Joliet Bridge and Iron Company

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Bridgeport, Michigan. August 2018. Standing on a finished work of art. The Bridgeport (State Street) Bridge spans the Cass River. The structure had been rehabilitated, turning a pair of rusty and partially twisted Pratt through trusses leaning on a center pier into a structure that had just been put together for the first time. Hours of welding and new bolts, restoring it in-kind and complete with new decking and new railing. The Bridgeport Bridge has become a centerpiece of tourism in a town, which neighbors another popular tourist attraction, Frankenmuth.

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Petersburg Road Bridge in Jackson Minnesota. Photo taken by MnDOT in 1979

The bridge itself is a cousin resemblance to a pair of bridges built in Jackson County, Minnesota, where I grew up. This was one of them: The Petersburg Road Bridge which was built in 1907 by a company that became a primary supplier of bridges for a decade, the Joliet Bridge and Iron Works Company. The portals are typical of such a bridge built by Joliet, the one that was later adopted by other bridge builders. Another bridge of similar features was built two years later, spanning the same river as this one: West Branch Des Moines River, but just south of Windom. Both structures are now extant.  Another feature are the builder plaques that represent either a shield or a New York-style trapezoid, as you can see in the Bridgeport Bridge shot.

Still what was the bridge company all about?   I did some research on this while writing a book on Jackson County’s bridges a decade ago and found that the Joliet Bridge and Iron Company was like a fame flower (Phemeranthus rugospermus)- it built dozens of bridges during its short existence.

The company was founded in 1896 by Robert C. Morrison and had agents throughout the USA, including Max J. Frey, the company’s agent in St. Louis, who may have been responsible for the Upper Midwest.  Much of the work was concentrated in the South and Midwest, mostly in Michigan, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois and Minnesota, though the company also built bridges in countries outside the United States. It garnered international reputation for its prompt action and good workmanship.  At its peak, 400 people were employed at Joliet by 1914 with its bridge building headquarters located on Collins Street, right next to the penetiary.  A subsidiary plant under the direction of George Larimer was in operation in Memphis, Tennessee from 1909 until its closure by 1912. Apart from the Bridgeport Bridge, some of the noteworthy bridges built by Joliet during its almost 25 year run include the earliest known existing bridges- a pair of twin suspension bridges at Chautauqua Park in Pontiac, Illinois, constructed in 1898.  Other examples include the existing historic bridges in Michigan, such as the Black Bridge at Tiny’s Farm and Church in Frankenmuth, the Gugel Bridge south of Frankenmuth, Currie Parkway Bridge and Smith Crossing both in Midland. The Bello Street Bridge at Pismo Beach in California is the only example of a bridge built the furthest away from Joliet’s coverage.  Minnesota once had a lot of bridges built by Joliet, eight of which in Jackson County. All of them have since disappeared.

Despite its popularity in bridge construction, the Joliet Bridge and Iron Company was forced to shut down briefly when Robert C. Morrison died in 1913. His son Raymond K. Morrison took over operations afterwards and reorganized the company as the Joliet Bridge and Construction Company in 1920.  That company continued to construct bridges in the region, despite the decline in steel mills due to the Great Depression and later lesser demand for the product. The company ceased all operations by 1985, making it one of only a few bridge companies that had dominated bridge building at the turn of the century and survived through the Reagan era of the 1980s.  Key structures built during Ray’s era included the Algoma Street Drawbridge in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and the Braceville Arch Bridge in Illinois, which used to carry Route 66. Both structures no longer exist, but it does lead to questions of what other structures had been built by the company before it folded permanently. Just as important is which bridges in foreign countries were built by Joliet, regardless of which era. 

 

Joliet Bridge and Iron is not related to another company located in the same city, the Joliet Iron and Steel Works Company. That company was founded in 1869 but constructed many steel parts for buildings, bridges and the like. That company was taken over three times before it became part of US Steel in 1936. The company closed down by the early 1980s but the site was later converted to a historic site.

