Aside from new categories for the 2013 Othmar H. Ammann Awards, the Smith Awards, where the author picks the best and worst news in the world of (historic) bridges, also has a new category that will be featured this year. With all the bridge disasters that have happened so far this year, caused by Mother Nature, recklessness and freak accidents, the Smith Awards will introduce the category for Spectacular Disasters. And unlike other categories for the Smith Awards, you will have an opportunity to vote to see which story should receive the award. Already nominated for this year’s Award includes the following (click on the link for more details):
Do you have any other bridge disaster stories that are worth nominating? If so, you have until December 1st at 12:00am Central Standard Time to submit your stories to Jason Smith at the Chronicles at email@example.com. The nominations are open to all bridges in the US, Canada, Europe and elsewhere, and you must include a link to the bridges, so that people can have a look at the entries and vote for them. Bridges destroyed by arson are not included for they belong to the Bonehead Category. Voting will commence at the same time as with the Ammann Awards and the winners will be announced the same time as the winners will be announced- namely before Christmas.
This year has been an unusual year as far as bridge disasters are concerned for they have affected all bridges, young and old and regardless of bridge type. We’re hoping that we can work to address the safety on the bridges, which starts off with maintaining them to ensure that they are safe to cross. Then it is followed by addressing the rules of crossing them, and lastly ensure that their importance in history and as a reference to bridge building is stressed. Only then will disasters like these (and more entries to come) can be avoided.
There are more bridge types that make Des Moines one of the most populous bridges in the Midwest. As we will see in this part, truss bridges were just as popular of a bridge design as the arch bridges that were built by James Marsh and company. As many as 30 truss bridges were reported to had been built during the time span between 1870 and 1930 along the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers as well as other tributaries, including those mentioned in the first two parts of the series. The majority of them featured two or more spans. And while more than half of them were Pratt designs, there were many exceptions to the rule. Already mentioned in part II there was the Post through truss design that had existed at Court Avenue before its replacement in 1917. But like this bridge, the majority of the structures lack the information regarding its history, including the date of construction and the bridge builder. This was in part because of the fact that they were gone prior to the urban renewal period in the 1960s and after 1993. This is not good for many of these structures, like the 18th Avenue Bridge featured some decorative designs on the portal bracings, which were common during the period of bridge construction prior to 1920, when bridge builders could afford to leave their marks with ornaments and builders plaques. After 1920, with the standardization of truss bridges and the letter-shaped portal bracings (A, M and X-frames), these were seldomly used and can rarely be found today when travelling on Iowa’s highways.
Today, eight bridges are known to exist in Des Moines that have a truss design, at least two thirds of the number that had existed prior to 1970. This does not include the CGW Railroad Bridge, which was demolished in its entirety last month. While some of the structures have already been mentioned earlier, the tour of Des Moines’ truss bridges will feature the ones not mentioned. Each one will feature a location, when they were built (and replaced), what they looked like and if there is no concrete information on the bridge builder, some assumptions will be made. As they will mentioned in the Iowa Truss Bridge Book project that is being compiled by the author, any information on the bridges will be useful.
Without further ado, here are the bridges worth mentioning on the tour:
Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Bridge at Hartford Avenue: This bridge can be seen from Hartford Avenue on the southeast end of Des Moines. The three-span subdivided Warren through truss bridge with X-frame portal bracings is the fourth bridge to be located at this crossing, for the earliest crossing was dated 1871. It was rebuilt in 1890 and again in 1915 with a four-span through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings and pinned connections. While it can be assumed that the reconstruction in 1890 and 1915 may have to do with either flooding that damaged the spans or the increase in rail traffic, the current span was built in 1920 by the American Bridge Company and it most probably had to do with the destruction of the 1915 bridge, albeit more research and information is needed to confirm that claim. The bridge is 469 feet long and is owned by Union Pacific Railroad. However, it was part of the Rock Island Railroad with had a line connecting Indianola and Kansas City to the south, going through Des Moines enroute north to Albert Lea and Minneapolis. When the railroad company was liquidated in 1981, the line was acquired by Chicago and Northwestern, which in turn was bought by Union Pacific in 1995. 20 trains a day use this bridge.
