BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 97

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This week’s Pic of the Week takes us to the City of Jena in eastern Thuringia and to this bridge, the Carl Alexander Bridge, which is about seven kilometers to the north of the city. The three-span Parker through truss bridge, built in 1892, spans the River Saale and can be seen high in the air from Dornburg Castle. In either direction, one has a grandiose photographic view- towards the castle from the bridge or from the terrace of the castle. The bridge was imploded before the end of World War II but was subsequentially rebuilt afterwards. It had served traffic until a new bridge on a new alignment opened in the late 1990s and the truss bridge was converted to a bike crossing, serving the Saale Bike Trail. While living in Jena, my wife and I would always use this bridge to cross while biking along the Saale. It was a great treat even to spend a few minutes break at the bridge.

Since 2018 the bridge has undergone an extensive renovation where crews replaced the decking and some truss parts, as well as removed the pack rust on the trusses, repainted the whole structure and made repairs on the bridge’s abutments. We had an opportunity to visit the bridge during our most recent visit. Having moved away from Jena, we wanted to revisit some of the places that held lots of memories in the 19+ years we lived there. This was one of them, especially as the structure was being rehabbed.

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As you can see in the pics presented, the bridge looks like new and the rehab is almost finished. The new decking was added and paved. What is missing are the railings. Before the work began, fencing was placed on both sides of the trusses from  the inside to keep people from leaning on the railings, Much of the original railings was as rusty and corroded as the trusses themselves and therefore had to be removed for restoring.  As you can see in the tunnel shot, it looks done, but not just yet.

According to the website, the railings are not the only issue left. The bridge will be lit with LED, making it shine to its glory at night and replacing the yellow sodium lighting that had existed before but emitted an amber color of dystopia that was unwelcoming to visitors.  Furthermore, a bridge park with an info-board on the bridge’s history will be built near the parking lot on the east end. Fundraising is still being done to make this a reality. If you are interested, click here  to donate.

It is unknown when the bridge will reopen, let alone how long it will take for at least the structural work will be done before opening the bridge. Due to the Corona Virus and the restrictions that are in place, it is very unlikely that an opening ceremony will take place this year. This will buy workers more time to finish the work on their „To-Do“ List and have the bridge ready for use again. Although the bridge will re-open in silence, the celebration will most likely happen in 2021 or even 2022, when the bridge is 110 years old. In either case, like with the Corona, patience is the key. Give them time and you will be given time to use it again. Word to the wise.

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Paper Mill/Marshall Bridge: Rising from the Ashes- An Interview with Julie Bowers

 

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What is considered the impossible became the impossible. David never gave up on the notion of beating Goliath until it actually happened. Some heavily favorites can fall to the underdogs. All it takes is patience, preserverence, passion and persistence- the four Ps to success. Five if you want to include politics.

For Julie Bowers and the crew at Workin Bridges, those five Ps were needed plus some personnel with expertise and just as much of the five Ps to bring a bowstring arch bridge back from the rubble, resurrect the structure, restore it to its former glory and now, it’s being reused for recreation. That is the story behind the history of the Marshall Bostring Arch Bridge located now at the Auburn Heights Preserve in Delaware. It has gone by many names, but two come out as the most commonly used aside from its official name: the McIntyre Bowstring Arch Bridge when it was in Iowa, and most recently, Paper Mills Bridge. The bridge has come a long way after it was destroyed by flooding in August 2009 at its original location in Poweshiek County, spanning the Skunk River. After it was pulled from the river and stored, efforts were undertaken to restore it, which included a long journey to its new home in Yorklyn, Delaware. The Odyssey came with a lot of challenges, as you will see in the interview I did with Julie Bowers before Christmas.  I wanted to find out how the 5 Ps played a role in bringing the bowstring arch bridge that is like a family to her and the crew who restored it back to life. Here’s how the story happened. Enjoy! 🙂

 

1. Tell us briefly about yourself and your role in restoring historic bridges. I’ve been doing this for ten years. I knew nothing about bridges or restoration or bureaucratic politics when our bridge was lost to the N. Skunk River. I did have a background in construction, architecture and databases and used that as a base to build on. I don’t give up and have been called stubborn. We could not do this without a lot of sacrifice by everyone that travels to save a bridge but mostly we couldn’t do it without Bach Steel and Nels Raynor and our board of directors, both current and past.

 

 

  1. In your opinion, how special is the Paper Mill Bridge (PMB) in terms of its history and personal association with it?

It was erected in 1883, built by the King Iron Bridge Company. We think it is from around 1878 production design based on the lacing in the vertical outriggers and the castings. The bridge of many names (Skunk River Bridge, Humpback Bridge, McDowell for a minute then McIntyre, then Paper Mill) now the Marshall Family Bridge, is the heart of the Auburn Heights Preserve in Yorklyn, Delaware. A public / private partnership to clean up zinc laden habitat, to rebuild old warehouses including the Paper Mill and to build a trail system using historic bridges. If we had not had this project we would not have saved our bridge. It was a lot more work after falling in the river but it will live on.

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  1. Prior to its relocation from Iowa to Delaware, the PMB was once known as the McIntyre Bridge. Tell us about the bridge in its original location.

The bridge was located on River Road over the N. Skunk River in SE Poweshiek County. Our family had ties to the area and found ourselves there often for fall and winter picnics. When I returned to Iowa in 2001, we restarted those picnics. It fit it’s location perfectly and was safely in a park until flooding pushed it off it’s piers.

 

  1. In 2010, floodwaters swept the bridge off its foundations and caused severe damage. Tell us more about it and how it influenced your decision to restore the bridge.