The Joliet Bridge and Iron Company represents a bridge company that survived many mergers and crises and still built many structures that represented fine examples of infrastructure that expanded throughout the USA during the first half of the 20th Century. Its innovative designs and great workmanship has resulted in many structures still standing today, most of which in Illinois and Michigan. Many of them have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and some have even been restored to their former glory. Nevertheless there are still many that have long since disappeared that deserve recognition because of their association with the company and the Morrison family. You can find a database of the bridges that were built by Joliet below:

bridgehunter.com database: http://bridgehunter.com/category/builder/joliet-bridge-iron-co/

HistoricBridges.org: https://historicbridges.org/b_a_listings.php?bitem=builder&bsearch=Joliet+Bridge+and+Iron+Company+of+Joliet%2C+Illinois

HABS/HAER/HALS: https://www.loc.gov/search/?fa=contributor:joliet+bridge+%26+iron+company

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 133: Tribute to James Baughn

Our next Pic of the Week tribute to James Baughn takes us out of Missouri and to neighboring Iowa. Located southeast of Mount Pleasant, the county seat of Henry County in the southeastern corner of the state is the Oakland Mills Truss Bridge. Spanning the Skunk River west of Franklin Avenue, the bridge was built in 1876 by the Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Company which was based in Leavenworth, Kansas. It’s one of a handful of combination spans left in the State of Iowa, featuring (from north to south) a Pratt half-hip, a wooden trestle, two Pratt through trusses and a four-panel Pratt pony. Sources indicated the trestle may have replaced a third Pratt through truss span but it hasn’t been confirmed in the bridge records. The entire truss system features pinned connections while the southern through truss span has ornamental portal bracings. The bridge was converted into a park in the 1970s and has been on the National Register of Historic Places for almost a half century.

The Missouri Valley was one of a few companies that lasted well into the modern era, having been formed in 1874. It was dissolved in 1975 after a fire destroyed the shop at its original home in Leavenworth. It was reorganized shortly afterwards but it left the bridge building business altogether. The Kansas State Historical Society did an extensive write-up on the company’s history, which you can view here. In the 101 years of business, the company constructed a wide variety of bridges, ranging from single and multiple span truss bridges to cantilever spans. It even constructed a concrete pony truss in New Mexico in 1915, one of two of its kind left in the US. 80% of all bridges built by Missouri Valley were towards the south central part of the country, concentrating on Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas. Only two bridges in Iowa were reportedly built by this company, yet the Oakland Mills is the only one left in the state that’s still standing.

And it is also one of the most popular bridges to visit among bridge lovers, tourists and historians as one can make a picnic on the bridge and devote time to spending it on the bridge. Even at night, one is greeted with Christmas lighting as was my case when I visited the bridge in 2011 in the evening, on the eve of the Historic Bridge Weekend in St. Louis. But James’ pic was taken at the time of the Historic Bridge Weekend in Iowa- two years later! In my opinion, the daytime shot was better than all the shots I took because of the lighting.

Still, who’s competing? 🙂 We both agree: The bridge is worth stopping for a visit, no matter for what purpose. And if properly and regularly maintained, the bridge will be around for generations to come. ❤ 🙂

Truss Bridge with an A: A Look at the Difference Between the Lane and the Miller-Borcherding Truss Design

Buffalo Ridge Road Bridge in Franklin Co., Missouri (replaced in 1999). Source: Missouri DOT

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Imagine this scenario: You have a rail line that is abandoned but not before leaving in the rail ties and rail track. You have a pair of abandoned railroad cars, one of which used to be a dining car while the other used to be a loading bed for logs. And your town needs a new bridge because the old one collapsed during a flood. Your town doesn’t have enough money to build a super, duper new concrete bridge. Your replacement bridge must be 40 feet long. How would you create your make-shift bridge?

Crab Run Lane Truss Bridge near McDowell, Virginia. Source: C. Hanchey

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This was the question that two of the bridge builders had when they were finding ways to recycle steel and wood for a unique bridge design of their own. Daniel Lane, who later established the Lane Bridge Company in New York, and the bridge building firm of Miller & Borcherding, based in St. Louis, were not quite well-known bridge builders in the US in comparison with the likes of Wrought Iron Bridge and the King family in Ohio, let alone the bridge builders from the Minneapolis school. However the designers found a creative, but also affordable way to design truss bridges, using recycled materials such as steel parts, wiring and wood.

Ward & Teslow Bridge in Winneshiek Co., Iowa. Example of a Warren truss bridge. Source: J. Smith

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Using the Warren truss design, with its W-shaped pattern as a motif, they came up with a unique design with a three-panel truss span, where the center panel features the A-frame. The difference is how the outer panels are constructed and how the diagonal beams are constructed.

Keeney Settlement Bridge near Cuyler, New York. Source: C. Gehman

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The Lane Truss

Daniel Lane, who was the proprietor of the Lane Bridge Works Company developed the truss design using old railroad and trolley tracks. Between 1890 and 1901 the bridge company constructed single span Howe truss bridge designs, using old rails which were reformed and clamped together by bolts that were once used for laying the track. These rods were to represent the upper and lower chord of the design, pinned together by nuts and bolts by just simply inserting the bolts through the rails and screwing the nut on afterward. This made the disassembling and reassembling of the truss design a lot easier.  This design was to be a Howe truss configuration but with three panels with the center span consisting of an A-frame design. Many of the trusses constructed during Lane’s tenure were no longer than 100 ft. in length. 