18th Street Bridge:As seen in the picture at the very top of the article, this bridge crossed the Raccoon River at what is now Fleur Drive, southeast of the Central Academy. Before its demolition in 1936, the bridge featured four Camelback truss spans and was one of the most ornate bridges in Des Moines, let alone along the Des Moines River. More information is needed as to when the bridge was built (and by who) and why it was demolished. It is known that today’s Fleur Drive Bridge serves four-lane traffic and serves as a key link to Martin Luther King Drive and all points south of downtown Des Moines.
Inter-Urban Trail Bridge: Built in 1902, this bridge spans the Des Moines River south of the Euclid Avenue Bridge. The structure features four spans of Pratt with pinned connections, yet three of the spans feature lattice portal bracings with curved heel bracings, while the fourth and easternmost span features V-laced portal bracings with a 45° angle heel bracing- quite possibly a span that was either brought in or built on-site to replace an earlier span destroyed. This bridge used to serve the Inter-Urban Rail Line, one of eight in Iowa accomodated commuters through the 1950s. This route connected Des Moines with Colfax in Poweshiek County, a length of 23 miles. Service continued until 1949, when the freight railroads took over and people resorted to the car or bus. 33 years later, the railroad line and bridge was abandoned, but the City bought both of them to be converted into a bike trail, which was opened in 1998. With the exception of the replacement of the approach spans in 2012, the bridge today retains its integrity and still serves bike traffic, while providing access to the Neal Smith Bike Trail, which combs the Des Moines River.
Commerce Bridge:Spanning the Raccoon River, this bridge featured four truss spans which included three Camelbacks with Howe Lattice portal bracings with subdivided heels and a Pratt through truss with M-frame portal bracings. The latter was built at a later time, whereas the three Camelbacks were reportedly to had been built by the Clinton Bridge and Iron Works Company, one of many Iowa bridge builders that existed during the period between 1890 and 1930. It is unknown when they were built, let alone rebuilt, but records had it that the bridge was destroyed during the Flood of 1965. The bridge was later removed, and Commerce Street was rerouted to run along the Raccoon. All that remains are the abutments and the rapids where the bridge once stood. They can be seen as 105th Street southwest curves to the south.
Iowa Interstate Railroad Bridge: Spanning the Des Moines River south of the Red Bridge and once part of the Rock Island Railroad, the Iowa Interstate Railroad Bridge was built in 1901 by the American Bridge Company and featured eight spans of pony girders totalling 625 feet. While it used to be a double-tracked bridge, the eastbound track was abandoned and fenced off in the 1980s and today, only one track is used. It replaced a four-span lattice through truss bridge, which had served one-lane of rail traffic and was built 30 years earlier. The future of this bridge is in doubt due to its sparse use, combined with the city’s plans to raise the dikes. Already the Red Bridge was raised four feet and the CGW Railroad Bridge were removed as part of the city flood planning. It would not be surprising that the bridge’s owner, Iowa Interstate Railroad would abandon the bridge altogether, making it the target for scrap metal. But it is unknown if and when that would happen.
SW 63rd Street Bridge:Located over the Raccoon River between Brown’s Woods and Water Works Parks on 63rd Street in West Des Moines, this three-span truss bridge featured two pin-connected Pratt through truss bridges with portal bracings similar to the 5th Street Pedestrian Bridge, located downstream. It is possible that either George E. King or Clinton Bridge and Iron Works (because of the plaque on the portal bracing) had built the original span. Its northernmost span featured a Pratt through truss bridge with riveted connections and A-frame portal bracing. That bridge was most likely brought in to replace one of the original spans that was destroyed either through flooding or an accident. Little information was gathered about the bridge prior to its demolition and replacement in 1964, due to lack of interest in the history of the structure. Had the historic preservation movement started 10-15 years earlier, it would most likely have been one of the first bridges eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The National Historic Preservation Law was passed in 1966, one year after the replacement of this bridge was open to traffic.
