MANKATO, MINNESOTA- The longest bowstring arch bridge in the United States and second longest in the world is available for reuse. The question is who has some ideas for the structure? The Minnesota Department of Transportation is soliciting interest in the purchase and relocation of the Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge, which had spanned the Le Seuer River on Township Rd. 190 south of Mankato between now and August 31st.
According to information on the MnDoT website, the bridge must be rehabilitated to meet historic standards as stated in the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Projects. The restoration project must comply to the guidelines of both MnDOT and the Federal Highway and Safety Administration. Currently, costs for reconstructing and restoring the historic bridge is estimated to be at approximately $1.5 million. Fortunately, federal funding is available to cover 80% of the costs for the whole project, which means 20% must to brought up by the party owning the bridge. The bridge has currently been delisted from the National Register, yet it can be re-listed once the structure is reconstructed and reopened for use.
Letters of intent are currently being collected by cities as well as county and state agencies, with cities having 5000 of less inhabitants being required to have a county sponsor. At present two suitors are in the running, both cities and both outside Blue Earth County, where the bridge once stood for almost a century and a half: Fergus Falls in Otter Tail County and North Mankato in Nicollet County. Both plan to have the structure span a body of water and be used as a pedestrian bridge. It is unknown who else is interested in acquiring the structure at present.
If you are interested in acquiring the bridge, you should click onto link that will usher you to MnDOT’s Historic Bridge website. There, information, contact details and applications are available. The Letter of Intent is to be submitted by no later than 31 August. Applications for the bridge must then be filled out and the deadline is 30 September.
We have seen many bowstring arch bridges being reused for various recreational purposes. The Freeport and Eureka Bridges in Winneshiek County, Iowa are now picnic areas in parks. Springfield in Arkansas and Paper Millin Delaware are now pedestrian crossings. The interest in reusing the Kern Bridge as a crossing for pedestrians and cyclists is strong among those in Minnesota and beyond who wish to see her in action again. The question is where will it go and how will it be reused?
The story of the bridge’s fate is unraveling and we’ll keep you posted……
When I first met John Graham at the 2nd annual Historic Bridge Conference in Pittsburgh in 2010, my first impression of him was that he was a conservative, dressed up as white collar worker, but a man of detail and experience. It was John F. Graham who came up with a concept of augmented reality for structural analysis of bridges.
Augmented reality is a computer term that I had recently collected some general information on through a pair of presentations in an English for IT class at the Erfurt University of Applied Sciences in Germany. It basically analyses the inner portion of structures to analyze problems and find solutions. It had been introduced for medicine for identifying tissue damage in humans, making a precise diagnostic and recommendations for improving the body damage where the damage occurred. Yet could Augmented Reality work for infrastructure, such as bridges?
Apparently according to Graham, it does. In theory based on trial and error combined with experience, Mr. Graham at the conference showed that augmented reality can identify structural deficiencies inside bridge structures, through the use of special sensors, and make recommendations for fixing them. This latest technology would save money and prolong the life of the bridge, especially after the structure is rehabilitated. Evidence in praxis was shown with the Red Jacket Railroad Trestle south of Mankato, Minnesota later that year, for the Minnesota DOT was in charge of rebuilding the trestle after floodwaters undermined one of the piers, forcing officials to remove the deck plate girders while watching the stone pier collapse. In the other piers, structural weaknesses were identified to a point where the piers were reconstructed to resemble the original. The restoration ended in 2011. Other rehabilitation projects involved this type of technology which saved costs and opened the doors for reusing historic bridges.
