Mystery Bridge Nr. 54: The Moritzburg Pavilion Bridge in Zeitz, Germany

Author’s Note: This Mystery Bridge is part of the bridgehunting tour through the small town of Zeitz, located along the River White Elster in the eastern part of the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. A tour guide of the town that has “Rather stood still in time” will follow here in the Chronicles.

 

All photos were taken by the author in March 2015
All photos were taken by the author in March 2015

Our next mystery bridge takes us back to Germany and specifically, to Saxony-Anhalt. Despite being the most sparsely populated state in the Bundesrepublik based on population versus land size ratio, the state is an attraction as far as nature, historic buildings (many of them sitting abandoned since 1990) and historic bridges are concerned (especially if we look at the bridges in Halle (Saale), Magdeburg and Quedlinburg).

Zeitz is no exception to the rule. Located along the River White Elster between the cities of Gera and Leipzig, and east of Weissenfels and Naumburg, the town of 29,000 was once an industrial community dominated by the rail, steel and agricultural industries. Today, the town is a poster boy of a typical East German community that has stood still in time. Many historic buildings dating back to the late 1800s to 1930s are sitting empty, but have retained its original charm.   The city has been used as a platform for films focusing on the GDR. And as far as historic bridges are concerned, it competes with Halle and Quedlinburg in terms of numbers and appearance.

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This includes this pavilion-style bridge located east of the community at Moritzburg Castle. Spanning a canal, just 40 meters from its mouth at the White Elster, the bridge appears to date back to the Baroque Period because of the features that are typical for this era. The bridge span itself is a closed spandrel brick arch with a span of 15 meters at the most, long enough to span the canal. The total length appears to be close to 30 meters in length, counting the approach spans. As for the architecture that is on the bridge, it features the following going from center outwards:

For more, click on the symbol below, which will lead you to the Chronicles’ website and with that, more information in detail about this bridge:

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 54: The Moritzburg Pavilion Bridge in Zeitz, Germany

Author’s Note: This Mystery Bridge is part of the bridgehunting tour through the small town of Zeitz, located along the River White Elster in the eastern part of the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. A tour guide of the town that has “Rather stood still in time” will follow here in the Chronicles.

All photos were taken by the author in March 2015
All photos were taken by the author in March 2015

Our next mystery bridge takes us back to Germany and specifically, to Saxony-Anhalt. Despite being the most sparsely populated state in the Bundesrepublik based on population versus land size ratio, the state is an attraction as far as nature, historic buildings (many of them sitting abandoned since 1990) and historic bridges are concerned (especially if we look at the bridges in Halle (Saale), Magdeburg and Quedlinburg).

Zeitz is no exception to the rule. Located along the River White Elster between the cities of Gera and Leipzig, and east of Weissenfels and Naumburg, the town of 29,000 was once an industrial community dominated by the rail, steel and agricultural industries. Today, the town is a poster boy of a typical East German community that has stood still in time. Many historic buildings dating back to the late 1800s to 1930s are sitting empty, but have retained its original charm.   The city has been used as a platform for films focusing on the GDR. And as far as historic bridges are concerned, it competes with Halle and Quedlinburg in terms of numbers and appearance.

IMGP6278

This includes this pavilion-style bridge located east of the community at Moritzburg Castle. Spanning a canal, just 40 meters from its mouth at the White Elster, the bridge appears to date back to the Baroque Period because of the features that are typical for this era. The bridge span itself is a closed spandrel brick arch with a span of 15 meters at the most, long enough to span the canal. The total length appears to be close to 30 meters in length, counting the approach spans. As for the architecture that is on the bridge, it features the following going from center outwards:

Close-up of the dome and cupola
Close-up of the dome and cupola

The center of the span features a concrete dome covered with black ceramic paneling. The dome is not completely round for it is four-sided, bordered by a grey ceramic lining. The top of the dome is covered by another, much smaller cupola, resembling a small round barn. The reason for the bridge being considered a pavilion is for it is supported by concrete columns, the rounded ones encircle the dome, while six squared-shaped columns make up the front façade facing the river. Each side is ornamental, representing a different form of inscribed artwork, topped by a finial with sculptures. The middle four feature two inner ones that are taller than the outer two and that line the canal bank. Like the rounded columns, they support the dome and the gabled roof flanking the front end and containing carved artwork. Between the two inner columns are three round columns, supporting the flat head board made of concrete. The outer two of the middle four columns as well as the outermost squared columns also feature three rounded inner columns on each side supporting the head board, resembling the extremely widened version of Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Photos of the bridge show in detail what the structure looks like in terms of its functionality and aesthetic appearance.

