BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 205

This is the next installment in the series on the author’s trip to Schleswig-Holstein which is also in connection with the book project on the bridges in the northernmost state in Germany. To learn more about it, click here.

James Barney Marsh (1856- 1936) was the mastermind behind the rainbow arch bridge, a concrete arch bridge featuring a open spandrel arch span that is above the roadway and not below, like deck arches. The arches were anchored in the abutments below the roadway and were built using reinforced concrete and steel. Dozens of rainbow arch bridges were built by Marsh during his 50-year career as a civil engineer, first by working for King Bridge Company but then later when he operated his own firm in Des Moines, Iowa. Many of these bridges, also coined as Marsh arches, still exist today and are on the National Register of Historic Places, with Iowa, Kansas, and Minnesota being the most likely places to find a Marsh arch.

Marsh Arch Bridge spanning the East Fork Des Moines River near Swea City, Iowa. Photo taken in 1998.


Marsh patented the design in 1911 and fingers have pointed to his design based on the bridges built by Josef Melan and Frederik von Emperger as we saw in a mystery bridge article published last year (click here). Yet there is one bridge in our pic of the week where Marsh may have also looked at while he was designing and patenting his own design. It’s this bridge located in Raisdorf, 10 kilometers SE of Kiel.

The White Bridge is a rainbow arch bridge spanning the River Schwentine at Rosenfelder Weg, just off Highway 202. Unique about this arch bridge is that it was built using reinforced concrete and steel for the arch; the vertical columns were built using steel. The bridge has a combination white (arch) and blue (columns)color, making it an attractive site for tourists and fishermen alike. The bridge is 60.8 meters long, the span consists of 47 meters. The bridge is 3.0 meters above the water level.

According to records, the White Bridge was built in 1909 replacing an earlier bridge built in 1779. The bridge served local traffic and remained a vehicular bridge until 1936, when it was bypassed by an adjacent crossing. In 1987, the bridge was rehabilitated at a cost of 200,000 German Marks, equivalent to $450,000 in today’s standards. This was in response to a petition by the locals to save the bridge instead of demolishing it. In 1993, it became a national heritage site as the only bridge of its kind in Germany. It is unknown who had designed and built the bridge, let alone what its predecessor had looked like.

The bridge can be accessed on either end, from Highway 202 or through the town of Raisdorf, though access on the latter side is safer due to the less traffic. Photographing the bridge was quite the challenge during the visit, especially when trying to get a side view This is possible by a hiking trail that runs along the highway, though one has to pay attention to the bushes that may block the view of the bridge. Oblique views are possible for each corner of the bridge has a dock where a person can step down and take a close-up of the bridge.

The White Bridge is one bridge that is a must-see. Even if a person is not a bridgehunter, one will not regret spending time at the bridge and either photograph it, have a picnic or fish off from it. The bridge is located in a quiet setting surrounded by wildlife, where you can watch geese fly around the structure. When the water is not covered in green, the White Bridge can present several shades of blue that is irresistable to the naked eye. For someone who wants to learn about bridge building this is one of the places where a person can have a look at the structure in detail, finding out who was behind this project and coming up with ideas for one’s own bridge design.

And this is why Marsh came up with his own patented Marsh arch. It had nothing to do with ingeniuity and bragging rights. It had more to do with finding the references who had built arch bridges in the past, then created his own design that was not only his own, but serves the purpose of making a safe crossing that is recognizable to road users. And with the dawn of the automobile, bridges were needed to serve as a safe crossing but also a point that guides the driver to his destination from A to B. Marsh got help from his European colleagues even though we don’t known from whom. But it is a sure bet that he either may have heard of this bridge or have even visited it himself. In any case, his design had something to do with this structure, if not others in Europe.


You can find more on this bridge through the Chronicles’ Instagram page by clicking here. Subscribe to follow.