While many of these Lane pony trusses became popular at the turn of the century, one can only find four existing Lane trusses today: a 30 ft. long structure near Mc Dowell, Virginia built in 1896 and christened the Crab Run Bridge, the 90 ft. long Park’s Gap Bridge near Martinsburg, West Virginia, which built two years earlier, the Bonnie Branch Bridge in Howard County, Maryland and lastly, the Keeney Settlement Bridge in Cuyler, New York. The Crab Run and Keeney Settlement Bridges have been restored and repurposed for recreational use, while the Bonnie Branch is open for private use. Park’s Gap Bridge is still in use but features a three-layered Queenpost truss design with a Lane truss in the central panel. The company itself dissolved sometime after 1903, according to the Darnell Bridge Builder catalogue yet there is little information on both the company and Mr. Lane himself.

Portal view of the Hargrove Bridge in Butler Co., Missouri Source: J. Baughn

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The Miller-Borcherding Truss:

While the Lane truss bridge was phased out after 1901, another company in Missouri, the Miller and Borcherding Bridge Builders of St. Louis altered the Lane and made it sturdier but easier to   disassemble and re-assemble. The company featured two different bridge builders- R.L. Miller, who had established a bridge building company in 1888, and Louis Borcherding, a German-born engineer whose firm merged with Millers in 1915 but lasted only two years. The Miller-Borcherding truss was developed using the remnants of the Lane truss. The Lane truss was altered by adding vertical beams which start at the lower chord and vertical post and end at the center of the end post at a 90° angle. Unlike the Lane truss, the Miller-Borcherding trusses design were fabricated using steel, just like with the original designs of the Pratt, Warren, and Howe designs that were being constructed during this time, and the joints were riveted, meaning the beams could be slid and molded together.  

Most of these bridges were constructed during the 1910s and 20s in Missouri, with many of them located in Butler County. Five of them were reportedly built, yet only one of them still exists to this day- an unusual 219-ft. two-span structure supported by a steel tower in the middle of the river west of Poplar Bluff, also known as the Hargrove Bridge. Built in 1917, the bridge was restored in 1999 and continues to serve traffic to this day. It is one of the most unique of the Miller-Borcherding truss bridges that can be found. All in all, a total of three bridges of its kind can be found today, counting the Hargrove Bridge. The Logan Creek Bridge in Callaway County is the oldest of the Miller-Borcherding trusses with a build date of 1911. This was perhaps the prototype that was built. It is abandoned. The Slagle Creek Bridge in Bollinger County is the last single span truss bridge in use. Another bridge in Cape Girardeau County was replaced yet the trusses were last seen leaning on the barn awaiting its fate.  

Cane Creek Bridge in Butler County, Missouri (now extant). Source: J. Baughn

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Fazit:

While there were other truss designs that were developed or even modified with the purpose of using recycled materials, the Miller-Borcherding and the Lane trusses represent a more common example of this type of trend. With bridge building firms in fierce competition, combined with the rise in the price of steel, regions with a dense population but with enough financial resources were able to take advantage of the offers provided by them and were greeted with sturdy but sometimes fancy truss spans, using designs that were becoming more and more common for use: Pratt, Warren, Pennsylvania, Parker and Baltimore. The regions with a sparse population and with that, the lack of financial resources, were forced to either go with cheaper offers by smaller, less known bridge firms or had to resort with recycling the materials to be used for crossings. Both of these were done through local firms that only existed for a short period of time because of the competition. Yet these were the firms that designed and patented the bridge design for the purpose of making a crossing that is affordable to build and easier to disassemble and reassemble elsewhere. 

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Parks Gap Bridge in West Virginia. Source: Sewing Taylor (wikiCommons)

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The idea of disassembling and reassembling trusses was later adapted with the introduction of standardized trusses beginning in 1910 with riveted connections. Yet the shortage of steel during the two World Wars and a Great Depression in between also led to the pinned-connected truss spans to be reused elsewhere on roads that were less traveled.  In any case, the idea of recycling materials was kept but at the cost of creativity as seen with the two truss designs presented here. The Miller-Borcherding and Lane Trusses represent one of the last examples of truss designs where creativity but with less use of materials, like steel, came together like bread and butter. And in today’s world of bridge building, both are left aside in the name of functionality, the mentality most engineers have, to ensure a crossing carries a road from point A to point B.