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It is unknown when the pavilion bridge was built, let alone who built it. However it is known that the Moritzburg Castle was built in a Baroque style in 1667, replacing an earlier castle destroyed by the Swedish army in 1644 during the 30-Years War. The reconstruction effort took 10 years. Yet the castle dates back to the time of the establishment of the diocese of Zeitz by King Otto I in 968. Both the castle and its neighboring Zeitzer Dom Cathedral were restored in the 1990s and still serves as the key attraction for people visiting the community. The pavilion itself, given its similar appearance to the rebuilt castle, dates back to the 1700s, yet it is unknown when exactly it was built, who was responsible for this unusual construction, and more importantly, why it was built over the canal that was only 100 meters away from its junction with the White Elster.

Any clues as to when it was built? We would love to hear them from you. Submit your information to the Chronicles via e-mail or through its social network pages and any information on the bridge will be added to the tour guide of Zeitz, which will be published in the Chronicles.

Zeitz is one area that has not been explored by any pontists- neither from its own country nor from elsewhere. Yet this bridge represents a vast number of bridges in this area that have a very high aesthetic value and potential for history for other people to know about, especially when it comes to their role in the development of the community and how it survived a wide array of adversities, including surviving two World Wars and 40 years of communist rule that ended in 1989. Like the other bridges in the region where the former East Germany existed, the bridges of Zeitz are definitely worth having a look at, especially if we look at this bridge in particular.

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The Bridges of Halle (Saale), Germany

Author’s Note: This is a throwback article written in November 2013. New features in the updated version includes more photos on this page, as well as Google Map, pinpointing the exact location of the bridges profiled here. A link can be found at the end of this tour guide article.

Berliner Brücke in Halle (Saale) Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/de/2/23/Berliner-Bruecke-Halle.jpg

Halle (Saale)- the birthplace of George Friedrich Handel. The second largest city in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt and representing the second half of the metropolis Leipzig-Halle, which has 100,000 of the metro’s 600,000 inhabitants as well as one of the most renowned universities in Germany. Yet when you get off the train in Halle, you may be turned off by the ugly high-rise buildings that date back to the days of the German Democratic Republic, a communist state that existed until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and German Reunification in 1990. Yet when you walk further towards the City Center, you will see another face of Halle that will sweep you off your feet: architecture dating to the Baroque Period, a statue of Handel overlooking the Cathedral and the Town Square, and further towards the Saale River, there’s the Giebichenstein Castle and the Halle Zoo, one of the largest zoos in the eastern half of Germany (Neuenbundesländer).

Surprisingly, if you are a pontist, you will be surprised to find that Halle has a wide selection of historic bridges that exist along the Saale River, its tributaries and to the south, the White Elster River, which meanders through Leipzig enroute to the Vogtland region in Thuringia and Saxony. There are 131 bridges in and around Halle; 14 of which are declared historically significant and protected by state preservation laws.  It is very rare to find historic bridges of at least four different types, or until recently have more than one cantilever truss spans, dating back to the 1880s. And in terms of German history, many of these bridges survived the test of time, including World War II, in contrast to the majority of cities and regions, whose bridges were severely damaged or destroyed through air raids and attempts by the Nazis to fend off advancing Allied troops. This plus the history that is still being sought on these bridges is what makes the bridges of the City of Salt unique.

This article will take you on a tour of the bridges that you should see, when spending a day in Halle. This includes a pair of bridges that no longer exist but are still part of the memories of the Hallenser people that still live there as well as those who were born there but have long since moved away for better possibilities. So without further ado, here is a small guide of the Bridges of Halle, keeping in mind that there are links available that will bring you to the photos and info on the bridge:

Schafbrücke in Halle (Saale), Germany

Schafbrücke: 

This bridge, built in 1733, is the last crossing along the White Elster before it empties into the Saale River in the Hallense suburb of Böllberg. It used to serve a main trading route between Merseberg and Magdeburg before it lost its importance because of the railroads. Today, the stone and concrete arch bridge serves the White Elster bike trail between Halle and Leipzig. Yet the bridge has seen its better days as the arches have deteriorated to a point where reconstruction is badly needed in order to avoid the structure to collapse.

Rabeninselbrücke in Halle (Saale), Germany

Rabeninselbrücke: 

This is the second youngest bridge in the city and the youngest to span the Saale. This bridge spans the Saale’s main river at the entrance to Rabeninsel (Raven’s Island) and features a cable-stayed bridge, whose pylon angles towards Böllberg Weg and the cables support the roadway. The roadway resembles a raindrop as it encircles the pylon. Built in 2000, the bridge measures 85 meters long and is 20 meters tall, easily seen from the main highway a kilometer away.

