the abutments and parts of the structure’s bottom bracing to a point where there is a potential to take the structure apart bit by bit and send it into the water. The situation is not as dire as some of the bridges that we have seen, among them, a bridge over Sipsey River in Alabama, where one of the approaches collapsed, a bridge over English River in Washington County, Iowa, where overgrowth and flooding have caused the structure to lean to one side, or the Schell City Bridge in Misouri, where the entire bridge collapsed under its own weight, beginning with the pony truss span and followed by the main through truss span. But removing the bridge and relocating it will be a blessing for the structure and the people who know about its history as it will mean a new lease on life and a new purpose. One however needs to be careful on maintaining the structure’s integrity. Once the vegetation is removed, the bridge will need to be disassembled, hauled by trucks to Ft. Scott, sandblasted with new beam and other parts needed, repainted, and then reerected on new piers. The potential to compromise the historic integrity is great and many historic bridges that were relocated were stripped of their National Register status because the work done on the structure altered its integrity to a point where it did not look like the original, a criteria that strictly followed by the National Register of Historic Places. The fortunate part for the Long Shoals Bridge is the relocation and restoration has been approved by the Keeper of the National Register, who has the final say on which bridges are listed and which ones are removed because of their destruction or alteration beyond recognition. Yet when rebuilt and opened to traffic, the Kansas Historic Preservation Office will undertake the task of ensuring that the bridge’s structural integrity has not been compromised as a result of the relocation and restoration efforts.
But in order to proceed with the project, the first task is to figure out what to do with the vegetation that has taken over the bridge. Look at the pictures and ask yourselves: “How would you remove the vegetation and dismantle the bridge without destroying the structure?”
An answer to that question will follow in September.
The author would like to thank Julie Bowers of Workin Bridges for the use of the photos.
Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ Newsflyer:
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will be heading up north again for the fourth time beginning in August to visit some more places in Denmark. Some articles will appear in both this column, as well as its sister column, the Flensburg Files.
Also: Some European bridge tours will appear in the postings beginning in September, including a city in Bavaria where I posted a guessing quiz in July. More on that can be found here…..
Our next post brings you to Ames, Iowa. Located 30 miles (48 km) north of the capital of Des Moines, the city of 59,000 is perhaps the engineering hub of the state. The Iowa Department of Transportation has its headquarters in the city’s business district. Iowa State University is filled with engineering students with promising aspects in the future. And even though it is not the county seat of Story County (that honor goes to Nevada, located 8 miles (15 km) east of the city), the city is part of the triangular district, sharing with its neighbor to the east as well as to the west, Boone, Iowa, located 10 miles (18 km) west of the city and home of the Kate Shelley Viaduct and the Wagon Wheel Bridge.
Now as far as bridges are concerned, the city, like Story County, is loaded with numerous pre-1960 bridges dating as far back as 1875, with numerous bridge types to choose from and regardless of whether they used for rail or vehicular traffic. Some of them used to cross Skunk River (located east of the city) before being taken off the highway system or relocated to a less traveled road. This includes those that served the Lincoln Highway (US Highway 30). But many of them cross Squaw Creek, which snakes its way through the city before emptying into the Skunk River in the southern part of the city.
Luke Harden, a college student at Iowa State University and a regular contributor of the Historic Bridges of the US website, picked out the top five of the bridges that one should visit, even though the selection is rather difficult. He will provide you with a tour of the bridges, with a bonus question on the part of the author: Can you match the picture I posted above to the ones he profiled?
These bridge my favorites not because of build dates or because of a specific design, or anything like that. These bridges are my favorites because they aesthetically befit the scenery in which they are located. These bridges were places that I would visit, sit down, and do nothing but be one with the surroundings. These bridges are simply aesthetically beautiful in their surroundings.
Bridge #1 Veenker Memorial Golf Course Pony Truss Bridge
This bridge is a footbridge located within the Iowa State University Veenker Memorial Golf Course in Ames. It spans Squaw Creek and it is part of the cart path and is crossed often with golf carts by users of the course. It is located in the western part of the course. Now that corner of the course has quite a fair amount of trees. This bridge is a welded truss comprised of angle irons and was built at a presently unknown date by an equally unknown builder. The bridge itself aesthetically befits the scenery in which it was set. The steel is thin enough that from a distance on a spring or summer day, you could hardly tell there was a bridge there until you got up close. Images: http://bridgehunter.com/photos/22/97/229726-L.jpg http://bridgehunter.com/photos/22/97/229728-L.jpg http://bridgehunter.com/photos/22/97/229727-L.jpg
Bridge #4 Skunk River Bridge
This Warren through truss bridge was originally built in 1876 by the King Bridge Company at Cambridge, Iowa over the (South) Skunk River, where it’s piers faced issues and was eventually replaced in 1919, at which point the span was moved to this location, paired with a generic pony truss provided by the Iowa State Highway Commission (now known as the Department Of Transportation), which is based out of Ames, Iowa. It served as a crossing of the Skunk River on a small and extremely rarely used gravel road until the bridge, along with the road, were vacated in 1990. The bridge presently sits abandoned, utilized by locals who live in the nearby residential neighborhood to walk their dogs and college students going to the first US land grant college, Iowa State University. The bridge is located in an area that is quite scenic, and, most importantly for a nature lover of any form, quiet. The only non-natural noise that is frequently heard would be the sound of airplane engines droning as the Ames municipal airport is nearby.
Bridge #5 Squaw Creek Park Bridge
This bridge is part of a rail-to-trail within the city limits of Ames that is presently closed due to flood damage on an approach span (The plate girder itself is in good shape for a railroad bridge.). The bridge was part of an Ames-Slater line on the Chicago &and Northwestern Railway, which was abandoned in the 1980s. The bridge was presumably built by the American Bridge Company of New York. This assumption is based upon two holes on the side of the bridge. These holes match up with known riveting/bolting patterns for bridge plaques on girder spans built by the American Bridge Company. The assumption is also backed up with knowledge that the American bridge company built extremely similar pony plate girders for the Chicago & Northwestern Railway. The bridges (and the trail) are part of Ames’ Squaw Creek Park. The views from the bridge shows you an upstream view, including the nearby confluence of Worle Creek with the Squaw as well as well as the surrounded wooded area, and the downstream view will show you the rest of the surrounding woods. It’s a great place in Ames to just stand and watch the creek flow whilst listening to the birds chirp.
Author’s note: For more information on the bridges in Ames and Story County, you can click on the link here. Some of the bridges I visited during my trip through Iowa last year while visiting the Iowa DOT, and I have to agree with Mr. Harden, many of these bridges are highly recommended to visit, but there are many others outside the city that deserve some visitors in one way or another. In either case, when you are in Story County and happen to stop in Ames, take an hour or two for the bridges. You will not regret it.