My daughter and I found the bridge on the Sunday following Friday the 13th. We heard later the county crews were pulling trees up river that were compromising a concrete span. They came on down river and the roots entangled with the cable railing and pushed the span off the piers. It was our bridge, my family had been tied to that place for generations and I got the call. What are you going to do? We started educating ourselves, making calls, and figuring out our options. Turns out, all we needed was Bach Steel at that time, before the bridge went down.

 

  1. What was the plan for restoring the McIntyre Bridge in its original place and why did it fail?

It was just decisions that let us keep trying to figure out how much it cost and how to find the funds. There were setbacks, grant rejections, a lot of them, but we persevered. Our first plan was research, we were referred to Vern Mesler and Nathan Holth and had them  come to Iowa. We raised $3000 for that consult.  The bridge was still up at that point. When the bridge fell we were told about Nels Raynor and we proceeded with Nels to pull the bridge from the river and to work with us on this bridge and others. My daughter, Laran Bowers is on the board now, has been for years and that makes sense. She was the one that found the bridge. Jaydine Good rounds out the board and we have about 5 advisors that we utilize all the time for their perspectives. We wrote grants to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), getting our County involved.

They subsequently reneged on their commitment to a TAP grant and we knew grants would never be our solution. When the county commissioners took back their backing, we knew that the solution was not going to be there and started looking. Flooding in August of 2009 changed everything from restoration plans to salvage, then restoration. No one ever decided not to save the bridge, it was always our number 1 priority through all of our efforts. We’ve educated a lot of folks on knowing the project before deciding to continue or not. We always knew our project costs from the beginning.

 

 Author’s Note: TAP stands for Transportation Alternative Program which focuses mainly on bridge rehabilitation/restoration instead of replacement.

 

6.  What happened to the McIntyre Bridge afterwards?

It went to Bach Steel for storage while we tried raising funds. Then we brought it back to Iowa because SHPO said we had moved the bridge out of Iowa. Then SHPO delisted the bridge because it was moved off it’s piers, they didn’t believe our scope and estimate, and the bridge was stored while we worked on other projects, became a contractor and tried earning funds rather than asking for funds.

 

Author’s Note: The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1980s along with two dozen other bowstring arch bridges in Iowa. Because of its significance, grants were available to restore the bridge but only at its original location. The bridge can be delisted if it’s either altered beyond historic recognition, destroyed by natural disaster or demolition or moved to another location. Some exceptions do apply.

 

7. How and when did the opportunity to relocate and restore the McIntyre Bridge come about?

Nels Raynor and I worked with Project PATH at PennDOT with Kara Russell and Preservation Pennsylvania, providing scope and estimates on several bridges. Without that information it is very hard to sell a bridge in their program. That lead to a call from DNREC. McIntyre Bridge was certainly our choice although Nels would have preferred others that might not have had as much damage. It was a lot of work and the care that Derek and Lee and their crew put into the restoration was immense. There was twisting along the box chord but if you look close today, you will see very little distortion.

More on PATH: https://path.penndot.gov/

 

8. How was the bridge reconstructed?

Very carefully. It’s a bridge that will take pedestrians and we care. This is a bowstring truss. The eye-bars are connected with castings and pins to make the length  of the bridge and the verticals hit the eye-bars, connected with cast parts. The trusses were laid opposite to each other, so that they could be picked up nearly in place and then the lateral connections were put in. Miles of angle were welded together to make the vertical “star iron / cruciform posts that were beyond repair. This is what we call in-kind restoration which means if we have to recreate parts we do that.  The trusses required mending, heat straightening, pack rust removal and it took a long time to essentially rebuild our bridge. Nels did that for us because he said he would.

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9. Who were the actors involved in the restoration?

There were no actors involved. It took the expertise of Nels Raynor at Bach Steel along with his crew over years. It also took finding James Schiffer, P.E. Now he does some work for others but the original team of Workin Bridges was Nels, Jim and I. Derek and Lee Pung worked the most on the bridge, along with Nels son Brock and others that have learned iron working arts during this project.

10. What other factors led to the success in restoring the bridge?

Perseverance, not patience, and finding other work along the way, not just waiting around for grants and then deciding grants and donations aren’t enough. We started working the construction angle to have the funds to pay for overhead while some grants were pursued. Remember, you can’t do anything after the grant goes in. 6 months to wait for denial is no fun. As we went along we found more and more opportunities and we know what failure looks like. The board, under the direction of my father Dick Bowers, Gary Sanders, Diane Roth, Laran Bowers and now Jaydine Good have kept me pursuing the best outcome for our bridge and helping other people with their bridges.

 

11.  The bridge was renamed Paper Mill Bridge and later Marshall? Why was that? 

The Marshall Family owned the Paper Mill and the Mansion and a collection of vintage Stanley Steemers and other collectible vehicles. They donated this to the state parks system and DNREC wanted to honor the family by naming the bowstring after them. Marshall Family Bridge was dedicated last year while Mr. Marshall could be there.

 

12.  Paper Mill Bridge is now in Delaware, but there is talk of adding some bridges, a couple from Pennsylvania. Can you elaborate further on this?

Part of Project PATH was a pony truss bridge for sale that we added to the complement of bridges from York County, PA. The project criteria were to find bridges with different builders, types and ages from different states to complement the mills being restored. That bridge, now called Farm Lane, is a pony truss that we modified for strength and width with girders. We also widened it to allow for a pedestrian lane, and engineered it for vehicular traffic with a moveable railing if emergency or agricultural vehicles need to cross. Martin Road will become Snuff Mill. A pratt truss from Michigan has been restored and is being painted, awaiting installation at NVF.  Another large truss, the Portland Water Works bridge is in storage in Delaware for future installation after we purchased and transported it across country two years ago.

 

 13.     How would you theme the project, Saving the Paper Mill Bridge either as a title or in one sentence? The Skunk River Bridge Story – 1883 to present

 

14.   What future bridge restoration projects do you have on the agenda, especially the bowstring arch bridge, like the Paper Mill?