Waterworks Park Bridge: Built in 1922, this Raccoon River crossing is one of the key attractions of Waterworks Park on the south end of Des Moines, as well as the city’s bike trail network. The crossing is 320 feet long and features two 98 foot riveted Pratt pony trusses that used to carry vehicular traffic until its closure in the 1990s. In 1999, the City converted the crossing into a bike trail bridge and has remained in that fashion ever since.
SW Ninth Street Bridge: This Raccoon River crossing is perhaps one of two bridges on this tour that has the least amount of information on its history, despite the fact that it was replaced with the current bridge in 1967. The structure featured three spans of pin-connected Pratt through trusses with Howe lattice portal bracings. Yet that is about it as far as further information is concerned…..
Old Highway 46 Bridge: This is the second of the two bridges that is missing information (including dimensions) and even more detailed photos than what is shown in the link. No information was found in the historic bridge survey conducted in the early 1990s. Located southeast of Des Moines, this multiple-span polygonal through truss bridge was built in 1938 and was removed 60 years later when the Hwy. 65 freeway opened. Other than that, there was no information as to whether a previous structure had existed before that, let alone who the bridge builder was that built the 1938 structure. It is known though that the removal of the bridge came despite protests from farmers, who wanted the bridge open so that they can haul farm equipment across it. Yet because the valley where the bridge was located was flood prone, safety precautions were taken and the bridge was removed. Today, portions of the highway exist on its original path from Avon to the river and from there to Des Moines, terminating at Hwy. 163. Interestingly enough, a railroad bridge located adjacent to the bridge was removed in 1968 after the railroad decided to reroute the line through Indianola enroute to Knoxville. A section of the railroad line exists but makes a dead-end at the power plant located on the north side of the river.
Ashworth Park Truss Bridge:This is one of three bridges that straddle Walnut Creek carrying Iowa Interstate Railroad through Des Moines (the other two are Pratt pony trusses). The 1897 Warren through truss bridge with Howe lattice portal bracings and riveted connections used to serve dual track rail traffic until the 1990s when it was reduced to only one track. The bridge still serves traffic and can be seen up close from the bike trail while passing through Waterworks Park.
This sums up the tour through Des Moines. The truss bridge portion of the tour is rather the most interesting, but the most challenging if one wants to find information and photos of the structure. As some of the structures will be included in the Iowa Truss Bridge Book project, if you have any information that is useful for the project, or for other people who are interested in bridges in general, you can leave a comment here, or you can contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at firstname.lastname@example.org. Aside from that, it is hoped that people will have an opportunity to visit the bridges while in Des Moines and listen (or read) the stories involved with each of them, for the bridges span a total of 160 years and three periods, both in terms of materials (wood-iron/steel- concrete) as well as the period of bridge building (trusses-arch-modern bridges). Through the interest in history, you are doing more than just collect stories, you are sharing them with others as well, for there is no such thing as no interest in history. Without history, we are ignorant and a group of people with no identity, no pride and no soul. We take pride in history to ensure we know who we are and bridges are an integral part of our history.
Author’s Note:More info can be obtained by clicking on the links marked in the heading and text. Special thanks to John Marvig for photographing the bridges and allowing usage in this article.
