Mystery Bridge 34: A Double-Leaf in California?

Photo courtesy of Kevin Miller

To start off this article, let’s begin by asking this question: do you know of bridges in the US like this one in the picture: a double-leaf bascule bridge that was built before or at the turn of the century (basically, up to 1900)? If so, where was it located, who built it, and when was it built?  While many double-leaf bascule bridges can be found in Europe with most of them being 100 years old and located in the Netherlands, Belgium and northern Germany, it is surprising to see that there were some bridges like this one that existed before the days of Ford and his Model T.

Kevin Miller brought this photo to the author’s attention and needs your help. A collection of vintage photos came to the Malibu Times (located in California outside Los Angeles) which included this bridge. Judging by the palm trees in the background, it appeared that this structure existed somewhere in southern California, northern Mexico or even Florida, in other words, the regions where one can most likely find palm trees. In addition to that, it may have been located in a coastal community that once thrived in fishing and/or shipping and used to have a canal (or even a series of canals) that went through the community. Yet as the double-leaf is one of the key landmarks that is typically Dutch, it would mean that the coastal community was predominately Dutch, which would contradict the trend that was set forth in the history of Dutch immigration in the US. Up until 1945, the majority of Dutch settlements were located in the Midwest and northeastern parts of the USA, including Pella, Iowa, which has a double-leaf bridge and Dutch houses of its own. After World War II, the number of Dutch immigrants to California and the coastal areas reaching as far as Alaska skyrocketed resulting in over 200,000 of them living in tight quarters either within a bigger city or a small community. In Los Angeles alone, over 100,000 people with Dutch and Indo-dutch background reside there. Yet because of trade with Indonesia prior to 1930, it is likely that a handful of Dutch communities may have been established but most likely in an area stretching from Santa Ynez down to the Mexican state of Baja California. Yet with its connections with trading partners in the Caribbean at the same time, combined with previous settlements in the New England states, an average of 5-10% of Dutchmen also have resided in Florida, which means that some communities may have been established at the same time as in California. This means that the double-leaf bridge in this picture may have belonged to a Dutch community.

Another clue is the lettering on the left building in the background. If looking more closely, one can see some Spanish and Dutch names resembling the likes of  Isdero Gertrain, although it does appear fuzzy. If there were any Spanish connections, then it is most likely that the double-leaf was located in a Dutch community either in southern California or northern Baja California in Mexico. But some closer examinations may be needed to confirm this.

As this picture may have been taken at the same time as those in the collection- meaning most likely in the 19th century and definitely before the creation of the Malibu Times in 1946, there are plenty of questions that need to be answered about this double-leaf, namely:

1. Where was this bridge located? Was it in a Dutch community or one that used to be predominately Dutch?

2. When did this bridge exist- and especially, when was this photo taken?

3. Given the design of the bridge’s towers, which appears to be ornamental made of iron, similar to a bridge in northern Germany, who designed the bridge? 

The bridge was a pedestrian bridge that was approximately 80-110 feet total in length with a width clearance of about 40-50 feet allowing small ships to pass. Given the close proximity of the buildings, the canal must have been 40 feet wide at the most.

Any information would be much appreciated. Put them in the comment section as well as in the Chronicles’ facebook, twitter and LinkedIn pages. It will also be posted in the Malibu Times facebook page in case you wish to post some facts there.  You can also contact Kevin Miller at Kevin.Miller3@pepperdine.edu.

Also useful is to know of other double leaf bridges in the US that existed prior to 1900. If you know of some, you are free to comment here in the Comment page or contact the Chronicles via e-mail at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.

Curious about this bridge and to know about the double leaves in the US? The Chronicles will keep you posted on this unique mystery bridge.

Another Des Moines Historic Bridge slated for the dumpster?

Waterworks Park Bridge. Photo taken by John Marvig in August 2013

Waterworks Park Bridge targeted for replacement with a larger bridge. Plan not yet finalized.

As the fight has started to save the Green Bridge at 5th Avenue over the Raccoon River, the days of another historic bridge located upstream may be numbered. If rumors hold true, the Waterworks Park Bridge, located at the park bearing its name, is being scheduled for demolition and replacement with a wider and bigger bridge. As mentioned in the third part of the series on Des Moines’ bridges, the two-span Pratt pony truss was built in 1922 but was converted to a bike trail crossing in 1999 and has since been serving as one of the key points in the park as well as along the Grey Lake bike trail which runs along the Raccoon River in the southern part of Des Moines. It is unknown whether the truss spans used to serve as a vehicular bridge or if they were relocated from outside. But judging by the photos recently submitted by John Marvig (and can be viewed by clicking here), the bridge’s main spans as well as the approach spans appear to be in great condition. Should there be any concern regarding the bridge, then most likely with the steel piers for they were repaired and reinforced with additional steel to ensure that the structure stays in place inspite of the ice jams and flooding. Yet, most of these problems can be solved by replacing the piers with those that are sturdier, mainly a combination of concrete and steel.

If a bigger bridge is to take place of this truss bridge, then the City will be mistaken if they think that the structure requires minimal maintenance. There is no such thing as a zero-maintenance bridge unless a person wants to replace it every ten years at the expense of tax-payers’ dollars because of structural concerns that were neglected . For any bridge, maintenance is expected to assure the bridge’s long-lasting lifespan, and given the condition of the Waterworks Park Bridge, all it takes is some cosmetic and structural work and the truss bridge will last another 50-60 years. It is highly doubtful that a modern structure, as proposed by the City, can do that, let alone make the park look nicer than it is right now.

While work on saving the Green Bridge is already in full gear, it will not be long until another movement to save this bridge gets going. So stay tuned for the developments.