Mystery Bridge 19: The Holliwell Truss Bridge

Photo taken in December 2007
Holliwell Covered Bridge (as reference)
Built in 1880
























Author’s note: This is a follow-up on yesterday’s article about the Bridges of Madison County, Iowa. For more information, please click here.

There are many features that make visiting the Holliwell Bridge, located over the Middle River on the road bearing its name, worth visiting. One has the historic features, as mentioned in the article on the bridges of Madison County, being a covered bridge built in a unique fashion that one will rarely see by a local bridge builder who left a mark in the county. It is located in the wooded valley, making it a grand location for fishing and picnicking. And as a bonus, located to the east of the historic covered bridge is yet another historic structure.
Comprising of a pin-connected Pratt pony truss bridge, this structure was relocated to the site from an unknown location many years ago, and nobody knows where it originated from and how it got there. It is clear that when it was relocated to its present site, it was erected on a concrete floor and remained there as a marker with no name and no history. Judging by the way the bridge was assembled that it was built in the 1880s or 1890s, long before truss bridges were standardized to feature riveted connections.

Madison County had built hundreds of truss bridges in addition to the covered bridges that makes it the most populous and famous in the state of Iowa, still to this day. Half of the truss bridges that were constructed between the 1880s and the 1940s were pony truss bridges.

However, there may be a lead to this bridge that is in connection with the film “The Bridges of Madison County,” starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Street, based on the book by Robert J. Waller.  In the scene where Robert Kincaid (the photographer played by Eastwood) meets Francesca Johnson (the housewife played by Streep) for the first time, they both took a trip to the Roseman Bridge. On the way there, they crossed a pony truss bridge resembling the similarities of the one located at Holliwell Bridge.  While it may be a bit naive to assume this because many pony truss bridges like the one at the site have been decimated due to a lack of information on their history and significance to the communities they served, it is possible that the pony truss used in the film was saved from destruction and was relocated to the present site. A clip of the scene in the 11th minute will show you how Kincaid and Johnson crossed the bridge enroute to the bridge, and eventually into four days of life-altering romance that lasted a lifetime. Yet comparing that scene with the photo, it may be that the one in the clip is a bit shorter than the picture.

One can make many assumptions as to how the truss bridge at the Holliwell Covered Bridge site managed to be preserved in a way that it is giving Madison County a pristine reputation towards preserving historic bridges, or one can find out more about how the bridge’s history and replace the theories with facts and stories about it. If you know more about this bridge that will help solve this intriguing mystery, please leave your comments at the end of the article or contact the author at the Chronicles at  The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles helps solve mysteries of historic bridges like this one in order to preserve them for future generations to come.

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