Mr. Graham’s presentation based on this concept was one of many aspects that will make him a person who was conservative but reasonable when it came to the decision of rehabilitating bridges that were an asset to the area and replacing those that deteriorated beyond repair. He was a true Pittsburghese, having been born in the Steel City on 2 April, 1936 and studied civil engineering at Carnegie Tech (today known as Carnegie Mellon University. For most of his career, he was Director for Engineering and Construction for Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County, a position he held until 1989. During his time, he was responsible for the rehabilitation of hundreds of bridges in and around Pittsburgh, including the Sister Bridges, Sixteenth Street and the arch bridges at Fort Pitt and Fort Dusquene, just to name a few. He also had to replace some, like at Sutersville and Coraopolis, according to Todd Wilson, a civil engineer who knew him well during his days at Carnegie Mellon. Mr. Graham in 1978 pushed for and supported legislation that would allow the Federal Highway Administration to allocate the 90:10 funding ratio, whereby state and local governments would only bear 10% of the cost for rehabilitating or replacing the bridge, the former Graham championed and led to the prolongation of the lives of several of Pittsburgh’s bridges. Legislation continued this 90:10 ratio and prioritized rehabilitation until the Minneapolis Bridge collapse in 2007, which resulted in more radical measures to replace bridges. To the end, Mr. Graham continued advocating for identifying and fixing deficiencies in the structures, claiming that they were cost effective and would save on the use of materials needed for new bridges. Indirectly, it was a plus when identifying the historic significance of the bridges.
In 1989, Mr. Graham became the Director of Capital Projects for the City of Pittsburgh, where he oversaw the construction of the Pittsburgh International Airport and other related construction projects, including the Southern Beltway. He later worked for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and later taught engineering classes at Carnegie Mellon. He even operated his own civil engineering firm, where he was responsible for several projects, including the infrastructure for Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers American Football team. Much of the work in the greater Pittsburgh area has Mr. Graham’s name on it, and his unique conservative approach to bridge engineering will be remembered, even as people cross several of Pittsburgh’s restored historic bridges, of which he’s left a mark in at least half of them.
John F. Graham died peacefully on 14 March, 2019 with his daughter Wendy and her husband Marc by his side. In the last two years of his life he lived with her and her family in Philadelphia, which included her two sons. He was preceded in death by his wife, Kay. Mr. Graham was a true Pittsburghese and one who left a mark in Pittsburgh, the US and beyond, especially for his work in the field of civil engineering. Therefore, for his work, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is awarding him and his family Lifetime Legacy Post Humus with a big thanks for his contributions. Because of him, we have found many creative ways to make bridges safe and maintain its integrity instead of replacing them outright, a concept that does more than waste money. It impacts the environment negatively because of materials used that are dwindling and non-renewable.
HOLT, MICHIGAN/ GRINELL, IOWA- The long-awaited documentary by Ultimate Restorations on historic truss bridge restoration is now available for viewing at www.ultimaterestorations.com or Amazon Prime. Featuring the 1874 Springfield Des-Arc Bridge, an historic King Iron Bridge Co. bowstring truss in Conway, Faulkner County, Arkansas, the two episodes document how an engineer, craftsmen, two nonprofits, a city, county and state worked together to save a rare historic bridge in the USA. Local screening are also being scheduled.
Bach Steel of Holt and St. Johns, Michigan provided the iron restoration expertise. The craftsmen, Nels Raynor, Derek Pung, Brock Raynor and Lee Pung put their backs into this project from riveting to pack rust removal, repairing splice plates, lifting and resetting old iron. Jim Schiffer, PE of Schiffer Group Engineering, Traverse City, Michigan. (SGI) worked with Bach Steel to detail the repairs. SGI also engineered the caissons by request from Julie Bowers at Workin’ Bridges who just didn’t want to see another concrete abutment for the historic truss. “These are the kinds of projects we relish. The reuse and preservation of durable cast and wrought iron and steel, that are still serviceable with a little coaxing, to recreate elegant functional forms that the communities can enjoy is really fun. These are the projects that we enjoy applying our technical experience and training to bring to successful completion.” stated Jim Schiffer after viewing the video. Though you don’t see him in the site work, without his engineering neither Workin’ Bridges nor Bach Steel would be able to act on these jobs.
