BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 130: A Tribute to James Baughn

Sometimes the best photographers usually follow the events that are happening by visiting the site on a regular basis and taking lots of pictures. For bridge photographers, this applies when there are projects like bridge restoration or in this case, bridge replacement.

In our next series paying tribute to James Baughn, we go back to the year 2003 and to this bridge, the Cape Girardeau Bridge. This bridge was the oldest of the Twenties Trio that were built within a year of each other along the Upper Mississippi River. In 1926, President Calvin Coolidge signed a bill, authorizing the bridge project at Cape Girardeau. The American Bridge Company of New York (superstructure) and U.G.I. Construction of Philadelphia were given the contract to build the bridge, which the project started in February 1927 and was completed in September 1928. Three months later, the Quincy Bridge followed and at the beginning of 1929, the Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis. The bridge featured a series of six Pennsylvania through truss spans, followed by a continuous through truss span (671 feet), with a total length of 4471 feet.

In 2002, construction was let to build its replacement, the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge, the current bridge that features a cable-stayed span with H-shaped towers. The original bridge was closed to traffic on 13 December, 2003, the same day the new bridge opened to traffic. Demolition of the old bridge commenced in June 2004 and lasted a half year. What’s left of the original structure is an arch and the first two spans on the Missouri side, which were repurposed as an observation deck.

James did a detailed series on the bridge before and after its replacement and including the demolition of the bridge. During that time, he collected a series of facts and history of the structure, which he added as the bridge was being replaced. You can find this in his bridgehunter.com website by clicking here. The details he did of the bridge in terms of photos as well as research, served as an inspiration for another person to do the same with his website, Nathan Holth, who launched historicbridges.org in 2003, the same year the truss bridge was replaced. You can access his website by clicking here.

If there was a lesson learned from this, it is this: Details are key, especially if you are looking for hard-core facts that are needed to complete the bridge’s story or if you want to contradict the facts given by a previous author. Bridgehunter.com is like wikipedia as it provides a database with photos, facts and stories about bridges like these with the goal of making the information available for those to use for their own purposes, be it for research for a school project or for finding information to nominate a structure for the National Register of Historic Places or even for personal reasons. When this bridge was being replaced, the website was in its infancy. Now looking back at James’ legacy and in particular, this bridge, the website has been serving its purpose well- a library with interesting facts for all to access.

And if there is a word of advice for those who are doing a project that features one or more bridges, check out bridgehunter.com first, followed by the others. There you will find at least something that will serve as your starting point and can build off from there. The website is like an encyclopedia, you will most likely find what you are looking for. 🙂

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