Hafenbahn Bridge in Halle (Saale), Germany

Hafenbahnbrücke: 

A few months ago, the Chronicles did a segment on this mystery bridge, spanning the Saale River at the confluence of the Elisabeth Saale and Middle Saale Rivers, west of Böllberg Weg. This bridge was built in 1884 and used to serve a rail line connecting the city with Magdeburg (north) and Merseburg (south) for over 80 years. When the line was abandoned in the 1970s, the lenticular through truss span, measured at 40 meters in length, was rehabilitated and converted into a bike and pedestrian crossing, which still serves its function today. The bridge also has a dark side- and a memorial plaque is placed on the truss as a marker of this tragedy. In the night of 13-14 March, 1919, Karl Meseberg, who was a revolutionary leader during World War I, was murdered on the bridge with his body landing in the Saale. It was found five days later. While the bridge shows its bright side during the day, at dusk, one can feel the presence of a ghost at the bridge, keeping people away from the crossing. This may be in connection with this unfortunate event, but more info in the form of eyewitnesses and evidence is needed to confirm the claims of a ghost at the bridge.  If you look to the south of the bridge, you will find a blue tied-arch bridge about 100 meters away. That bridge was built in 2000 and carry water lines connecting the southern and western parts of the city.

Genzmer Bridge in Halle (Saale), Germany

Genzmer Bridge: 

This steel through arch bridge is located over the Saale River at William Jost Strasse north of the Hafenbahnbrücke. Built in 1912, the grey-colored span is similar to the Hollernzollern Bridge in Cologne in terms of the design of the bridge, but the portal bracing resemble a bridge located west of Steinbrücke in neighboring Magdeburg. But when passing underneath the bridge, one will see the stone arched approach spans carrying the emblem of Halle on there- an impressive construction by the builder of the bridge, whoever it was.

Mansfeld Brücke

Mansfeld Bridge:

Spanning the Saale River at the Mansfelder Strasse, there are three crossings located within 60 meters of each other. The oldest span is a polygonal Warren pony truss with riveted connections that used to serve streetcar and vehicular traffic. Yet because of its structural obliqueness- too narrow and too light to support traffic- a vehicular crossing to the north was built in the early 1990s, which was followed by a separate streetcar crossing to the south a decade later. The truss span was later converted to pedestrian use by strenthening the trusses and adding a concrete and brick deck. An economic and interesting way to preserve a piece of history.

Peissnitz Bridge:

Apart from the Hafenbahn, Giebichenstein, and Mühlentor Bridges, the Peissnitz Bridge is one of the crown jewels as far as Halle’s bridges are concerned. Spanning the Saale River at Peissnitz Island, carrying the street carrying the same name, the bridge is one of the most ornamental of bridges, for the 1898 structure features a cantilever Pratt truss design, with ornamental towers supporting street lights, and red quarry stone arch approach spans, presenting its grey and red colors which are typical colors of the city. When built in 1898, the bridge was the only toll bridge in the city, as money was collected for people wanting to cross the bridge and enter Peissnitz Island. This was discontinued in 1921 and the bridge has operated as a free bridge ever since. The bridge is 103 meters long, 70 meters of which represent the main span. Despite sustaining damage during World War II, it was rebuilt in 1946 and was eventually converted to a pedestrian and bike crossing, which remains that way to this day.  The Peissnitz Bridge is the only way in and out of the island which houses a vehicle museum complex and the island mini-train. Another bridge spanning the Wild Saale west of the bridge at Weinberg, known as the Elisabeth Bridge, a suspension bridge built in 1913, has been closed to traffic since 2011 and plans are in the making to tear it down and replace it.

Glienicker Bridge in Halle (Saale), Germany

 Krollwitzer Brücke (aka Giebichensteinbrücke): 

This bridge and neighboring Giebichenstein Castle on the lime cliffs of the Saale River go together like bread and butter. The three-span concrete arch bridge is the fourth crossing at this site, being built in 1928 replacing a steel Parker through truss bridge, whose predecessors included a pontoon bridge, ferry and a covered bridge. The bridge is 261 meters long, 60 of which consist of the largest arch span. The bridge features two sculptures on the south side facing neighboring Peissnitz Bridge, resembling cattle- making the bridge a real treat to see. The bridge was renovated in 1995 and again in 2011, but continues to serve vehicular and street car traffic connecting the city center with the western suburb of Krollwitz.

Mühlentorbrücke:

Like the Peissnitz Bridge, the Mühlentor Bridge, spanning Mühlgraben-a tributary of the Saale- at Neuwerk in the northern end of the city, is the most ornamental bridge but in the form of an arch bridge. Art Deco art on the bridge’s railing and four lamp posts can be seen when crossing the 1912 span by car or bike. The railings resemble a Howe truss made of concrete, a rarity one can see these days.

Berliner Brücke:

When leaving Halle (Saale) by train heading north, this bridge will be the last landmark to be seen on your way out. Today’s bridge, built in 2005, features a cable-stayed span that is 71 meters tall and 171 meters long, spanning the railroad tracks. Yet the bridge came at the cost of a steel eyebar suspension bridge with pony truss decking, which was built during the first World War, with the help of French soldiers. It was originally named the Hindenburg Bridge before it was changed after World War II. Despite being considered a historic landmark, excessive rust and corrosion, caused by diesel-powered trains passing underneath it, doomed the bridge, causing the city council to decide for a replacement span. The cable-stayed bridge was built to the north of the bridge and after its completion in 2005, the 1916 bridge was dismantled and sold for scrap, despite protests by many who wanted to keep the structure for reuse as a pedestrian bridge.