Before diving into a rather large third and final part of the tour through Des Moines, Iowa looking at the history of truss bridges, there is one bridge to consider because of its rather unique history. While there were many bridges whose information is scarce and would require an in-depth research through the city and railroad archives, the Euclid Avenue Bridge is a unique structure that should not be ignored. The three-span Pratt through truss bridge spanned the Des Moines River from 1931 until its removal as part of the urban renewal project that was initiated after the Great Flood in 1993. Yet according to records found in bridgehunter.com, the bridge was located in two different places: the first crossing was at Euclid Avenue but only lasted two years. A haunched concrete arch bridge took its place and has been serving traffic for over 80 years. The bridge ended up at the location of 2nd Avenue, where it served as a replacement to an earlier truss bridge from 1935 until its eventual removal.
The reason for the assumption? The spans between the span at 2nd Avenue and the one at Euclid Avenue are identical according to the photos. Yet looking more closely at the 2nd Avenue site, the bridge served inter-rail traffic, a streetcar service which transported people from point A to point B for three decades until it was discontinued. However, photos from the 2nd Avenue site showed that the bridge was narrowed, making one researcher interpret that it might have a different structure that was built at that location and not the one at Euclid Avenue.
Even more puzzling is the entire structure itself, for it featured three spans but whose portal bracings and other features were totally different: the outer spans had Town Lattice portals and appeared as if they were King Bridge Company structures, whereas the center span had an M-frame design. This leads to the conclusion that the bridges may have been imported to Des Moines from elsewhere and assembled by the local bridge building company.
This leads to several questions that need to be clarified, namely:
1. If the bridge was brought in from outside the community, where were they originally built and when?
2. Who was responsible for bringing in the three spans to be erected in 1931 at the Euclid Avenue site, let alone relocate them to the Second Avenue site in 1933-35?
3. Were the trusses narrowed to accomodate rail traffic at the 2nd Avenue site, or was there another bridge built next to the 2nd Avenue Bridge that accomodated rail traffic?
4. What did the 2nd Avenue Bridge look like prior to its removal in 1993 and was that year the correct date of the bridge’s removal?
This case would require any research in the form of newspapers, oral stories and most importantly, photos. Do you have the information on this bridge? If so, please send them to the Chronicles at email@example.com and help out on solving this rather unique mystery involving this bridge.
While the Euclid Avenue Bridge was unique in itself, there are other truss bridges that deserve as much recognition as this one, even though some of them have vanished into the history books. More on them in the next article….
New Categories Introduced. Nominations being accepted between now and December 1st
Time sure is flying when you are having fun. Already 2013 is on its last two legs, with October being over with next week and thoughts of Thanksgiving and Christmas looming on our minds. We’re already wrapping up what was a rather interesting year as far as bridges are concerned, and with that, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will have its third annual Othmar H. Ammann Awards, scheduled to be given out in December. Between now and December 1st at 12:00am Central Standard Time, you will have a chance to nominate your favorite bridge photo, and/or bridges for the categories of Best Photo, Best Kept Secret, Mystery Bridge and Bridge of the Year. This is in addition to the Lifetime Legacy Award given to the person who devoted his/her time and energy to saving historic bridges.
However, a new category has been introduced for the Ammann Awards, which is for Best Bridge Preservation Practice. This will be awarded to a group for their successful efforts in preserving a historic bridge for future purposes, be it for a bike trail, a monument or even for reuse on the highway.
As usual, nominations will be for bridges in the US as well as those on the international scale. However, when voting takes place in December, the Ammann Awards will be divided up into three strands, featuring US bridges, European and International Bridges and Overall. The voting scheme will also be changed for this year’s Awards, but that will be mentioned once the nominations close on December 1st.
Send your nominations to Jason Smith at the Chronicles using the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.You can also use the messenger on facebook or LinkedIn to submit your entries. Please note however that all photos must be submitted in JPEG.