Working with the City of Conway and Faulkner County, the planning and iron work for the restoration of this bowstring took well over a year after lifting it from the North Fork of the Cadron River. The bridge was restored and reset at Lake Beaverfork in August of 2016. The project began, however, with a site visit in 2010 to discuss the potential of the oldest road bridge in Arkansas, also a King Iron bridge. The project required the aid of the Prof. Kenneth Barnes, then a director of the Faulkner County Historic Society to continue raising the awareness that this vintage bridge needed help. Many of these stories can be seen on the video.
Bach Steel has worked on over 40 historic bridge projects across the country, winning awards for their work in Texas, Michigan and Arkansas since the 1990s. “The Springfield Bridge tells a story of one of the projects that we started with Workin’ Bridges in 2010 and it took years to fund it. There are so many bridges across the country that can be restored but it takes political will, our engineer, money and us to get it done….and big cranes!” stated Nels Raynor at the shop in St. Johns.
Ultimate Restorations produced the shows out of the bay area. Producer Terry Strauss along with Executive Producers Bill Hersey, Loren Lovgren, and Bob McNeil have documented the restoration of some of America’s beloved treasures. “The story of this bridge is what Ultimate Restorations is all about. The vision to save the iconic pieces of our history that would otherwise be lost, plus the skills, passion and talent to bring them back to life. Walking over that bridge, is like being told a story, reminding us of who we are and where we’ve been.” said Terry Strauss, who directed the film in Arkansas. More info at www.ultimaterestorations.com. You can view the Ultimate Restorations episodes on our bridge restoration as well as the full Season 2 of Ultimate Restorations on Amazon Prime with1874 Des-Arc Springfield Bridge Part 1: Moving Day and Part 2: Another Hundred Years at https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/B07ZZZJ8D5/ref=atv_dp
One of the red-carpet premieres of Springfield Bridge documentary will be at 2 pm on Sunday, November 24, 2019 in Burlington, Iowa at the restored Capital Theater. Community screening dates are also being pursued in Conway, Arkansas, Lansing / Traverse City, Michigan and Grinnell, Iowa and will be announced soon.
Questions and screening requests can be addressed to Julie Bowers at 641.260.1262 – email@example.com. You can access more information on the web at www.workinbridges.org and on Facebook at Workin’ Bridges, www.bachsteel.com and on Facebook at Bach Steel and www.schiffergroup.com. Restoration photos can be seen at Springfield Bridge on Facebook where the process was also documented.
Lansing, Michigan- Entries are still being taken for this year’s annual Iron and Steel Preservation Conference. The two-day event will take place on Friday and Saturday, October 18-19 at the Lansing Community College West Campus, located at 5708 Cornerstone Drive in Lansing. With a couple exceptions, this conference has been held annually and focuses on welding and other industrial techniques, using historic bridges as examples, as the state has many of them still in use, a third of which have been credited through the technical expertise of those who have participated in the workshop and has done a lot of work with historic bridge preservationists and welding experts.
The events on each day will be from 8:00am to 5:00pm. According to the coordinator, Vern Mesler, the Conference will feature the following:
Day One of this conference is primarily lecture, and Day Two participants will have opportunities to see Demonstrations of actual preservation techniques and have hands on learning opportunities.
Day 1 – Speaker’s Forum: Presentations on the rehabilitation work recently completed on Michigan’s Cut River Bridge on U.S. Highway 2 in the Upper Peninsula by Michigan Department of Transportation personnel who were directly involved in the rehabilitation work. (Lloyd Baldwin, cultural and historic resource coordinator for MDOT, will lead these sessions from the initial planning stages to the completion of the rehabilitation work.)
Presentations on issues related to riveted and bolted connections and on the damaging effects of pack rust on metal structures. Presentations on the role of riveting in new construction and design.