While some local newspapers have mentioned a bit about Halle’s bridges, more publicity is needed to bring the bridges to light and find out more about their history. While a couple bridges have been documented, others still have mysteries that have yet to be solved. And even more so, perhaps someday when someone writes a book about the bridges in this community, this information will be useful.

A Map with the locations of all the bridges can be found via link here:

https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zE70H-hBCaFg.kegHJaktOJ0A

Halle (Saale) is famous for many markets and events honoring Handel and other music greats. This includes the Christmas market, which you can click here to read about. Courtesy of sister column The Flensburg Files.

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Valley View Trail Bridge to be Relocated

Portal view of the bridge. Photo taken by Mitch Nicholson of Abandoned Iowa
Portal view of the bridge. Photo taken by Mitch Nicholson of Abandoned Iowa

Bridge to become part of a city bike trail. Potential for other steel truss bridges to follow suit?

WINTERSET, IOWA- The Bridges of Madison County: Home of its covered bridges, one of a handful counties in the United States that has at least a half dozen of them. Built between 1867 and 1885, there were once 19 of these wooden housed structures spanning the North, Middle and South Rivers as well as numerous streams. Today only six of them remain, all of which are considered nationally significant, and each one has its own park and rest area to allow people to enjoy the bridge and the natural surroundings.

Madison County also has numerous truss bridges made of steel, and one of them is about to become part of a bike trail. The Valley View Trail Bridge, located four miles west of I-35 and two miles southwest of Bevington,has been closed since 2008 and has sustained significant damage to the approaches thanks to flooding that occurred in 2008, 2011 and 2013. The banks of one of the approach spans was washed away to a point where it resembled a diving board. Yet the 120-foot long bridge, constructed in 1911 by the Iowa Bridge Company and features a pinned connected Pratt through truss span with M-frame portal bracings and V-laced overhead strut bracings is seen by many locals as a rarity nowadays. Therefore the county is expanding its historic bridge heritage by including this bridge as part of a recreational complex. The plan is to place the bridge over a spillway being constructed at Cedar Lake in Winterset, which it will serve as a bike trail surrounding the lake. While costs are being calculated even as this gets posted, the county has already received funding from Iowa Dept. of Transportation (DOT) which will cover the cost for relocating the bridge.

Close-up of the approach span resembling a diving board. Photo by Mitch Nicholson
Close-up of the approach span resembling a diving board. Photo by Mitch Nicholson

The reuse of the Valley View Trail Bridge for recreational purposes has started a question about the possible use of other steel truss bridges in the county. There are as many steel truss bridges in the county as they are the covered bridges when their numbers reached its peak with 19 in 1920. Some of them have already been decommissioned and taken off the road system, yet there are some others that are approaching the end of their service, despite most of them being built during the Depression era.  The relocation and reuse of the Valley View Bridge may serve as an incentive for the county to consider reusing these bridges and bring their histories to the forefront, making the county not only the place of covered bridges, but also the place of bridges built of steel with the help of bridge builders, steel welders and railroaders responsible for molding the bridge parts in the mills, transporting them by rail and erecting them on site. With the number of truss bridges becoming a rarity, the county might have to consider this option once the Valley View Bridge is relocated and reopened for cyclists and pedestrians.

There are seven bridges worth considering for reuse apart from the successful plan involving the Valley View Bridge. These bridges are as follows:

Hatley Bridge:

Located over North Fork Clanton Creek a mile south of Limestone Rd. between US Hwy. 169 and Clark-Tower Road, this bridge is one of the shortest of the through truss bridges in Madison County, as well as Iowa. The 80-foot long Pratt through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings was built in 1909 by local bridge builder SG Hunter Iron Works Company of Atlantic, Iowa, the bridge is perhaps the last example of its kind. Yet since its abandonment in the late 1980s, the bridge has become derelict. Relocation is possible, yet it would require dismantling the structure and doing some major sandblasting before reerecting it at its new home.

Huston Bridge over Clancy Creek. Photo taken by Mitch Nicholson
Huston Bridge over Clancy Creek. Photo taken by Mitch Nicholson

Huston Bridge:

Located over Clanton Creek at 282nd Trail, this bridge is a classic example of a series of truss bridges built by the King Bridge Company because of its portal bracings, as well as the inscriptions on the diagonal and vertical beams and the builder’s plaque. The bridge was relocated to this spot in 1952 and has been here ever since. The bridge has seen its better days as the decking has been removed to keep everyone off the bridge. Yet the bridge appears stable enough to be relocated without disassembly.