Information on the Ammann Awards as well as the winners of the 2011 and 2012 Awards can be seen here, as well as on the header of the Chronicles’ front page. Hope to see a lot of entries for this year’s Ammann Awards. Happy Bridgehunting and Adieu. 🙂
And now to the answer to the question of Twin Spans in Minnesota, which is in connection with the recently published article on the Winona Bridge (see here). Some people may contest to the fact that there are three such twin spans- consisting of the original span and a sister span built alongside it to alleviate traffic. It is true that there is another pair of bridges located 60+ miles down south along the Mississippi River in LaCrosse, Wisconsin with a cantilever truss bridge (built in 1939) and a tied arch bridge (built in 2001), the latter of which carries eastbound traffic featuring US Hwys. 14 and 61 and Wisconsin Hwy. 16. However, the crossing is only a mile southeast of the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, ironically crossed by another pair of bridges built in the 1970s. Technically, when speaking of borders, the LaCrosse Bridges do not count.
The first crossing that featured an original bridge which later had a sibling span to serve traffic is the Hudson Bridge, spanning the St. Croix River at the Minnesota-Wisconsin Border, west of Hudson. Originally carrying US Hwy. 12, which was later superseded by I-94, the Hudson Bridge’s history dates as far back as 1911, when the first crossing was built and christened The Hudson Toll Bridge. A product of the Central States Bridge Company of Indianapolis, the 1051-foot long bridge was built on a causeway which started from the business district and ended with the driver making a 10° incline up the Warren deck truss approach spans, before crossing the 136-foot long polygonal Warren through truss span with Lattice portal bracings and riveted connections. After that and crossing the approach span the driver ended up in Minnesota. Tolls were collected on the causeway on the Hudson side.
Yet because of the increase in boat and auto traffic and the coming of the freeways that would later shape the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area, it necessitated the construction of a new bridge, located a half mile south of the Toll Bridge. When completed in 1951, the truss span was relocated to LeFarge, Wisconsin, where it spanned the Kickapoo River before its removal for safety concerns in 1986. The causeway itself was retained and now serves as an observation point with many piers from the old bridge to be seen on both sides of the river.
The Hudson Interstate Bridge was completed in 1951 and featured two lanes of traffic encased in seven spans of Warren through truss bridges with riveted connections and X-frame portal and strut bracings. The main spans, featuring a cantilever through truss span totalled over 700 feet with the entire structure totalling 1,700 feet. The Interstate Bridge served as a single entity until 1973, when a girder span was built to the south of the bridge and accomodated eastbound traffic of US Hwy. 12. The truss span served westbound traffic. Both spans were reconstructed in the 1980s when US 12 was converted to I-94.
Unfortunately when flooding occurred in 1993, both states made haste to build a new span to replace the truss structure for floodwaters damaged the structure to a point where it not only could no longer carry heavy traffic, but it was literally falling apart, with cracks appearing in the steel. In fact the situation was so dire that an emergency lane on the newer structure was made for heavier vehicles going westbound was created. Officials claimed that had this not been done, the bridge would literally have fallen into the waters of the St. Croix, taking many lives with. When the new span opened in 1995, little effort was need to push the 1951 truss spans into the water and cut them up unto scrap metal. The truss spans did not last even a half century because of the wear and tear that had occurred on the structure. Yet had the flooding not occurred in 1993, chances are likely that the bridge would still have been retained even though plans would have been in the making for a new bridge anyway because of the high volume of traffic combined with the events that happened on the I-35W Bridge in 2007. How long the bridge would actually have survived remains unclear.
Since 1995 there has not been a double-span arrangement similar to the Hudson Bridge in Minnesota, but with plans in the making for a sibling span in Winona, we will have the second such arrangement ever built in the state, but the first one in 21 years when completed in 2016. Given the height of the 1940 cantilever truss span combined with the scheduled rehabilitation to follow, it is highly doubtful that the Winona Bridge will suffer the same fate as the bridge in Hudson, but that depends on how the structure handles traffic both on the highway as well as those in the water when passing underneath. If people treat the bridge with care, the bridge will perhaps last a generation or two longer than expected.
Some information and write-ups can be found by clicking on the links marked in the text, including those by John Weeks III. Special thanks to Minnesota DOT for the information and photos provided for this article.