The presenters at the Friday event:
Lloyd Baldwin, Cultural and Historic Resource Coordinator (MDOT)
“Cut River Bridge Rehabilitation”
Andrew Zevchak & Mario Quagliata (MDOT)
“Bridge Rehabilitation Design Overview”
Christopher Garrell, PE (AISC)
“Exploiting the Resiliency of Built-up Steel Members”
Robert J. Connor, PhD (Purdue University)
“Research and Evaluation of Pack-out Corrosion in Steel Built-up Members at Purdue University”
Steve Howell, Ballard Forge
“Hydraulic riveting introduction”
Steve Howell and Lansing Community College Staff
“Hydraulic Rivet Demonstration”
Day 2 – Hands On Demonstration: The experienced staff of craftsmen at Lansing Community College will demonstrate electric arc welding processes, braze welding, and an introduction to the industrial rivet process (both field riveting and shop hydraulic riveting).
The event is open to all who are interested in the profession of welding and/or preservation of historic bridges and workshop participants will experience the use of the aforementioned welding demonstrations and other industrial processes during hands-on sessions and learn how these processes are used in the preservation of historic metals and new construction. One of the key centerpieces of this conference will be the Cut River Bridge along US Hwy. 2, which had recently undergone extensive rehabilitation using these welding techniques that will be presented at the conference (for more on the bridge, please click here).
Breakfast and lunch will be provided for both days. Participants will need to book their own lodging accomodations. For more information and to register for the event, please click on the link below, which will lead you directly to the conference website and registration page:
GLAUCHAU (SAXONY), GERMANY- In a follow-up to the last article on the reconstruction of the Hirschgrund Bridge at the Castle Complex in Glauchau, I decided to attend the informational meeting and tour of the bridge, which took place on May 11th at the front court of the castle. This meeting and tour, which was divided up into three different time slots, was part of the Day of Funding and Support sponsored by the State of Saxony, and its main focus is the work that is being done to the castle itself, which started in 2017 and is scheduled to be finished by 2025. Already finished is the construction of the front court of the castle, which features a series of flower gardens, bike racks, picnic areas and a multifunctional facility that can be used year round, including for ice skating, which is Glauchau’s past time together with its Christmas Market.
This event was also tied in with the city’s first ever arts and crafts fair, which took place inside the castle and included exhibits, workshops and an auction. Due to inclimate weather, comprising of heavy rain and cold weather, the attendance was down across the board. However, we did come away with something for our own best interests- me with bridges, my daughter with arts and my wife with some ideas on how to better the arts and crafts fair. 🙂 Inspite of this, this article is on the bridge itself for based on my meeting with a representative from a construction firm working on the bridge, here are some facts that will need to be taken into account.
For instance, while newspapers and even my own previous reports had mentioned about the bridge being reopened by July, that assumption was proven false, both verbally and on the posters. Right now, if all goes well, the project should be finished and the bridge reopened by the end of November 2019 (this year). There are several factors that contributed to this delay.
The first one has to do with the demolition of the bridge. According to the spokesperson at the meeting, while attempts were made to keep only the foundations and piers of the 1700s- built arch bridge, combined with the two outer arches as part of an agreement with the State Ministry of Culture and Heritage to save them, demolition of the bridge took a little more out than expected as many elements from the original bridge had to be removed because they could no longer be used for the load bearings. That means they were worn out and would not be useful for the reconstruction. A good example of the extensive work on the bridge regarding that aspect can be seen in the picture above. If this was in American standards, this entire arch bridge would have been completely removed, going against the Historic Preservation Laws that were designed to protect historic structures like this from being destroyed. While the preservation of the outer arches and the piers were a compromise, it should be considered a stroke of luck in the face of modernization, which is becoming the norm in our society, even at our expense.
With the removal of most of the bridge comes the preservation of more than 12,000 different grey-colored granite stones from the original structure. According to the representative from the construction firm, they will be incorporated, like I mentioned. The question is: how?