Fox Trail Bridge

Located over Middle River at Fox Trail (CSAH G-47), five miles southwest of Winterset, this 157-foot long riveted Camelback through truss with West Virginia portal bracings represents a great example of a truss bridge built using Iowa state highway standards introduced in 1914. The bridge was built by another Iowa firm, the A. Olson Construction Company based in Waterloo. Two dates of construction make this bridge a controversial topic: 1935 according to the National Transportation Records and 1951 according to records by Iowa DOT. The hunch is that this bridge was built in 1935 somewhere else and was relocated here in 1951. Still in use, this bridge has potential to become a National Register landmark in the next 15 years because of its unique design that is becoming rare to find.

St. Charles/ North River Trail Bridge

Located three miles north of Winterset and one mile east of US Hwy. 169 over the North River at North River Trail, this 122-foot long riveted Pratt through truss bridge features an M-frame portal bracing similar to many structures built by a bridge company Wickes Engineering from Des Moines. Yet this structure was built in 1932 by Ben Cole and Son, located in Ames, just 25 miles north of the state capital along Interstate 35. The question is whether Ben Cole did business with Wickes prior to 1932. This will require some research to find out. Yet the Wickes style of bridge is becoming rare today, for despite having an average of three of these bridges in each county, the numbers have dwindled down to just above 10% remaining in Iowa. The bridge is still in use but has some potential of being reused once its time as a full-service bridge runs out. The bridge is located six miles west of another covered bridge, the McBride Bridge, which was destroyed by arson in 1983. The instigator, who confessed to the act as response to losing his true love, eventually did social work to make up for the incident- working as a bridge inspector at a county highway department!

Bevington Park Road Bridges

Located along Bevington Park Road between Bevington and St. Charles, this stretch of highway features two nearly identical trusses, located only three miles apart. Both feature riveted Pratt through trusses with M-frame portals. Both were built in 1932 by Ben Cole. Both have similar lengths of the main spans- ca. 125 feet. And both have the same color of a rustic brown. The only difference: One is located over the Middle River just outside Bevington and south of Iowa Hwy. 92;  the other is over Clanton Creek, two miles north of St. Charles. They’re still open to traffic but once their service ends, they are potential candidates for reuse as they exemplify as early modern truss bridges built during the Depression era, using Iowa State Highway standards, which were later used in bridge building, especially during this difficult era.

Mystery Bridge at Holliwell Covered Bridge

There are as many pony truss bridges in Madison County as they are through truss bridges. This bridge is located just east of the Holliwell Covered Bridge, southeast of Winterset. Given the eyebar connections as seen in the photos taken by James Baughn, this bridge may be one of the oldest in Madison County, let alone in western Iowa. Yet as written as a mystery bridge in the Chronicles in 2011, there is a lot to learn about this bridge (see article here).  As there are three pony truss bridges already preserved as bike trails in Madison County, like the Cunningham, Miller and Morgan Bridges, this bridge would be a perfect candidate for trail use, regardless of whether it is in place at the Holliwell Covered Bridge (which would make much sense given the bridge’s value and location from Winterset), or if it was relocated to Winterset, as was the case with the Morgan and Miller Bridges. In either case, the bridge serves as a historical compliment to an even more popular Holliwell Bridge.

If these examples are not enough for people to take action and make the county an even bigger and more popular tourist attraction, then they should visit the county. After visiting historic Winterset, the John Wayne Birth Place and Museum and the six covered bridges, plus the site of the former McBride Covered Bridge, they should click on the links to the above-mentioned bridges, plan a trip to these structures, armed with a camera and some paper and have a look at them. Then start a movement to save the remaining truss bridges and repurpose them for recreational purposes. While covered bridges are one of the key symbols of American heritage, bridges like the ones mentioned here are just as valuable because of their contribution to the development of the US as a whole, and in this case, Madison County on the local level. The Valley View Trail Bridge project is just the beginning of a potentially bigger project to preserve what is left of these truss bridges. And if the county and state work together with private groups and those interested in these artefacts, then there will be another reason to visit Madison County in the coming summer months. Furthermore, Iowa just might have another completed preservation project on its long and storied resumé of preserved bridges, whose movement started with James Hippen in the 1970s and has been very successful since then.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on the Valley View Bridge project as well as any other developments involving the historic truss bridges in Madison County. The author would like to thank Mitch Nicholson of Abandoned Iowa and James Baughn of bridgehunter.com for allowing use of the photos. All information are courtesy of IowaDOT, whose director, Matt Donovan is to thank for his help.

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Valley View Trail Bridge to be Relocated

Portal view of the bridge. Photo taken by Mitch Nicholson of Abandoned Iowa
Portal view of the bridge. Photo taken by Mitch Nicholson of Abandoned Iowa

Bridge to become part of a city bike trail. Potential for other steel truss bridges to follow suit?