We are working on Watts Mill Road Bridge, a rare continuous pony truss, we have tried to take on Aetnaville Bridge in Wheeling as a restoration project knowing that $2.5 million could be useful for preservation. We saved the Springfield Des-Arc bridge in a new park, that was another bowstring. I think we are instrumental in Pennsylvania and Ohio utilizing Bach Steel to save bowstrings now. If they are the Kings of Kings, we know where that started. Any that we can find now will go into the “Bridge in a Box” sales program that we are developing. Of course we expanded on the Old Richardsville Bridge and are hopeful that the engineers will be required to work with us on the restoration needs. We found little to fix but the Kentucky Cabinet likes spending funds on local certified engineers, lots of money. We got the process started to showcase that it was much older and it will be preserved as a vehicular bridge. That took historical research from the bridge hunting community which was great to dial in the history that negated the NPS dates for NRHP.

 

 15. What words of advice would you give to those who are pursuing preserving and reusing a historic bridge, based on your personal experiences with this bridge?

It is always political. Find the economic benefits for the bridge to the local community. You can’t assume that they will take it on like Beaver County did with Watts Mill Road Bridge after it is reset. Engineers estimates are overly high so get another opinion. Engineers are asked specific questions by their clients that they answer – their answers don’t always look at preservation. For instance, the engineers estimate for Broadway Bridge in Frankfort assumes putting concrete back on it and doesn’t even consider planks or an engineered decking system. Some DOTS are really working hard at finding solutions, but we have to become competitive in selling a “Bridge in a Box – by Bach”  if we want to be competitive with those selling welded steel spans. Convincing and branding a membership driven “Workin'” non profit would create funds annually to help save bridges and other structures. We’ve looked into many ideas, some have merit, some do not. For now we do site visits that give real costs for restoration so that our clients can have enough information for good decisions to be made. We will be crafting more stories on video and perhaps a book on the McIntyre – we have footage of my father and other locals when we first started. We also have content on a lot of site visits that we will start to analyze and put out as well. Having a wonderful board that won’t let you give up even in the face of struggles is the secret. There will be struggles and set backs. Engineers want to build new bridges and cities don’t want the risks of old ones. We try to mitigate the risks.

It’s hard. We’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons as we pursued this. No good deed ever goes unpunished but there are a lot of great people and wonderful stories across the US. We saved our bridge but it took a lot out of all of us and it wasn’t the outcome we wanted but it was the best outcome for the bridge. Can’t wait to walk it again soon.

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Epilog: The Paper Mill/ Marshall Bridge has received a lot of national and international recognition after its reconstruction and re-erecting at its new home in Delaware, including the 2018 Ammann Awards for Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge and Bridge of the Year, edging out the Blackfriar’s Bridge in Canada, whose design is similar to this bridge. While Blackfriar’s still retains the role of being the world’s longest of its kind, this bridge will definitely go down in the history books as one which was resurrected after a tragedy and is now being used again after years of hard work and lots of expertise. It sets the foundation for other historic bridge restorations that will come in the new decade, for they are becoming more important to save for future generations as the numbers dwindle due to progress and environmental disasters that are partly due to that progress. Progress is not welcomed unless we see some advantages in these. And as we learned this year with Greta Thunberg’s world tour, the environment will indeed be priority number one in our future plans for making things better. This is one of the projects that will benefit many.

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Newsflyer: 9 September, 2019

 

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Click here to listen to the Podcast. The links and photos of the bridges in detail are below:

 

Links:

Historic Staffeler Bridge in Limburg to be replaced. Old bridge to be repurposed for recreational use:

https://www.fnp.de/lokales/limburg-weilburg/limburg-hessen-staffeler-bruecke-soll-bleiben-12947468.html

 

Gänsetorbrücke spanning the River Danube at Ulm. Photo taken by AHert [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D
Historic Gänsetorbrücke in Ulm/ Neu-Ulm to be torn down and replaced after losing its historic status:

https://www.swp.de/suedwesten/staedte/ulm/gaenstorbruecke-denkmalschutz-ist-vom-tisch-33019623.html

The Bridges of Ulm: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/the-bridges-of-ulm-germany/

Ulrich Finsterwalder Biography: https://www.b-tu.de/great-engineers-lexikon/ingenieure/finsterwalder-ulrich-1897-1988

King William Road with the Towers of the Bridge in the Background. Photo taken by Adam J.W.C (wikiCommons)

Historic King William Bridge in Adelaide, Australia to either close or be replaced by 2030:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-04/king-william-road-adelaide-bridge-might-need-to-be-replaced/11476978

 

Historic Bridge Stones stolen by vandals at historic bridge in Yorkshire. Police investigating:

https://www.wakefieldexpress.co.uk/news/crime/yorkshire-stone-stolen-from-200-year-old-grade-1-listed-bridge-at-ferrybridge-1-9969320

Hammersmith Bridge in London. Source: “Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC BY-SA 3.0”

Historic Hammersmith Bridge in London to be Rehabilitated. Closed for three years.

https://www.taxi-point.co.uk/single-post/2019/09/03/Hammersmith-Bridge-repair-work-starts-and-expected-to-last-THREE-YEARS

Mangaweka Bridge in New Zealand spared demolition- will remain as a pedestrian/ bike crossing:

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/the-country/news/article.cfm?c_id=16&objectid=12264113

 

Brunel’s historic bridge in Bristol celebrating its birthday milestone (not the suspension bridge though):

https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/whats-on/huge-birthday-celebrations-brunels-bridge-3277964

 

And Information on preservation and fundraising efforts (Contact Details included):

https://www.brunelsotherbridge.org.uk/

 

Historic drawbridge in Florida rehabbed and reopened to traffic:

http://bocanewspaper.com/camino-bridge-finally-reopens-after-renovations-28231

Historic bridge in Costa Rica faces unknown future as community mulls at replacement:

https://vozdeguanacaste.com/en/historic-bridge-in-liberia-faces-uncertain-future/

 

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Call to Action to Save the Route 66 Gasconade Bridge

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Photo courtesy of James Baughn

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HAZELGREEN, MISSOURI- The days of the Gasconade River Bridge, which used to carry US Hwy. 66 near Hezelgreen may be numbered as it faces demolition scheduled for Spring of 2020 unless a new owner can be found.