As a facade! 🙂
This would make the best sense especially after my inquiry with the city’s civil engineer who also has been watching this project very closely. As mentioned in the previous article, the bridge is being rebuilt, first starting with the arches, then following with layers of concrete slabs supported by a skeletal system of vertical and horizontal support beams that would hold the bridge in place. The stones from the previous structure would be used as both decking as well as for the facade. While the reconstruction of the arch bridges will not be in-kind, meaning rebuilding it just like building the arch bridge from scratch beginning with the arches and then filling them in, layer by layer, the use of the skeletal system with concrete support beams as a skeleton will ensure that the new bridge will be sturdier than its original predecessor. I learned that in 2004, wooden support beams were put into place underneath the arches to keep them from collapsing. While this would have been considered useless if the bridge was coming down anyway, it did keep the bridge intact, thus helping the construction workers save as much of the materials for the rebuild as possible. Otherwise, allowing the bridge to sit derelict and let it collapse would not only eliminate that possibility, it would have been dangerous to even approach it.
Granted that there is wooden support for all four of the bridge’s arches for the new structure, yet they were meant for building the two inner arches from the ground up and reinforcing the outer arches- for the former, they were following the recipe Romans used when building their arch bridges during their peak in power.
With that comes the skeletal system and the layered concrete, which brings up another interesting fact I learned at the meeting. The vertical beams mentioned in the previous article feature a combination of concrete with steel wiring. This concept is often used for American bridges, in particular, with beam bridges. In Germany, it is hardly spoken of for the majority of modern bridges built after 1945 have focused solely on steel, fabricated from the mills in western Germany as well as parts of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg in the east. With very few quarries, concrete is used rationally- mainly for abutments, piers and decking- much of it with other materials. In this case, the vertical beams have the American style of steel wiring drowned with concrete with the wiring sticking out. The main purpose here is as the concrete layers are built up, the top layer will be covered with a decking made of stone and concrete, providing a sturdy crossing for years to come.
Add railings of up to 1.7 meters high to ensure the safety of those crossing it, the bridge will have a width of 3.7 meters and a total length of 55.3 meters from the castle to the park, with LED lighting, making the new crossing an attractive site in addition to the castle itself. The bridge will be 9 meters tall, a few centimeters taller than its was before the complete makeover started last year.
While there were only a few people at each of the three tours in the morning due to the weather, most were eager to know more about the project and even some of them shared some memories of crossing the bridge before it was closed off due for safety reasons many years ago. Many had a chance to ask the representative more in details about what was being done with the bridge with a lot of curiosity. The atmosphere was mostly positive when I was there. But all had one thing in common- they would love to see their bridge back as it is part of the Castle Complex, connects with the park and is part of Glauchau’s history in general. In November of this year, this will come true.
There are three projects that are going on around Glauchau’s Castle Complex- all of them being funded by the state. The front courtyard at the castle’s entrance was finished in December, right in time for the Christmas market. The bridge will be finished by the end of November. The third project scheduled to begin in 2020 will be redeveloping the grounds inside the castle as much of the markets and festivals take place there. That project is expected to last 2-3 years.
T-shirts and apparel with the theme of the bridges along the Zwickau Mulde, with exemplaries of the ones in Glauchau, Zwickau and Rochlitz can be found in the online shop via word press. Click here and order one today. 🙂
Author’s update: Funeral Arrangements are being planned for historic bridge preservationist Eric Delony, who died on October 23rd. According to Information from Christopher Marston, it is being scheduled for January 2019. When and where has yet to be determined, but the Chronicles will inform you in due time as soon as everything is finalized.