Newsflyer 6 December 2017

 

It seems that we cannot avoid growing additional greys in our hair nor can we get enough of the crying and anger pillows lately. While we keep cussing the Lord’s name in vain over President Donald Trump’s absurd policies and aversion of trouble involving the Russia scandal and Putin’s interference in last year’s presidential elections, we are even shaking our heads over the use and abuse of historic bridges in the news lately. Five historic bridges- two in Germany and three in the States have received coverage in the news lately, except in terms of negative publicity. One of which deals with an oncoming problem with overheight vehicles; another with overweight vehicles. Then we have a ruling involving a bridge arson that was way too light. Has our society gone completely insane, allowing people to get away with destroying bridges as much as they can get away with murder? In this summary of the Chronicles’ Newsflyer, the answer is a clear yet. The problem is unless we have an Atomic Blonde who can bring back the country from the brink- as seen in the film– we seem to head in the direction most of us don’t want.

 

Double-Decker Bus Shaved into half by Berliner Underpass

BERLIN- In the German capital’s suburb of Spandau, there was a competition between a railroad underpass built a decade ago to carry long-distance and regional trains and a Flixbus Double-decker bus, whereas the clearance of the underpass was 3.8 meters (11.7 feet) and the bus was 4.5 meters (13 feet). Going at a speed of 50 km/h (30 mph) in the middle of the night, you can imagine what happened there! While Flixit is one of three privately-owned long-distance bus providers in Germany, which also owns the Locomore rail services, the bus was empty and the driver escaped unharmed. Police are investigating the cause of the accident which horizontally sliced the bus into half.

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Schedewitz Bridge’s Days Numbered?

ZWICKAU (SAXONY)- It is no secret that the Cainsdorf Bridge spanning the Zwickauer Mulde River just south of the city limits is scheduled to be replaced in the coming year, for the bridge is over 90 years old and can no longer handle the increasing traffic.  It is a surprise that another bridge in the south of Zwickau in Schedewitz may be the next bridge to be torn down. According to multiple reports, despite the desolate state of the Warren deck truss spans (the superstructure is extremely rusty) and the lack of lighting , the City of Zwickau has decided that rehabilitating the 1890 bridge would be exorbitant and voted to make the necessary bridge repairs to keep it open. This is inspite of the numerous complaints by reisdents to renovate the bridge to make it safer and attractive to others. Out of service since 1956, the bridge has been a key access crossing for pedestrians and cyclists. Yet the decision to reject a renovation project similar to neighboring Röhrensteg and Paradiesbrücke has raised the question of how long the bridge will be in use until the decision is made to replace it. Given the neglect of the bridge, it may not be long until a flood or other incident brings it down and the issue is back on the table of the city council again. For more on the bridge, check out the Tour Guide of the Bridges of Zwickau here. It will include information of the Cainsdorf Bridge, which will definitely be replaced.  The city had won the 2016 Ammann Awards in the category of Tour Guide International.

O’neal Bridge before the collapse. Photo taken by Tony Dillon.

O’neal Bridge in Indiana Destroyed by Tractor

ZIONSVILLE, INDIANA- Boone County officials are investigating what factors led to the driver of a farm tractor to cross the O’neal Bridge on 3 December, dropping the 125-year old structure into the waters of Big Eagle Creek. The tractor exceeded both the weight limit of four tons as well as the vertical clearance of 16.5 feet, and once it reached the center of the span, the structure fell into the water. This is the second incident to happen in Boone County in a year. Last year a tractor tried to cross Creek Road Bridge spanning Sugar Creek east of I-65, damaging the upper chord of the truss bridge. Both bridges have similar characteristics: they are Pratt through truss bridges, yet O’neal was built 20 years earlier. Both bridges were rehabilitated and with new paint: Creek Road in 2012 and this bridge in 2009. Police are looking at whether these incidents are related.  O’neal was built by the Lafayette Bridge Company and had very unique Town Lattice portal bracings. Yet with this accident, it is very difficult to envision the bridge being rebuilt for the pinned-connected antique is now a pile of twisted metal. But in Indiana, with its excellent track record, everything is possible for rebuilding historic bridges.