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) has placed the 95-year old bridge under a 30-day public review and comment period which is halfway through its time and is scheduled to be completed by July 5th.  The historic bridge was built in 1924 by MODOT and consists of (from west to east) one 8-panel Warren pony truss with alternating verticals, two 8-panel Parker through trusses and one 6-panel Pratt through truss, all totaling a length of 526 feet. The structure is elgible for the National Register of Historic Places because of its design that was in connection with the standardized bridge movement that started in 1910. It is also in connection with Route 66 and its history, as the Highway, connecting Chicago with Los Angeles via Tulsa and Santa Fe was in operation from 1926 until the last segment of the highway was decommissioned in 1979. Interstate 40 had suplanted the stretch of highway where the bridge is located a years earlier.

Currently, the bridge is closed to traffic and a replacement bridge is being built alongside the historic structure, which will carry a frontage road running alongside the interstate once it’s completed next year. The Gasconade Bridge used to carry that road before its closure in 2015.

Attempts to find an owner for the new bridge and restore the structure to its original glory have not been successful due to differences in planning and realization combined with lack of funding for purchase and restoration. Yet the Gasconade Bridge Facebook (click here) has garnered support from over 1200 Followers and many more who are not on the social media scene. There have been rallies and fundraisers lately and a page where you can donate to save the bridge (click here).

Still the clock is ticking and with the resources and options running out, “only a public outcry expressing significant concern and a desire to save the bridge from demolition might help,” according to a statement on the Gasconade Facebook Page. If you would like to help in convincing government officials to save the bridge, here are the contact details you Need to know before you address your support for the bridge:

E-Mail: STIPcomments@modot.mo.gov

Phone: 1-888-275-6636

Mail: Transportation Planning, Program Comments, P.O. Box 270, Jefferson City, MO. 65102.

Identify the Gasconade River Bridge in Laclede County, MO. Give them your name and where you live and most importantly, why this bridge is important and is worth saving. It must be personal; all letters copied and pasted will not be acceptable.

To provide you with an incentive to convince MODOT, here’s an interview I did with Rich Dinkela about the bridge a few years ago. Click here to view.  A pair of YouTube videos of the bridge can be found below:

If you have any suggestions to help save the bridge or are interested in buying it, please contact the Group on their Facebook page. A link to their website you will find here.

 

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Jenkins Bridge Fundraiser for 23rd March

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Photo taken by Trent Huse

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WHEELERVILLE, MISSOURI- The campaign to save a historic bridge in Missouri has kicked off with a fundraiser. The Jenkins Bridge is a six-panel through truss bridge with M-frame portal bracings and pinned connections. Spanning Flat Creek south of Jenkins in Barry County, this bridge was built in 1909 by the Standard Bridge Company in Omaha and has been a place of great memories by many locals who have used the bridge for swimming/ diving as well as fishing.

The bridge has been closed since 2017 and many locals are working together with officials from Barry County to find a way to rehabilitate and reopen the bridge to traffic. Already at the starting block are the fundraisers that are underway. One of which takes place on Saturday, March 23rd.

A benefit concert, featuring the music group, Homestead Pickers, will take place at the Wheelerville Church beginning at 7:00pm. Join them for an evening of bluegrass, gospel, country music with good ole fashioned humor and entertainment by the group featuring Greg Bailey, Greg Becker, Danny Eakin, and Walt Morrison. All proceeds from the concert will go towards the newly-formed Jenkins Bridge Foundation to file the necessary documents and restoration expenses of the bridge. Aside from restoring the bridge, the group is pursuing a plan to have the structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This will be the first of many fundraisers yet to come. More details on other plans for saving the bridge will come soon, as the Chronicles has been doing an e-mail interview with members of the group and will keep you posted on the latest.  If you wish to contribute to the cause of saving and restoring the bridge, you may join the Jenkins Bridge Foundation’s facebook site, which you can click here.

More to come soon.

 

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Hayden Truss Bridge Opens to Traffic

 

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Hayden Bridge on the day of its reopening. Photo taken by Julie Bowers

Grand Reopening of the 1882 Whipple Through Truss Bridge after a thorough Rehabilitation.

SPRINGFIELD/ EUGENE, OREGON- Two years after acquiring the bridge and three decades after seeing its last train cross the McKenzie River, the Hayden Truss Bridge is officially open. As many as 40 people attended the grand reopening of the 1882 Whipple through truss bridge yesterday. The bridge was given a makeover by the restoration company, Workin’ Bridges, based in Holt, Michigan. The company, headed by Julie Bowers, purchased the structure in 2016 for the purpose of repurposing it as a pedestrian crossing. The two-year long project included repairs to the truss parts and bridge abutments, the replacement of the bridge decking and lastly, new railings to ensure people can use the bridge without any incident. BACH Steel and ASF Ironworks contributed to repairs and addition of metal to the bridges, including the railings. The cost for the project, according to the bridge’s facebook page, was approximately $100,000; much of which was covered through donations and other fundraising attempts. The last few weeks saw the completion of the rehabilitation being delayed due to snowfall which covered much of Oregon and the West Coast. The grand opening of the bridge saw the snow melt away and the sunshine of opportunity arise for the bridge. With the crossing open to traffic, plans are in the making to create a park using the bridge as its center piece. Wishful thinking is a replica of a historic covered bridge that existed right next to the truss bridge over a century ago. A video on the Covered Bridges of Lane County, which features an excerpt on the two bridge can be seen below:

For Bowers and Co., this is the third major accomplishment in the past three years, behind the Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge in Arkansas and the Paper Mill Bridge (formerly McIntyre) in Delaware. Both bridges have garnered accolades in the form of the Ammann Awards and other awards on the state and national levels. And while the Hayden Bridge is in the running for the 2019 Bridgehunter Awards for Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge, there are several other bridges that will need the service of the bridge restoration experts responsible for this bridge in Oregon. But for now, let’s celebrate this accomplishment, for the people of Springfield definitely deserve their bridge back. 🙂

 

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The Hayden Bridge was built by two Pennsylvania firms: Clark, Reeves and Co of Philadelphia and Phoenixville Bridge and Iron Works of Phoenixville. The 224-foot iron truss bridge features, pinned connections, ornamental decorations on its portal bracings and upper chord, as well as the octagonal Phoenix columns. The bridge used to serve the Weyerhauser Logging Railway but had originally been built in Corrine, Utah as part of a multiple-span crossing. It was relocated to its present spot in 1901 and served rail traffic until 1987. Details on the bridge can be found here. Springfield is located just east of Eugene in Lane County.

 

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Saving the Bockau Arch Bridge Day 11: A Flicker of Hope?

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A Tale of Two Bridges: The Stone Arch Bridge in the foreground and the New Bridge in the background. Photo taken on 23 January, 2019

This entry starts with a little bit of irony. The bridge was supposed to be torn down beginning the 14th after the organization Friends of the Bockau Arch Bridge was unable to purchase the historic stone arch bridge for 1.7 million Euros- a price that was considered too high and the figure to fictitious to anyone’s liking. Because of a massive snowstorm that brought life in Saxony and parts of Germany to a complete standstill, it was pushed back to the 21st. As of this entry and visit to the bridge on the 23rd, the old stone lady is still standing, with no digger, no crane, no driller, no construction worker. At temperatures well below zero Celsius, it makes the planned demolition impossible. And with more snow and cold in the forecast, chances are very likely that the planned work may not even commence until sometime before Easter.

And that is a long ways away. However, this may be that window of opportunity that we need to turn it around and pull off an upset- a hat trick that is even bigger than the bunny the Ministry of Finance and Transport pulled. Already suggestions from nearby communities in Saxony indicate that people don’t want to part ways from this historic bridge just yet. In the newly consolidated Aue-Bad Schlema for example, there was a proposal to divert funding for renovating a club to go to purchasing and renovating the bridge.  In Beiersfeld near Schwarzenberg, one official suggested at least leaving the bridge piers so that a wooden bridge is put in its place. If covered, it would be a first in over 150 years. And even in Berlin, the petition to save the bridge is being examined as the federal government still owns the bridge and the highway that crosses it, although it’s crossing a new bridge on a new alignment.  So in other words, while the state is dead set on removing the structure, attempts to pull an upset is in the works. And as long as Old Man Winter hovers over the Ore Mountain region, there is still some hope to pull this off.

But how to do it?

We’re looking for any ideas to halt the demolition process. Rallies are possible, for we’ve seen this at many historic bridges in the US and Canada. Concerts as well. There is a possibility to donate to the group Friends of the Bockau Arch Bridge. But more importantly, we need some sources and people willing to step in and save a piece of history, one that can be used as a crossing for cyclists and pedestrians, fishermen and photographers, anybody who would rather see a piece of history in tact as is, and not in rubble.  The old bridge has potential, and is stable enough for use. We need some ideas and your help…..

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….as long as the snow is there and no green.

You can send your suggestions here, but you can also contact the following representatives of the Friends of the Bockau Arch Bridge (Freunde der Rechenhausbrücke) using the e-mails below:

 

Contact details:

Ulrike Kahl <ulrike.kahl@gruene-erzgebirge.de>,   Hermann Meier hermann.meier50@gmx.de , Günther Eckhardt <geck-art@gmx.de>

Please note that you should have your German language ready for use!

 

To close this, I would like to use a Cree Indian quote but adapted in this context, which goes like this:

Not until the the decking has been taken out

Not until the arches have been removed

Not until the piers are imploded

Not until the materials are hauled away

Not until we realize what we’ve done to our local history

That it cannot be replaced with memories.

We will fight until the last brick leaves Rechenhaus.

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For those who joined the Chronicles via Skrive, you can collect the information on the bridge by clicking here, and then following the updates so that you get a bigger picture and perhaps help.

Check out our facebook page here for photos and other information. You are free to follow and join in the conversation, regardless of language.

 

 

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Saving the Bockau Arch Bridge Day 9: Concrete Bed in the River

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AUE (SAXONY), GERMANY-

A first in the Bockau Arch Bridge series since July and a lot has changed since then. It goes beyond the change in the color of the leaves in the fall, as you can see from the picture of the trees flanking the Zwickau Mulde from the old bridge.

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It goes beyond the fact that workers have poured the concrete on the new structure built adjacent to the old bridge. This was done in August and according to latest news from the Chemnitz Free Press, the new B-283 Bridge is scheduled to be open to traffic by Christmas, thus ending the detour of Highway B-283 between Aue and Eibenstock in the western part of the Ore Mountains, which has until now been rerouted through Zschorlau and Schneeberg.

It has to do with a finding that was discovered during our most recent visit to the bridge and our Friends of the Bockau Arch Bridge Association Meeting on October 9th, something very unpleasant and will most certainly cause legal action because of the violations committed. Despite many headaches trying to download this clip from my camera, this 5-minute film tells all, even without the commentary in English…..

