Mystery Bridge Nr. 33: Old truss bridge in Des Moines

Old Euclid Avenue Bridge in Des Moines. Photo courtesy of Iowa DOT Archives.

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, 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.

Photo courtesy of Iowa DOT Archives

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 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….


One thought on “Mystery Bridge Nr. 33: Old truss bridge in Des Moines

  1. Above information is not correct. When I moved to Highland Park (DSM) in 1985 the 2nd Ave RR bridge was still by the 2nd Ave bridge. It was taken down after the RR was abandoned. You can see the RR bridge in the 1980’s aerial view and gone by the 1990’s. However, the use of the 2nd Ave RR bridge in your article is correct.
    The 6th Ave Bridge was moved to be Euclid’s Bridge. From the second edition of “If They’d just blow up the bridges” 1888-1997 by James E. Jacobsen:
    “Evert Sixth Ave bridge seems to have suffered great delay in being completed. Certainly the site is a difficult one, with the southern river bluff rising well above the floodplain which constitutes the north bank. The first bridge, a triple span truss arrangement, was long in its completion, but finances and not engineering were the problem While historian Brigham credits a private group of businessmen-land promoters with donating the first bridge at that site to the city, there was also a municipal promise to contribute part of the cos. Problems developed when the city reneged on that promise and the bridge contractor refused to lank the bridge, until he was paid. The initial bridge work began in late September 1885 and by November 5, the Iowa Stat Register reported that small boys were camped out on either end of the bridge, vying for the honor of being the first to cross it. The boys would have grown old waiting because the financial question lingered until mid-April 1886. The bridge was a rudimentary truss bridge but it was to serve the city until 1906.” (the north end of the bridge flooded in 1903 – cutting off access across the river) “It would later serve s the Euclid Ave bridge, further upstream, being opened for traffic in 1910.”

    “A vehicular bridge over the Des Moines River at 2nd Ave was constructed only after WWII”


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