Millville Bridge. Photo taken by J.R. Manning

Millville Bridge Gone- along with its History and Uniqueness

COLESBURG, IOWA- Mother nature took another historic bridge despite its potential to be rebuilt. The Millville Bridge, which spanned Peck Creek on Millville Road, was knocked off its foundations during flooding in July. Clayton County officials decided to replace the downed structure with a low-water crossing and downgrade the road to a minimum maintenance (B-level) road, which happened this fall. It was a tragic loss for two reasons: 1. It was one of a handful of riveted Warren-Pratt hybrid truss bridges that exist in the US and perhaps the last of its kind in Iowa. 2. It may have been the lone structure built by the Dubuque Boat and Boiler Works Company. The 60-foot pony truss span with riveted connections was built in 1916, using the standard bridge designs that had been introduced by the state 5 years earlier.

Cedar Covered Bridge taken in 2007 while on tour.

Plea Agreement for Burning Historic Covered Bridge

WINTERSET, IOWA-  A plea agreement was made in county court between one of the three members responsible for setting fire to the Cedar Covered Bridge. 19-year old Alivia Bergmann entered the plea of guilty to 2nd degree arson. The agreement includes testifying against the two co-defendants, 17-year old Alexander Hoff and 18-year old Joel Davis, who are charged with setting the historic covered bridge on fire on 15 April, 2017. The bridge was rebuilt in 2004 replicating the 1883 span that had fallen victim to arson, two years earlier. The structure is still standing ableit charred, yet fundraising efforts have been underway since the incident, and the bridge is scheduled to be rebuilt. Costs are estimated to be at $600,000, a large portion of which Bergmann will have to pay. As for Davis and Hoff, their future is in the balance as they are facing trial. If guilty, prison time, fines or a combination of both are awaiting.

 

 

 

 

Cobban Bridge to Be Replaced: Truss Bridge’s Future Unknown

CHIPPEWA FALLS, WISCONSIN-  Imagine this situation for a second: You have an old but very unique historic bridge with a history that binds two communities together. After being built 120 years ago, it was relocated to its present site during its 20th year and remains in use until structural problems force the county to close the bridge and plan its replacement. The bridge is located near a bike trail that used to be a railroad line connecting the two communities. While the public is really attached to the bridge, the county insists on building a new bridge at its current site because the cost for even restoring the bridge is far more than just tearing it down and replacing it. Because of its history and unique design, the bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which makes funding for restoring the structure easier to achieve than it is when removing it using federal funds. Yet funding for restoring the bridge is hard to find. What do you do?

Do you:

  1. Proceed to tear the bridge down and replace it?
  2. Get a second opinion about the cost of evaluating the bridge and find ways to fix the bridge for continued use?
  3. Build a bridge alongside the sturcture and convert the old bridge into a pedestrian crossing?
  4. Build a new bridge at its original site but find constructive ways to relocate the bridge or use part of the structure- especially along the bike trail?

In the case of the Cobban Bridge, a two-span Pennsylvania through truss bridge spanning the Chippewa River southwest of Cornell in western Wisconsin, the situation is very precarious, for the historic bridge, considered eligible for the National Register of Historic Places because of its history and unique design, has met the end of its useful life as a vehicular crossing. Yet costs for restoring vs. replacing the bridge have forced county officials to look at other options apart from rehabilitating the bridge in place or building a new structure alongside the old one. In other words, the bridge cannot remain in its current place and must go.

Since August 2, the bridge has been shut down to all traffic including pedestrians, and talks are underway for securing funding for the bridge’s removal in place of a new strucure. This also includes looking at options for reusing the bridge, which when looking at the drone video, it’s a real beauty:

Yet inspite of its beauty, the Cobban Bridge will most likely have to make its third move in its lifetime, unless financial support for reconstructing the bridge at its current location combined with constructing a new bridge alongside the structure is realized, not just on the government level but also from the private sector.

When the bridge was first built in 1908 by the Modern Steel Structures Company, based Waukesha, the two-span Pennsylvania through truss bridge was over the Chippewa River between the townships of Anson and Eagle Point. The bridge was christened the Yellow River Bridge even though it was located one mile north of the Yellow River itself. Replacing the iron bridge built years before, the structure had the same features as the one at its present location: it was made of steel, had pinned connections, overhead V-laced strut bracings and a three-rhombus Howe lattice portal bracings with 45° heel bracings. Ten years later, as part of the plan to construct a dam along the river near Chippewa Falls (and subsequentially inundate the crossing upstream), the bridge was relocated 15 miles downstream to cross the same river between Cornell and Jim Falls near the village of Cobban. The bridge has been in service since then- all 486.5 feet in length; each span, being identical and having a length of 241 feet.