And after crossing the old bridge to get to the Bockau side of the span, we could see the “Schandfleck” in detail. A total “Schande” (shame) because of several reasons!

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According to several sources, the old bridge is supposed to remain in place until it is demolished and removed in the spring in 2019 with a pair of very important exceptions:

1. Since the bridge is still protected by the Denkmalschutzgesetz (German Culture Heritage Law), documentation of the structure will need to be carried out before its removal, which includes ist history, description and historical significance to the Region. If following the Guidelines that exist in the USA, that process could take 1-2 years to complete.

2. The Investigative Committee (Ausschuss), located in the state parliament in Dresden, which took on the petition to save the bridge back in March, has yet to decide on the bridge’s fate. At the present time, the association has three possible suitors that are willing to take ownership of the bridge once the new B-283 Bridge is completed. If Dresden says yes to the proposal, then the association has until March to name the suitor willing to take over ownership of the old bridge. If not, then the green light will have been given to proceed with the removal.

3. Even if Dresden says no, a copy of the Petition was forwarded to Berlin; specifically the Deutschen Bundestag (German Parliament) and the  Deutsches Nationalkomitee für Denkmalschutz (Geman National Committee for Cultural Heritage), for the bridge carries a federal highway and if therefore responsible for the ownership of the bridge, which is still protected by the Cultural Heritage Laws (Denkmalschutzgesetz). That Petition has been accepted and the bridge is being considered for a program to protect places of interest, thus providing funding for restoring and repurposing the bridge.

Having the concrete bed in the river, according to multiple choices may have violated these agreements and then some, for the Zwickau Mulde is protected by several natural preserve laws on both the state and federal levels. With the concrete bed in the water and despite the two pipes running underneath, it will have the potential to hinder the flow of fish flowing downstream, which could cause unrest from some of the local fisheries and fishing clubs along the river.  Despite the need for having the bed there for the eventual removal of the old bridge, having the bed there is too early and could possibly cause some violations that could result in some legal actions.  A gallery with pictures taken by the author will provide you with some Details.

Photo Gallery:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/X5xVUssmUquNarJT8

To summarize, the old bridge is still standing and can be crossed despite being partially blocked off. Yet the concrete bed indicates that workers want to go ahead and demolish the bridge before Christmas. The new bridge is almost completed and will open between November and December. The fate of the old bridge falls in the hands of both Berlin and Dresden, yet as the bridge is the ownerhship of the federal government, Berlin will have a say, yet if and how the old bridge can be saved is still open. There are interested parties in owning the bridge but the group cannot push forward until the government has a say in the whole debacle. And even if the group gets the go ahead, the decision of who owns it has to be made before spring 2019. And even then, funding will be needed to rehabilitate and restore the bridge.

In other words, one has to happen after another in sequential order, yet some people are trying to make haste by putting the carriage before the horse- meaning tear the bridge down before the ownership transfership is approved and inspite of violations they make be committing.  This mentality is clearly American and has been the target of comments by the German far-right party AfD to compare modernization in Saxony at the cost of historic places of interest to the works of the Taliban in Afghanistan. This commentary, albeit very harsh, is not far from the truth, and should the old Bockau Arch Bridge come down too prematurely, it may serve as a basis for more voters to flock to the AfD and for the current government in Saxony to topple come the state elections in 2019. If the party uses the slogan “Remember the Rechenhausbrücke!” similar to the Alamo in Texas, the people in Saxony will understand why.

Membership to join the Friends of the Bockau Arch Bridge (Freunde der Rechenhausbrücke):

There are many ways to join the Friends of the Bockau Arch Bridge. To join and simply follow the page is as easy as clicking here and liking the page. But to really get involved and help out in saving and supporting the bridge financially and/or through other means, please contact Ulrike Kahl at this E-Mail address: ulrike.kahl@gruene-erzgebirge.de She can provide you with a membership application form and other information on how you can help. You can also contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles if you only speak English but still would like to join.

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Saving the Bockau Arch Bridge Day 8: Update and Marketing Ideas

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It has been a few weeks since my last posting about the Bockau Arch Bridge and the fight against time and the elements to save the 150-year old structure. But as you can see here as well as on the Facebook page (click here), progress is being made in leaps and bounds to have the new structure, built on alignment, ready to go by next year. Already the piers and the concrete decking are in place, and a barrier is in place, permanently blocking access to the old bridge on the north end. Many have written off the old Bridge, however…..

….it’s not over yet. The decision regarding whether the state government will accept our petition and decision to allow for time to claim ownership of the structure before it is demolished in mid-2019 is still out. We’re looking at 4-6 weeks before Dresden decides.  Another petition going one level up further is in the making, an alliance to create a bridge association is being formed, and there is ever growing support for keeping the old structure in place, this despite the claims by the communities nearby that they will not take ownership once the new bridge is open.

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The author displaying the T-shirt with Pittsburgh’s bridges at our last Meeting at the Bockau Arch Bridge and Rechenhaus Restaurant

And then we have this marketing strategy, one of many that are being sought. 🙂

A friend of mine from Pittsburgh gave me this T-shirt containing all of the city’s bridges along the Allegheny,  Monongahela and Ohio Rivers before leaving for Niagara Falls during the road trip through the Great Lakes and the Committee Friends of the Bockau Arch Bridge would like to have a Shirt similar like this, but with the bridges along the Zwickau Mulde River.

That’s right! We have 40 bridges to choose from, ranging from the Jähn-Brücke at Morgenröthe-Rautenkranz (named after the lone East German astronaut, Sigmund Jähn) to Paradiesbrücke in Zwickau; The Wave in Glauchau to the Göhren Viaduct in Lunzenau; The Bridges of Rochlitz to the Suspension Bridge in Grimma. But the question is which ones deserve to be on the T-shirt?

