BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 164  Tribute to James Baughn

After a couple weeks away from the computer, we return to our weekly Pic of the Week, paying tribute to the late James Baughn. Our next pic, where he visited and photographed is one that is very dear because it is the only one of its kind along the longest river in the state.

We know that the Des Moines River, with a total length of 526 miles (845 kilometers), slices through the state of Iowa, including the state capital of Iowa that bears the same name. Even if the river forks into the east and west branches and starts in southern Minnesota, the river is loaded with unique bridges- both past and present, that bridge builders from as many as ten states have left their marks, six of which come from Iowa, including Iowa Bridge Company, A.H. Austin, Clinton Bridge and Iron Company, George E. King, Marsh Engineering, just to name a few.  The most notable bridges one can find along the river include the Murray and Berkheimer Bridges in Humboldt County, Ellsworth Ranch Bridge in Emmet County, the Kate Shelley Viaduct in Boone County, the arch bridges in Des Moines,…..

…..and this bridge in St. Francisville, in Missouri!

The St. Francisville Bridge spans the river at the Iowa/Missouri border. It’s a Warren-style cantilever through truss bridge with MA-portal bracings. The connections are riveted. It was built in 1937 by Sverdrup and Parcel of St. Louis, with FW Whitehead overseeing the constructon of the bridge. The bridge was formerly a toll bridge until they were eliminated in 2003. It used to serve the Avenue of the Saints and Jefferson Highway (Highway 27) until it was bypassed by an expressway bridge in 2004. It later served as a frontage road crossing until 2016, when the bridge was closed to vehicular traffic. Since then, the bridge has been sitting usused, awaiting its future. 

The photo was taken by Mr. Baughn in 2013, when the bridge was still open to traffic. Given the bridge’s proximity to the nearby park and boat ramp on the Missouri side, combined with the nearby communities, the structure is a great asset and with some repairs and renovations done with the superstructure, the bridge could continue as a local street crossing, sharing the road with a bike route. What is needed is money to strengthen and renovate the structure to a point where it can be reused again. The bridge is eligible for the National Register, which if listed, could open the door for grants and other amenities that will help with the cause. The bridge would be a perfect rest stop for commuters traveling in both directions and St. Francesville would benefit from a newly restored bridge.

The St. Francisville Bridge is unique because of its design as a cantilever truss bridge, something that has become a rarity these days. It is the only crossing along the Des Moines of this kind and one of a few examples of a bridge built by Sverdrup and Parcel, the same company that contributed to numerous major bridge projects in five states between 1920 and 1960. It is time that the bridge is given the tender loving care it deserves.

The question is are you willing to help with the cause?

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