Despite this, planning has been in the works to replace the Cobban Bridge, even though the two-span Pennsylvania through truss bridge is not only the last one of its truss type left in the state, but it is the only multiple-span bridge of its kind in the country! Inspections and estimates have revealed that restoring the bridge to be reused even for pedestrian purposes would be $13-14 million. A report presented by a well-known bridge builder, AECOM (whose regional office is based in Stevens Point in northern Wisconsin) revealed that replacing the bridge on a new alignment would cost $11 million, up from an estimated $7.2 million that was figured in March 2016. If delayed until 2025, the price would be lowered from $12.9 million to $8.6 million at the site where the bridge is located. Tearing the bridge down would cost $1.6 million. Established as a conglomerate in 1990, AECOM has its headquarters in New York but dozens of offices throughout the country as well as Europe. While its specialty is designing and building state-of-the-art buildings and modern bridges, for restoring historic bridges, its only focus has been on stone arch bridges, which included Grobler’s Bridges in South Africa and the Railroad Viaduct over the Neisse in Görlitz, at the German-Polish border. County officials and supporters of the Cobban Bridge are dissatisfied with the results provided by AECOM. Yet all parties have agreed to one thing, if the bridge is unsafe, then something has to be done about it.

Because of its design and historical integrity, the bridge is elgible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, which means environmental and cultural impact surveys (especially those in connection with Section 106 of the Preservation Laws) are to be undertaken before any work on replacing the bridge was to commence. According to Marilyn Murphy, who has started a facebook page on Saving the Cobban Bridge and has over 2000 followers, the surveys are already underway. As the project will require federal money, state and local authorities are mandated to allow the surveys be undertaken to determine the impact of replacing the Cobban Bridge, while looking at alternatives for reusing the bridge. Several other agencies have been involved in looking for options for the bridge, including the Texas-based Historic Bridge Foundation, as well as the Chippewa County Historical Society. The key variable that is known, according to Murphy, is that the county would like to relieve themselves of legal responsibilities for the bridge and would gladly like to give the bridge to any third party member wishing to take responsibility for maintaining the structure, including its relocation.

So with the bridge available for the taking, what options are available for the Cobban Bridge?

In the interview with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, Murphy presented a long list of possibilities for reuse. This includes using portions of the bridge along the Old Abe Bike Trail, which runs along the Chippewa between Lake Wissota and Brunet Island State Parks, relocating one or both spans back to the original Yellow River site, using one span for a state park, or even purchasing parts of the dismantled span (boards or beams) as remembrances. However, as mentioned earlier, there is interest in keeping the two spans in its original spot- a practical and most logical choice, yet two variables are lacking: funding and expertise. Funding because it is likely that regardless of ownership- be it through the state with the Department of Natural Resources (which owns the Old Abe Bike Trail), private-public partnership or simply pure ownership- funding will need to be found mostly through private sources, including donations from companies and citizens. This would be needed to renovate the bridge to make it a viable crossing for pedestrians and cyclists and incorporate it into the bike trail. Expertise would mean looking at companies that have restored bridges like this for recreational use, and there are enough both in-state as well as out-of-state to go around. Even if the bridge is to be relocated again, these two variables are going to be key in order for the bridge to live on.

What needs to be done in order to prevent the demise of the Cobban Bridge?

We know that the bridge has been declared off limits for all traffic, including pedestrians and cyclists- at least until the environmental impact and cultural surveys are completed, which can take 6-12 months or more to complete (including alternatives for reusing the bridge both in place and elsewhere).  Without that there is no federal funding that can cover 80% of the costs for the bridge. There has been a lot of public support and sentiment towards the Cobban Bridge and ways to save and reuse the structure, yet the approach of doing-nothing is not an option. This was already seen with the Wagon Wheel Bridge in Iowa, and its neglect, combined with vandalism and the lack of maintenance resulted in the “Triple GAU” consisting of arson, collapse and in the end, the removal of the remaining structure in 2016. There are a lot of ideas for reusing the bridge- be it in place or at a different location (even in segments), and the county is ready to hand over the keys that will unlock the gates that have closed off the structure since August, forcing travelers to detour to crossings at Jim Falls and Cornell. Yet, like with the Green Bridge in Des Moines, Iowa, which has been reopened since the end of last year, a group or alliance will be needed that will take over ownership and assume full responsibilities of the bridge and assure that it is safe for use. And speaking from experiences of others, the going may be tough at the beginning, but after a series of fundraisers and other events to help restore and reuse the bridge, the Cobban Bridge may have another life beyond that of horse and buggy, the Model T and lastly, the Audi.