From now until September 15th, you have the chance to vote which bridge along the Zwickau Mulde deserves to be on the T-shirt. Go to the link provided below, which will take you to the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ Facebook page and its photo album. Look at the photos selected and like the ones that are your favorite. If there is a bridge that is not listed but you want it on there, comment on it. The votes will then be tallied and the top 10-16  bridges liked on facebook will be placed on the T-shirt.

Link to the photo contest here.

For those who don’t facebook and still want to vote, you can also here:

The winners will be announced on the 17th of September. The T-Shirts will be designed similar to the one on the bridges in Pittsburgh, yet the colors will be different, reflecting on the region in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) as well as along the river. Right now, blue, green and white/grey are being considered, but we are open to other color combinations. Please send an E-Mail if you have a suggestion in colors that you would like to see appear on the T-shirts. Furthermore, as the Zwickau Mulde has one of the highest number of castles, competing with the likes of the Rhine and Rhone Rivers, each bridge will feature a place of interest in the background that is typical of the community. 

Once the design is complete and the T-shirts are available to the market, orders will be taken with proceeds going toward the Bockau Arch Bridge. You will be notified once the project is completed and available for sale.

In addition, postcards, coffee cups, a film about the Bockau Arch Bridge, another one on the bridges along the Zwickau Mulde and a book on the bridges in the region are being considered, but unlike the postcards and coffee cups, which are easy to do, the rest will need some time and planning for them to be realized. But we are starting to like this approach with the T-shirt. While more details are coming, you should really go out and choose your favorite bridges for the T-shirt project.

Good luck! 🙂

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Historic Structures and Glasses: Restore vs. Replacement in Simpler Terms

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Co-written with sister column, FF new logo

The discussion about the preservation and reuse of historic places has existed since the 1950s, thanks to the preservation laws that have been in place. The German Preservation Laws were passed in 1958, whereas the Historic Preservation Laws that established the National Park Service and National Register of Historic Places in the USA were enacted in 1966. Both serve the lone purpose of identifying and designating places unique to the cultural identity and history of their respective countries. Furthermore, these places are protected from any sort of modernization that would otherwise alter or destroy the structure in its original form. Protected places often receive tax credits, grants and other amenities that are normally and often not granted if it is not protected or even nominated for listing as a historic site.  This applies to not only buildings and bridges but also to roadways and highways, windmills, towers of any sorts, forts and castles, citadels and educational institutions and even memorials commemorating important events.

Dedicating and designating sites often receive mixed reactions, from overwhelming joy because they can better enjoy the sites and educate the younger generations, to disgruntlement because they want to relieve themselves of a potential liability.

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Since working with a preservation group in western Saxony on saving the Bockau Arch Bridge, a seven-span stone arch bridge that spans the Zwickau Mulde between Bockau and Zschorlau, six kilometers southwest of Aue, the theme involving this structure has been ownership. The bridge has been closed to all traffic since August 2017 while a replacement is being built on a new alignment. Once the new bridge opens, the 150-year old structure will come down unless someone is willing to step in and take over ownership and the responsibilities involved. . Taking the structure means paying for its maintenance and assuming all responsibility for anything that could potentially happen. And this is the key here: Ownership.

Who wants to own a piece of history? To examine this, let’s look at a basic example of a commodity where two thirds of the world’s population wear on a regular basis- the author included as well: glasses.

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The author’s sunglasses: the older model from 2005 on top; the newest pair from 2018 at the bottom.

Ever since Marco Polo’s invention, glasses have been improved, innovated and modernized to not only make the person look great in appearance. It also helps them to better see the environment surrounding them, regardless of whether they are near-sighted or far sighted, have astigmatism or require bi-focals to read, or if they want protect their eyes from the sun in the form of shades. Glasses can be plastic or metal (or even both). And like the historic structures, the materials can be recycled if no one wants them. Yet by the same token, many of us love to keep them for the purpose of memories or give them away to those who need them. For over 30 years, I have worn nine pairs of glasses and two pairs of sunglasses; this does not count the eight years that I primarily wore contact lenses, which was during my time in high school and college. Like our historic structures, glasses have a life span. They are worn until the frames develop rust and corrosion, the vision changes or they are broken.

In some cases, many look for a new frames because they want to “look cool” in front of their peers. The “look cool” mentality has overtaken society to a point where it can be applicable to about everything: cars, clothing, houses and especially historic places and structures of interest. Basically, people just ignore the significance of these structures and things that had been built in the past, which hold memories, contribute to the development of a country, region or even community, or are simply fashionable. Still in spite of all this, one has to do something about the glasses, just as much one has to do something about the historic building.

So let’s take these two pairs of sunglasses, for example. Like in the picture above, the top one I was prescribed by an optometrist in 2005; the bottom one most recently in June 2018. The top one is a combination of plastic and steel- the temples, ends and hinges are made of steel; the eye wires are plastic. The lenses are made with Carl Zeiss branded glass with a sealcoat covering to protect it from scratches.  The bottom ones are plastic- frames, temples and nosepiece; the lenses are plastic but with a sealcoat protectant and dimmers to protect the eyes from the sun. The brand name is generic- no name.  The difference is that the changes in the eyes required new sunglasses for the purpose of driving or doing work outside.  As I wear the new sunglasses, which are not as high quality but is “cool,” according to standards, the question is what to do with the old sunglasses?