WINTERSET, IOWA- The Bridges of Madison County: Home of its covered bridges, one of a handful counties in the United States that has at least a half dozen of them. Built between 1867 and 1885, there were once 19 of these wooden housed structures spanning the North, Middle and South Rivers as well as numerous streams. Today only six of them remain, all of which are considered nationally significant, and each one has its own park and rest area to allow people to enjoy the bridge and the natural surroundings.

Madison County also has numerous truss bridges made of steel, and one of them is about to become part of a bike trail. The Valley View Trail Bridge, located four miles west of I-35 and two miles southwest of Bevington,has been closed since 2008 and has sustained significant damage to the approaches thanks to flooding that occurred in 2008, 2011 and 2013. The banks of one of the approach spans was washed away to a point where it resembled a diving board. Yet the 120-foot long bridge, constructed in 1911 by the Iowa Bridge Company and features a pinned connected Pratt through truss span with M-frame portal bracings and V-laced overhead strut bracings is seen by many locals as a rarity nowadays. Therefore the county is expanding its historic bridge heritage by including this bridge as part of a recreational complex. The plan is to place the bridge over a spillway being constructed at Cedar Lake in Winterset, which it will serve as a bike trail surrounding the lake. While costs are being calculated even as this gets posted, the county has already received funding from Iowa Dept. of Transportation (DOT) which will cover the cost for relocating the bridge.

Close-up of the approach span resembling a diving board. Photo by Mitch Nicholson
Close-up of the approach span resembling a diving board. Photo by Mitch Nicholson

The reuse of the Valley View Trail Bridge for recreational purposes has started a question about the possible use of other steel truss bridges in the county. There are as many steel truss bridges in the county as they are the covered bridges when their numbers reached its peak with 19 in 1920. Some of them have already been decommissioned and taken off the road system, yet there are some others that are approaching the end of their service, despite most of them being built during the Depression era.  The relocation and reuse of the Valley View Bridge may serve as an incentive for the county to consider reusing these bridges and bring their histories to the forefront, making the county not only the place of covered bridges, but also the place of bridges built of steel with the help of bridge builders, steel welders and railroaders responsible for molding the bridge parts in the mills, transporting them by rail and erecting them on site. With the number of truss bridges becoming a rarity, the county might have to consider this option once the Valley View Bridge is relocated and reopened for cyclists and pedestrians.

There are seven bridges worth considering for reuse apart from the successful plan involving the Valley View Bridge. These bridges are as follows:

Hatley Bridge:

Located over North Fork Clanton Creek a mile south of Limestone Rd. between US Hwy. 169 and Clark-Tower Road, this bridge is one of the shortest of the through truss bridges in Madison County, as well as Iowa. The 80-foot long Pratt through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings was built in 1909 by local bridge builder SG Hunter Iron Works Company of Atlantic, Iowa, the bridge is perhaps the last example of its kind. Yet since its abandonment in the late 1980s, the bridge has become derelict. Relocation is possible, yet it would require dismantling the structure and doing some major sandblasting before reerecting it at its new home.

Huston Bridge over Clancy Creek. Photo taken by Mitch Nicholson
Huston Bridge over Clancy Creek. Photo taken by Mitch Nicholson

Huston Bridge:

Located over Clanton Creek at 282nd Trail, this bridge is a classic example of a series of truss bridges built by the King Bridge Company because of its portal bracings, as well as the inscriptions on the diagonal and vertical beams and the builder’s plaque. The bridge was relocated to this spot in 1952 and has been here ever since. The bridge has seen its better days as the decking has been removed to keep everyone off the bridge. Yet the bridge appears stable enough to be relocated without disassembly.

Fox Trail Bridge. Photo taken by James Baughn in 2013

Fox Trail Bridge

Located over Middle River at Fox Trail (CSAH G-47), five miles southwest of Winterset, this 157-foot long riveted Camelback through truss with West Virginia portal bracings represents a great example of a truss bridge built using Iowa state highway standards introduced in 1914. The bridge was built by another Iowa firm, the A. Olson Construction Company based in Waterloo. Two dates of construction make this bridge a controversial topic: 1935 according to the National Transportation Records and 1951 according to records by Iowa DOT. The hunch is that this bridge was built in 1935 somewhere else and was relocated here in 1951. Still in use, this bridge has potential to become a National Register landmark in the next 15 years because of its unique design that is becoming rare to find.

St. Charles Bridge. Photo taken by the author in 2007

St. Charles/ North River Trail Bridge

Located three miles north of Winterset and one mile east of US Hwy. 169 over the North River at North River Trail, this 122-foot long riveted Pratt through truss bridge features an M-frame portal bracing similar to many structures built by a bridge company Wickes Engineering from Des Moines. Yet this structure was built in 1932 by Ben Cole and Son, located in Ames, just 25 miles north of the state capital along Interstate 35. The question is whether Ben Cole did business with Wickes prior to 1932. This will require some research to find out. Yet the Wickes style of bridge is becoming rare today, for despite having an average of three of these bridges in each county, the numbers have dwindled down to just above 10% remaining in Iowa. The bridge is still in use but has some potential of being reused once its time as a full-service bridge runs out. The bridge is located six miles west of another covered bridge, the McBride Bridge, which was destroyed by arson in 1983. The instigator, who confessed to the act as response to losing his true love, eventually did social work to make up for the incident- working as a bridge inspector at a county highway department!