 

If you would like to help restore and/or reuse the Cobban Bridge, you can visit its facebook page (here) and contact Marilyn Murphy at this address: mjmurphy1970@gmail.com. She’s the main contact for the bridge and can also provide you with some other contact information of others involved with the project. She and her husband Jim were nice enough to provide some pics of the bridge for this article.  The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on the Cobban Bridge and the steps that will be needed on the structure’s future, regardless of which direction it is taken.

 

   

Central States Bridge Company of Indianapolis, Indiana

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Boyd Bridge at Greensburg City Park in Craig, Indiana- a fine product of CSBC. Photo taken by Tony Dillon

This article is in connection with the creation of the database for the Bridge Builder’s Directory in the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ wordpress page, which you can click here to view.

Indiana, together with Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York, were considered the big six in terms of steel construction and bridge building during the heyday of architectural and infrastructural expansion between 1880 and 1920. Steel mills were found between Minneapolis and Pittsburgh, including the metropolises of Chicago, Indianapolis, Canton and Cleveland. Several schools of bridge building existed, which churned out the finest bridge builders and businessmen in the field. This included the Indiana school, which had over a dozen bridge builders, including the longest known bridge builder in the state, The Central States Bridge Company (CSBC). But what do we know about the company and its founder to date?

The company was created in 1895 as the New Castle Steel Sewer Pipe Company by Eugene Runyan and others, with its headquarters in New Castle, IN. It later expanded its services and began building bridges. In 1897,  in response to the changing trends in infrastructural work that included the increasing demand for metal truss bridges, the company changed its name to New Castle Bridge Company and would later receive contracts for bridge building in Iowa, Virginia, and Michigan. In 1905, the company relocated to Indianapolis and was renamed the Central States Bridge Company. Prior to World War I, the bridge company constructed dozens of bridges of its kind in 10 states, including: Indiana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Montana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Nebraska and New York.

Lilleberg Bridge
Lilleberg Bridge in Jackson County, MN (1910-1976) Source: Jackson Co. Hwy. Dept.

Many of these bridges have been either documented by the State Historical Societies, HABS/HAER or both and are either listed on the National Register of Historic Places or are considered eligible. Yet many of these CSBC bridges are disappearing fast as they have been either replaced or demolished in the past 20 years. This includes the following bridges:

Lefarge Bridge in Wisconsin: This bridge used to be the Hudson Toll Bridge until it was relocated in 1953 to its final destination. It was documented by HABS/HAER before it was removed in 1983.

Standing Rock Bridge in Montana: This three-span polygonal Warren through truss bridge was one of the key historic sites along the Yellowstone River until its replacement in 1991

Little Flatrock Bridge in Indiana: Decatur County was CSBC’s primary customer as a half dozen of its bridges were built there between 1900 and 1916. This one had a fancy portal bracing, yet efforts to save the bridge from the wrecking ball failed, as the bridge was removed in 2000 after its replacement was built. However, the Applegate Bridge has a similar feature and is in storage, awaiting relocation for reuse.

Lilleberg Bridge in Minnesota: The Lilleberg Bridge was one of the younger bridges built by Central States, for it was constructed in 1911. It was the fourth structure at the location and used to be a centerpiece for the now extant village of Belmont. Sadly, flood damage in 1969 resulted in its replacement in 1976 on a new alignment. One can still see the lally columns from the current structure today.

 

Structures that are still standing include:

Boyd Bridge in Indiana: This used to span Sand Creek at CR 700 before it was relocated to Greensburg Park in Craig in 2006, nicely restored and now part of a bike path.

Bernadotte Bridge in Illinois: This bridge features a Pratt through truss and a Pratt pony truss. Damaged by the flooding along the Spoon River, the pony truss span was taken out of the river and placed on blocks, while the through truss is still standing. Efforts are being undertaken to save the entire structure.

Locust Street Bridge in New York: Located in the town of Waterloo, this 1914 arch structure was the only known bridge of its kind built by CSBC and is still in service today.

Little is known what happened to the Central States except to say that even though the founder, Mr. Runyan, died in 1913, the business continued building bridges well into the 1970s and 80s, according to the Indiana Historical Society during the author’s correspondance in 2007. Whether the company still exists today, either as an independent entity or as part of a larger steel and/or bridge company remains unknown to date, nor do we have much information on the later structures built by CSBC.

If you know more about the company, especially regarding Euguene Runyan’s life and the company’s existence sice 1919 in terms of bridge examples, advertising or other information, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles, under the following address: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. Further information will be added to this page pending on the information that is received at that time.