Meeting on Bridge Project scheduled for 29 October at River East in Minneapolis.
The St. Anthony Parkway Bridge, spanning the railroad yard in the Minneapolis suburb of Columbia Heights, has been a focus of concern for transportation officials, historians and locals alike, for although the bridge is historically significant, rust and corrosion was revealed on the bridge, prompting measures to ensure that the bridge is replaced as soon as possible.
Over five months after the article was written (see link here), the project appears to have moved forward. Plans have been approved to replace the five-span Warren through truss bridge, built in 1925 and features a set of skewed portal bracings, with a crossing featuring a through truss span and girder spans. The original trusses are being offered for sale by the City to be used for several purposes. The lone exception is one of the spans will be salvaged and used as an interpretive memorial located on the western end of the bridge. That means four spans are available for grabs to be reused on a local road or bike trail.
If interested, there is an informational meeting on Monday 29 October, 2013 from 6:00- 8:00pm at the River Village East, Community Room, located at 2919 Randolph St NE in Monneapolis. There, the public can discuss about the project and express their interest in the purchase of the old bridge. There will be more meetings to come between now and the time construction actually starts, which is next fall. The new bridge is expected to be open to traffic by the end of 2015. More information about the project can be found here. This includes the contact details in case of any questions.
The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest involving the St. Anthony Parkway Bridge, but in case you know someone who wants a historic bridge for a bike trail, park or road, there are four spans available for you to get while they are still there…
While in Marion County, going 10 miles east from the abandoned Hwy. 14 Bridge at Red Rock Lake, one should take some time and visit Pella. With a population of 10,400 inhabitants and a small private college, there are many things that make the city proud. The city is home to Pella faucets, windows and doors. It has the largest windmill in the western Hemisphere with the Vermeer Mill. And given the architecture in the city center, Pella prides itself on its Dutch heritage, as it was founded by Dutch immigrants in 1847.
And when it comes to Dutch architecture, one has to include a double-leaf bascule bridge, right? Like its European cousin, Friedrichstadt, Germany, a Dutch community without a bascule bridge just isn’t Dutch. This has to do with the popularity of these bridges in the country, with a huge concentration of them to be found in the country’s capital, Amsterdam. And while the mayor of Friedrichstadt got his wish with the Blue Bridge, built in the 1990s but functions as an ornament- a gateway to the town- this bridge (in the picture) serves as one of the jewels of the architecture one can see while in Pella.
Located in front of the Hotel Amsterdam between Main and First Streets, this double-leaf bascule bridge has been around for only a short time, spanning a man-made canal. This white-colored bridge does not appear to function as a bascule bridge but as a fixed span with pedestrians using the structure on a daily basis. The bridge is decorated with lighting and flowers, making it an attractive place to visit and even photograph. Yet there is no further information as to when the bridge was built or what the motives were behind this bridge. Was this part of a bigger project, or did the Dutchmen miss their beloved structure so much that they needed a replica to add to the heritage?
This leads to the questions of the origin of the bridge and the Dutch’s obsession towards a bascule bridge. Specifically:
1. When was this bridge built? Was it part of a project to reconstruct the city center?
2. Why are Dutchmen so obsessed with bascule bridges in a community outside the Netherlands? Could the bridge in Pella be one of those bridges that fall into the category?
3. Is the bridge used for a festival or for some other function? Or is it just a ornament to cross, a symbol of the town’s city center?
Put your comments down here or in the Chronicles’ facebook page, together with that of the social network pages dealing with History and Marion County and share your thoughts and facts about this bridge. More photos of the Pella bascule bridge can be found here.
Many of us indentify ourselves based on a piece of heritage we cannot leave behind when emigrating to a new country. For the Dutch, it’s the architecture and in particular, their double leaves. It makes the author wonder what piece of heritage we cannot live without when moving to another place…. Any thoughts on that in addition to the questions already posted above?