Mr. Marston, who worked with Eric for many years, write a much-detailed version of the obituary, honoring him for his three decades-plus work in documenting and saving historic bridges, much more than what the Chronicles covered when having honored him with the Ammann Awards for Lifetime Achievement. This was done in 2016. With his permission, the detail of his life and work are written below. More Information on him and the stories behind his historic bridge preservation will follow. For now, enjoy reading about Mr. Delony from Christopher’s point of view:
Eric N. DeLony, who served as Chief of the National Park Service’s Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) from 1987 to 2003, died on October 23, 2018, after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. Over his career, Eric became known as a pioneer in historic bridge documentation and preservation and one of the nation’s leading experts in historic bridges. In recognition of his achievements, Eric was the recipient of the 2000 General Tools Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Society for Industrial Archeology.
Early Years at HAER
After graduating from the Ohio State University in 1968, Eric was first hired as a summer architect on the New England Textile Mills Survey, a joint project of the Smithsonian (under the leadership of Robert Vogel) and the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). The following year he became a member of the Mohawk-Hudson Area Survey, HAER’s very first field team. This ambitious project documented several industrial sites and bridges in the Albany area, and team members were challenged to devise new recording techniques for manufacturing and engineering structures. His detailed drawing of the Troy Gasholder remains the logo of the Society for Industrial Archeology to this day. Once he completed his Master’s in Historic Preservation at Columbia University under James Marston Fitch (where he first met his lifelong friend and colleague, preservation educator Chester Liebs), Eric was hired as HAER’s first full-time employee in 1971. HAER began recording a variety of bridges and other industrial structure types as part of state inventories and themed surveys. These included surveys of the Baltimore & Ohio and Erie railroads, Paterson and Lowell mill towns, and later mining, steel, power, and maritime-related sites, among others. Eric also helped initiate “SWAT teams” to record endangered structures prior to demolition. By 1987, Eric DeLony had been promoted to Chief of HAER.
HAER Historic Bridge Program
In collaboration with Emory Kemp of West Virginia University, Eric began developing the HAER Historic Bridge Program in 1973, which would become the first comprehensive national program to identify and protect historic bridges. Through Eric’s efforts, HAER developed partnerships with the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP), the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), and state historic preservation offices (SHPOs). The first goal of the program was to promote comprehensive historic bridge inventories in each state. When inventories were required by law in 1987, Eric’s initiative became a catalyst in making highway bridges the first class of historic structures to be nationally evaluated.
After the preliminary state bridge inventories were completed, HAER partnered with state departments of transportation (DOTs) to undertake HAER summer documentation projects that would more intensively document representative bridges, with the first taking place in Ohio in 1986. Using funding from a variety of partners like the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOTs, and historic groups, HAER recording teams collaborated with national and local experts to produce large-format photographs, histories, and drawings of hundreds of historic bridges in Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington, from 1987-2001. Eric also worked with engineering professors such as Dario Gasparini at Case Western, Stephen Buonopane at Bucknell, and Ben Schafer at Johns Hopkins to hire students to compile detailed engineering analyses of a variety of historic bridge types, going beyond traditional architectural history reports. In appreciation of Eric’s initiatives, the White House and ACHP presented HAER’s Historic Bridge Program with a National Historic Preservation Award in 1992.
In addition to the nation’s highway bridges, the historic roads and bridges in the National Park system were also deteriorating from neglect and overuse. HAER developed a pilot project in the National Capital Region of the National Park Service (NPS) in 1988 to survey the historic and significant transportation-related structures and designed landscapes at various NPS units. With support from FHWA and NPS, this program expanded in 1989 and continued until 2002 to document the roads and bridges of large western national parks, national battlefields, and eastern parkways. HAER also partnered with New York and Connecticut to record several historic local parkways. The drawings of these projects are compiled in America’s National Park Roads and Parkways: Drawings from the Historic American Engineering Record (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 2004).