In the meantime, check out the list of bridges built by CSBC by clicking on the following links below:

http://bridgehunter.com/category/builder/central-states-bridge-co/- Bridgehunter.com

Historic Bridges.org: Central States Bridge Company

 

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C.W. Gove of Windom, Minnesota

Petersburg Village Bridge
Petersburg Village Bridge in Petersburg (Jackson County), MN Photo taken by MnDOT in 1963

This article is in connection with the creation of the database for the Bridge Builder’s Directory in the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ wordpress page, which you can click here to view. More information is needed on this gentleman, who contributed a great deal in engineering southwestern Minnesota, including Jackson, Cottonwood and Murray Counties. If you have information that will help, the contact details are at the end of the article.

Charles Wallace Gove is a little known figure in the engineering business as his primary focus was building bridges, roads and ditches in southern Minnesota, in and around Cottonwood County  (where Windom is located). Little is known about the bridges he built except records  indicated he built two bridges in Jackson County (which are profiled at the end of this info  sheet) and an unknown number in his county. On the political level, he was a dedicated  farmer and political journalist who left his mark at the State Capitol with his plan that is still  being used today for commercial farming.

Born in 1863 in De Witt, Iowa, he and his brother Wade settled in Jackson County, Minnesota in 1886, where he farmed and taught in nearby Lakefield until his move to Cottonwood County in 1895, where he established his farmstead in Great Bend Twp. northwest of Windom.  From that time on until his death in 1936, Mr. Gove busied himself with the transportation sector, first as a surveyor until 1912 and then afterwards, as a county engineer. During his tenure as surveyor, he led the efforts in constructing ditches in Cottonwood, Nobles and Murray Counties and later on in parts of Jackson County, as flooding was rampant during that time, and farmers needed them to provide runoff for the excess waterflow.

It was also during that time that he led the bridge building effort in parts of Jackson County, as county officials were turning to local builders who were willing to construct bridges at an affordable price. While the bridges he built were not spectacular in design, his most worthy structures were the bridge near Rost as well as the second crossing at Petersburg, built in 1912 and 1915, respectively.  When he was not building bridges and maintaining the roads in Cottonwood County, he wrote various articles and essays for local and regional newspapers, including his most famous one, the Minnesota Plan. There, he advocated simpler farming techniques, which included constructing  deeper and systematic plowing before planting and ditches to provide water run-off.  His writings dealt with philosophical thoughts mixed with a bit of wit and humor that made the readers enjoy every paragraph. He was recognized by the state for his work at the time of his death. Charles Gove died on 29 August, 1936.

Rost Bridge
Rost Bridge. Photo take by MnDOT in 1948

The Bridges built by C.W. Gove:

Rost Bridge

Location:  Little Sioux River at 390th Avenue, 0.1 mile south of Interstate 90 in Rost Twp.

Type:  Steel stringer with steel railings (altered in the 1970s)

Dimensions: 32.3 feet long; 16.4 feet wide

Built in 1912, replaced in 2002

This bridge used to carry a key road to the unincorporated village of Rost, located 2 miles north of the bridge. The village had a couple trading businesses and a church, the latter of which still exists today. The contract was given to C.W. Gove to build this bridge on 8 July, 1912, which was completed by the end of that year. The road was cut off by the Interstate in 1973 and after 90 years in service, this bridge was replaced by a pair of culverts in 2002.

 

Petersburg Village Bridge

Location: West Fork Des Moines River on a local road in Petersburg

Type: Two-span Pratt pony truss with pinned connections and steel cylindrical piers

Dimensions: 171 feet long (2x 81-foot truss spans); 16 feet wide

Built in 1915 replacing an earlier structure; destroyed in the 1965 flooding during the construction of its replacement upstream. Replacement bridge opened in 1965

The Village Bridge was the longest bridge known to have been built by C.W. Gove. He was awarded a contract to build the structure for $3050 to replace the bridge built 30 years earlier, just after it was founded. The bridge was in service until the Flood of 1965, which destroyed the structure. It was also at that time that a construction worker at the new bridge, located one mile west of the old one, fell into the icy river and drowned. His body was recovered in June 1965, three months after the replacement bridge opened to traffic

 

Do you know of other bridges built by C.W. Gove or have some more knowledge about the Minnesota plan or his written work? Let’s hear about it. Contact Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com and feel free to provide some additional information for this fact sheet about this unknown engineer who left a mark on the local level. The info will be added and/or modified  based on what comes in.

 

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Photos of the Rost and Petersburg Village Bridges are courtesy of MnDOT