Clanton Creek Bridge at Bevington Park Rd. Photo taken by the author in 2007

Bevington Park Road Bridges

Located along Bevington Park Road between Bevington and St. Charles, this stretch of highway features two nearly identical trusses, located only three miles apart. Both feature riveted Pratt through trusses with M-frame portals. Both were built in 1932 by Ben Cole. Both have similar lengths of the main spans- ca. 125 feet. And both have the same color of a rustic brown. The only difference: One is located over the Middle River just outside Bevington and south of Iowa Hwy. 92;  the other is over Clanton Creek, two miles north of St. Charles. They’re still open to traffic but once their service ends, they are potential candidates for reuse as they exemplify as early modern truss bridges built during the Depression era, using Iowa State Highway standards, which were later used in bridge building, especially during this difficult era.

 

Mystery Bridge next to Holliwell Covered Bridge. Photo taken by James Baughn in 2013

Mystery Bridge at Holliwell Covered Bridge

There are as many pony truss bridges in Madison County as they are through truss bridges. This bridge is located just east of the Holliwell Covered Bridge, southeast of Winterset. Given the eyebar connections as seen in the photos taken by James Baughn, this bridge may be one of the oldest in Madison County, let alone in western Iowa. Yet as written as a mystery bridge in the Chronicles in 2011, there is a lot to learn about this bridge (see article here).  As there are three pony truss bridges already preserved as bike trails in Madison County, like the Cunningham, Miller and Morgan Bridges, this bridge would be a perfect candidate for trail use, regardless of whether it is in place at the Holliwell Covered Bridge (which would make much sense given the bridge’s value and location from Winterset), or if it was relocated to Winterset, as was the case with the Morgan and Miller Bridges. In either case, the bridge serves as a historical compliment to an even more popular Holliwell Bridge.

If these examples are not enough for people to take action and make the county an even bigger and more popular tourist attraction, then they should visit the county. After visiting historic Winterset, the John Wayne Birth Place and Museum and the six covered bridges, plus the site of the former McBride Covered Bridge, they should click on the links to the above-mentioned bridges, plan a trip to these structures, armed with a camera and some paper and have a look at them. Then start a movement to save the remaining truss bridges and repurpose them for recreational purposes. While covered bridges are one of the key symbols of American heritage, bridges like the ones mentioned here are just as valuable because of their contribution to the development of the US as a whole, and in this case, Madison County on the local level. The Valley View Trail Bridge project is just the beginning of a potentially bigger project to preserve what is left of these truss bridges. And if the county and state work together with private groups and those interested in these artefacts, then there will be another reason to visit Madison County in the coming summer months. Furthermore, Iowa just might have another completed preservation project on its long and storied resumé of preserved bridges, whose movement started with James Hippen in the 1970s and has been very successful since then.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on the Valley View Bridge project as well as any other developments involving the historic truss bridges in Madison County. The author would like to thank Mitch Nicholson of Abandoned Iowa and James Baughn of bridgehunter.com for allowing use of the photos. All information are courtesy of IowaDOT, whose director, Matt Donovan is to thank for his help.

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Update on the BB Comer Bridge: 31 March, 2015

Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer
Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer

A new breath of life has been given to the B B Comer Bridge Foundation (CBF) in Alabama and in particular, the North Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSGRA), located in Iowa, pertaining to the future of the BB Comer Bridge near Scottsboro. A $5,000 grant was awarded to NSGRA to be used for an independent economic impact study on the use of the bridge as a tourist attraction. An additional $5,000 will be needed to hire an independent contractor to conduct the study of the steel Warren cantilever through truss bridge, whose replacement span is being constructed and is close to completion. While traffic will be shifted to the new bridge once completed later this spring, there is still a chance that the bridge will remain, should the survey be completed and state and local officials can agree with a proposal with the CBF and NSGRA. The grant is one step in the right direction and if more people contribute, the second step will open that key door to the possibilities of saving the bridge.

Here’s the latest press release by the CBF with information on how to contribute to the study and preserving the bridge:

 

SCOTTSBORO, AL, March 31, 2015 — The National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) awarded The N. Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSRGA) a $5,000 grant to support the group’s pursuit of an independent economic impact study on behalf of the Comer Bridge Foundation (CBF). An additional $5,000 must be raised to hire Dr. Anthony Dixon of Troy University to complete the study. Dr. Dixon prepared a similar study for the Eufaula Heritage Association to assist with preserving Eufaula’s main historic streetscape from construction by the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), which also owns Comer Bridge.

