BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 163 Tribute to James Baughn

In reference to the latest news story in the BHC Newsflyer from yesterday on how buildings are being recycled and reused as bridges (click here to listen to the podcast and see the video), here’s a very weird way of saving a piece of history that James Baughn found during one of his bridgehunting tours from three years ago. It’s an old farmstead in Missouri that features a unique X-lattice vertical beam that is used as one of the entry columns. When and how it was erected, let alone why the owner chose this piece of metal as a decoration remains open. Any ideas of where this is located and from which bridge the piece came from, feel free to comment.

Some of these bridges have ended up becoming decorations instead of being either recycled or placed in a heap of scrap metal. In a couple cases, one or more of the spans have been converted into houses or other places of living. One of the best examples is the use of a railroad bridge in South Africa as a hotel. That has been opened to business and provides an excellent view of the Kruger National Wildlife Preserves. Another one being planned is using one of the spans of the cantilever portion of the Bay Bridge between San Francisco and Oakland to be converted into a house. If we find creative ways of reusing truss bridges instead of scrapping them, we may be able to save money in terms of demolition and transportation costs for the metal and we will definitely reduce the amount of carbon dioxide used for the two purposes. Even if the bridge is for decoration purposes, it’s better than scrapping the metal.

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And now the answer to last week’s question for the forum.

The bridge at hand is the Ledbetter Truss Bridge. also known as the Clark Memorial Bridge. The three-span through truss bridge used to span the Tennessee River at the McCracken-Livingston County border and was built by Modjeski and Masters in 1931. It was bypassed by a replacement structure in 2013. Attempts to convert the bridge into a pedestrian bridge failed when sections of the approach span collapsed on June 24, 2014. The bridge was promptly removed two months later in September 2014. Had there been a chance, this bridge may have been converted into a house, but most likely on land, due to the instability of the piers that caused the bridge to collapse. Still the key word that led to its demise was liability. Liability is the curse word for historic preservation because of its extensive use by proponents of demolition. Nine out of ten cases for demolishing a bridge has this excuse in there, without thinking of the long-term benefits of preserving a bridge, let alone the energy and finances used for demolishing the bridge and its impact on the environment.

This leads to my question to all is: Who will be liable if we keep continuing the business as usual approach and we destroy our planet?

The question was poised by Greta Thunberg and has since been spreading around. Now it’s my turn to pose this question: Who will be liable if we continue making waste for a pretty and new bridge that we exploit the resources to build, instead of just reusing the bridge or try different approaches that uses recycled materials? This is a question that we’ve ignored for too long, but the time is more than ripe to embrace it and find answers to it- and quick.

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