PUTNAM COUNTY, INDIANA- The state of Indiana has long since been the poster boy for preserving historic bridges- in particular, those made of iron and/or steel. Putnam County has a wide selection of bridges of all sorts made from various materials, even though the number of truss bridges have diminished over the past 20 years. This explains the reason why the county would like to keep this bridge, but to give it to someone who is willing to reuse it.
The Crow’s Bridge, located over Big Walnut Creek north of Greencastle, has been in visier of the county for at least five years because of its age. Yet despite its rust and a builder’s plaque that has been the target of irresponsible shooters, the bridge is one of a few examples of pre-1910 truss bridges made with pinned connections and built by the American Bridge Company. The bridge was built in 1902 by the company, two years after its creation through the merger of 29 bridge builders, using the steel from the mills in Gary. It is unknown where the bridge was prefabricated and where the agents were located during that time, but given its proximity to Illinois, it is likely that the bridge came from one of the branch offices in Chicago that used to be Lassig and American Bridge Works, respectively, one or both of whom had connections with the steel mills in Gary.
In terms of description, the bridge was one of the last examples of truss bridges built with pinned connections and using a Pratt through truss design. Its portal bracing consists of a 3-rhombus Howe Lattice portal system with subdivided heel bracings having an angle of 45°. The struts feature V-laces with 45° heel bracings. Only a portion of the oroginal Howe lattice railings remain as the rest was replaced with modern steel railings. Upon its removal and relocation, the decking was all wood. The bridge is 121 feet long, 15.7 feet wide and 16.5 feet high. As in other bridge examples that can be found in Indiana, this bridge would be a perfect fit as part of a bike trail system, picnic area at a park or even as a secondary road crossing, if the structure is rehabbed accordingly to accomodate vehicular traffic.
At the present time, the truss bridge has been relocated to a field and is awaiting a new permanent home. It is currently being replaced with a concrete structure, unfortunately at the expense of historic wingwalls with inscriptions on there, as seen in the photos posted on bridgehunter.com (click here) and historicbridges.org (click here). If you have an idea what to do with the bridge and would like to take it home, please contact the Putnam County Engineer’s Office or Dan Reitmeyer at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact form under About the Chronicles.
The Crow’s Bridge is one of the oldest examples of an American Bridge Company structure. It is also one of the last structures built using pinned connections. Nevertheless, it is one of the surviving examples of what created our American transportation system. It is of utmost importance that this bridge is preserved for generations to come so that they understand why bridges like this made America great. 🙂