The B.B. Comer Bridge crosses the Tennessee River near Scottsboro, Alabama. NSRGA applied for the grant in early February and received notification on March 30.

David J. Brown, NTHP’s executive vice president and chief preservation officer in Washington, DC, stated, “The National Trust is very supportive of this worthwhile preservation initiative and we hope that this financial commitment will assist your organization in raising any additional funds needed for this effort.”

“We have determined that such a study is essential to show local citizens and governmental bodies how much the bridge can bring to the area, which in turn will help NSRGA/CBF gain eventual ownership of the bridge and prevent the bridge’s demolition. The timeline for demolition is not as tight as we anticipated, and we have time to explore how to lessen risks while growing the rewards of keeping the bridge intact,” explained CBF President Charles Holderfield.

“The study will solidify NSRGA/CBF’s commitment to saving, preserving and repurposing the bridge not only as a local asset but as a national treasure for everyone,” said Holderfield.

In March 2014, CBF entered into a collaborative agreement with NSRGA. Local attorneys Bill Tally and Justin Lackey represent CBF and NSRGA, respectively.

“The study will provide real numbers that support our plans to provide jobs, training and education in areas from hospitality, event management, security and maintenance,” shared Julie Bowers, executive director of Workin’ Bridges, the consulting arm of NSRGA. “The bridge can become a place to go for wellness and serenity, and a place where wildlife and human life are celebrated. Food, fun, music and historic preservation go hand-in-hand.”

In September 2014, after extensive work with relevant policy and with approvals by the Federal Highway Administration, Alabama Historical Commission and environmental requirements, ALDOT Director John Cooper interpreted the policy and demanded that the bridge could be sold only to a governmental entity.

NSRGA and CBF will now move forward to raise the remaining $5,000 needed for the study, which in turn will attract more support and funding for the effort to save the bridge.

Donations may be contributed toward the remaining $5,000 needed to fund the study online at http://www.gofundme.com/savecomerbridge. Contributions can be mailed to CBF at P.O. Box 609, Scottsboro, AL 35768-0609.

Comer Bridge, completed in 1930, is the last of the 15 memorial toll bridges enacted by legislation in 1927 that were built by the Kansas City Bridge Company but contracted through the Alabama State Bridge Corporation. Selected for the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in October 2013, the historic bridge will now be submitted for national recognition by the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

For more information about the CBF and efforts to save the bridge, visit the CBF website at www.comerbridge.org and consider liking CBF’s Friends of B.B. Comer Bridge at https://www.facebook.com/comerbridgefoundation.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 53: The Estate Bridge at Staffordshire, UK

Lichfield Drive Bridge at Shugborough Park in Staffordshire. Photo taken by Paul Hunt, used with permission.
Lichfield Drive Bridge at Shugborough Park in Staffordshire. Photo taken by Paul Hunt, used with permission.

After a nearly six-month absence due to many commitments combined with an upgrade of the Chronicles to website status, we will now open up the 2015 Mystery Bridge gallery, with our first bridge being a rather unique one located (hold your breath!)-

In England!

The United Kingdom is famous for its numerous, rather ornamental bridges- some made of steel, but many made of concrete and/or brick. This bridge, located at Lichfield Drive in Colwich, in the district of Staffordshire, is one of those examples that stand out as a unique ornamental bridge made of concrete. Once spanning a railroad line that is now a path, this bridge, according to records from English Heritage, was built in 1847. The main span is a closed spandrel elliptical arch bridge made of brick. A figure head is at the keystone of the arch span. Columns on both sides support the remaining structure with lower rounded ballustrade railings curving over the bridge from piling to piling. Rounded engraved medallions can be found on the stone blocks on the outer edge of the bridge on the deck, and sculptures can be found on the bridge’s ballustrades.

The bridge is uniqueness in design is overshadowed by the lack of information available on the structure. In particular, we do not know who built the bridge, let alone who was behind the design. England has had many engineers who left their landmarks in history, including I.K. Brunel (who built the Clifton Suspension Bridge), Sir John Fowler, who built the Firth of Forth Railroad Bridge, and Thomas Telford, who masterminded the construction of numerous railroad bridges. But we do not know who built this bridge, whether it was the aforementioned engineers or someone else.

This is where your help comes in.

If you know of the history of this unique bridge that you would like to share, please add your comments below or contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact information in the About the Chronicles page. You can also add your comments in the Chronicles’ facebook page as it is also a platform to discuss the history of this bridge.

There is a story behind the beauty of bridges like this one, and with a little help, we can find out more about the bridge at Colwich so that it deserves the recognition of a national historic landmark. Best of luck with finding the information and may we solve the mystery of this bridge. 🙂

The author would like to thank Paul Hunt for allowing usage of the bridge. 

Please click here to find out where the bridge is located. Map courtesy of Google Map.