Things are wrapping up as far as entries for the Ammann Awards are concerned, and while there was a huge rush to submit historic bridges for their respective categories, Marc Scotti of the New York State Department of Transportation brought this mystery bridge up to the author’s attention, justifying it for being profiled here as well as being nominated it its respective category.
Located in Erie County in western New York State, this bridge is fancy in terms of its aesthetic features- a Pratt through truss bridge built with a skew and whose portal and overhead bracings feature a fan-shaped ornate heal bracings, as seen in the photo above. However, this bridge is also unique because of its association with a local but rarely known bridge company in the state, the Horseheads Bridge Company. Little has been written about the bridge company. In fact, it was seldom mentioned in the historic bridge encyclopedia Darnell under New York State. According to the information given, that company existed from ca. 1890 until it was absorbed into the American Bridge Company conglomerate in 1903. An attempt to revive the company occurred in 1917, bearing the name Horseheads Manufacturing Company and with William Perkins, who had run the first company up to 1903, presiding. Unfortunately, the company folded two years later. Like many bridge builders in the US, Horseheads left its mark with its portal and overhead bracings, making it historically significant and providing a case for registration into the National Register of Historic Places, if more information is discovered to help support the cause.
And this takes us back to this bridge, located over 18-Mile Creek carrying Versailles Plank Road. Normally evidence would be found through the builder’s plaques located on the end post or portal bracings. These plus some of the ornamental features were stolen years ago, degrading the historic significance of the bridge. The bridge was abandoned in the 1960s and it was not until 1995, when efforts were undertaken to restore the bridge for recreational use. Since the restoration was completed, it has still served this purpose, serving as a public fishing access point under the name Hobuck Flat.
While an example of the Horseheads Bridge Company structure has been saved, there are still a handful of bridges left in the country that were built by this company. Can you name them and where they are located?
Furthermore, more information on the Horseheads Bridge Company is needed to determine how it was established, how many bridges it built during its short lifespan, and how it was gobbled up by an already enormous bridge conglomerate. Plus who is William Perkins and how was he and his friends influential in the business operations? Why did Perkins restart the company in 1917?
And finally, when was the Hobuck Flat Bridge constructed and why was it abandoned for such a long time? Even more so, who stepped forward and recognized the importance of the bridge and its builder and pushed forward to restore this bridge?
All these questions are open but answers can be submitted either in the comment section or directly by e-mail to the Chronicles at firstname.lastname@example.org. The bridge is one of a few that are up for nomination for Mystery Bridge Award. The winner of that prize as well as the other prizes of the Ammann Awards will be announced on 23rd December. Perhaps this bridge may take it….
Special thanks to Marc Scotti for the photo and the nomination. Nathan Holth also provided some info on this and a couple Horseheads bridges and can be accessed here, even though the number of these bridges remaining may be more than what is posted….