There are enough options to go around, even if the sunglasses are not considered significant. One can keep the old pair for memory purposes. Good if you have enough space for them. One can give them away to someone who needs them. If they are non-prescription lenses, that is much easier than those with a prescription. With the prescription lenses, one will need to remove them from the frame before giving them away. Then there is the option of handing them into the glasses provider, who takes the pair apart and allows for the materials to be recycled.  More likely one will return the old pair to the provider to be recycled and reused than it would be to give them away because of the factors of age, quality of the materials and glass parts and especially the questions with the lenses themselves. One can keep the pair, but it would be the same as leaving them out of sight and out of mind.

And this mentality can be implemented to any historic structure. People strive for cooler, more modern buildings, infrastructure or the like, but do not pay attention to the significance of the structure they are replacing in terms of learning about the past and figuring its reuse in the future. While some of  these “oldtimers “ are eventually vacated and abandoned, most of them are eventually torn down with the materials being reused for other purposes; parts of sentimental values, such as finials, statues and plaques, are donated to museums and other associations to be put on display.

The Bridge at Pointer’s Ridge. Built in 1910 by the Western Bridge Company of Omaha, NE. The Big Sioux River crossing was one of five bridges removed after years of abandonment in 2012. Photo taken in 1999 when it was still open.

One of examples that comes to mind when looking at this mentality are the bridges of Minnehaha County in South Dakota. The most populous county in the state whose county seat is Sioux Falls (also the largest city in the state), the county used to have dozens of historic truss bridges that served rail and automobile traffic. As of present, 30 known truss bridges exists in the county, down from 43 in 1990, and half as many as in 1980.  At least six of them are abandoned awaiting reuse. This includes a rails-to-road bridge that was replaced in 1997 but has been sitting alongside a gravel road just outside Dell Rapids ever since.  A big highlight came with the fall of five truss bridges between Dell Rapids and Crooks in 2012, which included three through truss spans- two of which had crossed the Big Sioux. All three were eligible for the National Register. The reasons behind the removal were simple: Abandoned for too long and liability was too much to handle

This leads me to my last point on the glasses principle: what if the structures are protected by law, listed as a historic monument?  Let’s look at the glasses principle again to answer that question. Imagine you have a couple sets of glasses you don’t want to part ways with, even as you clean your room or  flat. What do you do with them? In the case of my old sunglasses, the answer is simple- I keep them for one can reuse them for other purposes. Even if I allow my own daughter to use them for decorating dolls or giant teddy bears, or even for artwork, the old pair is mine, if and only if I want to keep them and allow for use by someone else under my care.  The only way I would not keep the old sunglasses is if I really want to get rid of them and no one wants them.

Big Sioux River Crossing at 255th Street: One of five bridges removed in 2012 after decades of abandonment. Photo taken in 1999.

For historic places, this is where we have somewhat of a grey area. If you treat the historic place as if it is protected and provide great care for it, then there is a guarantee that it will remain in its original, pristine condition. The problem is if you want to get rid of it and your place is protected by law. Here you must find the right person who will take as good care of it as you do with your glasses. And that is not easy because the owner must have the financial security and the willpower just to do that. Then the person taking it over does not automatically do what he/she pleases. If protected under preservation laws you must treat it as if it is yours but it is actually not, just like renting a house.  Half the places that have been torn down despite its designation as a historical site was because of the lack of ownership and their willingness to do something to their liking. Even if there are options for restoration available, if no one wants it, it has to go, even if it means taking it off the historic registry list to do that.  Sometimes properties are reclaimed at the very last second, just like the old glasses, because of the need to save it. While one can easily do that with glasses, it is difficult to do that with historic places, for replacement contracts often include removal clauses for the old structure, something that is very difficult to rescind without taking the matter to court.

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In reference to the project on the Bockau Arch Bridge in Germany, we are actually at that point. Despite its protection as a historic structure, its designation was taken off recently, thus allowing for the contract for the new bridge at the expense of the old structure to proceed. Yet, like with the pair of old glasses, last ditch attempts are being made to stop the process for there are possible suitors willing to take over the old structure and repurpose it for bike and pedestrian use. While neither of the communities have expressed interest, despite convincing arguments that the bridge can be maintained at a price that is 100 times less than the calculated amount, the group working to save the bridge is forming an association which will feature a network of patrons in the region, willing to chip in to own the bridge privately. Despite this, the debate on ownership and the bridge’s future lies in the hands of the state parliament because the bridge carries a federal highway, which is maintained on the state and national levels. Will it become like the old pair of glasses that is saved the last second will be decided upon later this fall.

To summarize briefly on the glasses principle, glasses and buildings each have a short lifespan because of their functionality and appearance. We tend to favor the latter more than the former and therefore, replace them with newer, more modern and stylish things to keep up with the pace. However, the older structures, just like the discarded pair of glasses, are downgraded on the scale, despite its protection under laws and ownership. When listed as a historical site, the proprietor works for and together with the government to ensure its upkeep, just like lending old glasses to someone for use, as long as the person knows he/she is “borrowing” it. When it is not listed , they are either abandoned or torn down, just like storing the glasses in the drawers or even having them recycled. However the decision is final if and only if no one wants it, and this could be a last-second thing.

The Bridge at Iverson Crossing south of Sioux Falls. Built in 1897, added to the National Register in 1996. Now privately owned. Photo taken in 1998.

We cannot plan ahead for things that need to be built, expanded or even replaced, for there may be someone with a strong backbone and staunch support who will step in the last minute to stake their claim. This applies to replacing older, historic structures with modern ones that have less taste and value. In the face of environmental issues we’re seeing globally on a daily basis, we have to use and reuse buildings and other structures to prevent the waste of materials that are becoming rarer to use, the destruction of natural habitats that may never recover but most importantly, remind the younger generations of our history and how we got this far. While some of us have little memories of our old glasses in schools with the exception of school class and party photos, almost all of us have memories of our experiences at, in, or on a historic structure that deserves to be recognized and kept for others to see. It’s just a matter of handling them, like the glasses we are wearing.

 

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