Eric DeLony was also influential in HAER’s involvement with a third major initiative involving FHWA and historic bridges. Realizing that covered bridges were a beloved but endangered resource, Vermont Senator James Jeffords proposed legislation to save them. The resulting National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation (NHCBP) Program was established by FHWA in 1998 as part of the TEA-21 transportation bill. HAER received research funding beginning in 2002 to document the nation’s most significant covered bridges, as well as developing other educational initiatives including engineering studies, a traveling exhibition, national conferences, and National Historic Landmark nominations. With the benefit of continued FHWA support, HAER Project Leader Christopher Marston has continued Eric’s vision and is in the process of finalizing several research projects. These include the 2015 publication Covered Bridges and the Birth of American Engineering, co-edited with Justine Christianson, and dedicated to Eric DeLony. Rehabilitation Guidelines for Historic Covered Bridges will be published later in 2018.
Eric was a longtime member of the Society for Industrial Archeology (SIA) and developed the SIA Historic Bridge Symposium beginning in the early 1980s to allow experts to share research and preservation experiences. Eric attended his last one in 2011; the 25th was held in 2016 in cooperation with the Historic Bridge Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri. He was also an active participant with the Transportation Research Board (TRB)’s Committee on Historic Preservation and Archaeology in Transportation (ADC50) beginning in the 1990s, which was comprised of professionals from state DOTs, SHPOs, and consultants involved in preservation issues on federally funded transportation projects. Research and best practices on preserving and maintaining historic bridges was always a major focus of the committee. As a subcontractor to Parsons Brinckerhoff, Eric DeLony co-authored A Context for Common Historic Bridge Types with Robert Jackson, for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCPRP Project 25-25, Task 15) in 2005.
Not satisfied to just record historic bridges, Eric was also determined to see as many bridges as possible saved and preserved. Some of the projects that Eric championed included: the 1828 Blaine S-Bridge and the 1868 Zoarville Station Bridge in Ohio; the 1869 Henszey’s Bridge in Pennsylvania; and the 1858 Aldrich Change Bridge in New York. As Ohio DOT’s Tom Barrett reflected, “Through Eric’s encouragement, I feel that the historic bridge inventory in Ohio has stabilized and improved in many ways. We strive to explore all plausible alternatives to demolition and find ways to educate everyone on proper rehabilitation and design solutions. Hard-fought successes here and nationwide in bridge preservation will always be a part of Eric’s legacy.”
Eric’s advocacy extended beyond bridges to roads as well. As Preserving the Historic Road conference founder Paul Daniel Marriott stated, “Eric appreciated that roads and bridges were intertwined. He was one of the first people to acknowledge that historic research and advocacy [were needed] for historic roads. Eric DeLony was instrumental in establishing the historic roads movement.”
Eric studied at Ironbridge with Sir Neil Cossons in 1971-72 as a Fulbright Scholar, and this experience led him to encourage collaboration between HAER and industrial archeologists and preservationists in Europe and other countries. Eric consistently hired International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) foreign exchange students for his summer field teams beginning in 1984.
He represented the United States at several meetings of the International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage (TICCIH). He also worked with several prominent European scholars, such as Barrie Trinder at Ironbridge and Louis Bergeron at Le Creusot, on various publications, exhibitions, and conferences. Another issue that Eric championed has finally shown dividends; after several decades, the U.S. delegation finally nominated the Brooklyn Bridge as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017.
After retiring to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2003, Eric became a bridge preservation consultant. Maintaining “The Pontists” email list, he advocated for various bridge preservation causes and initiatives, and continued to write and teach.
An avid collector of rare books, technical reports, and images of historic bridges, Eric donated his collection to two prestigious archives. The “Eric DeLony Collection of the History of Bridges and Bridge Construction” was established in 2010 at The Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. In 2013, the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Missouri received the “Eric N. DeLony Engineering & Bridge Collection.”
After health issues removed him from public life, Eric continued to receive various honors acknowledging his legacy. Beginning in 2014, David Wright of the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges established the Eric DeLony Scholarship, an annual prize awarded to a college student interested in historic preservation. Eric was also a recipient of the 2016 Othmar H. Amman Award for Lifetime Achievement from The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.
Eric DeLony was truly a pioneer in the world of historic bridge documentation, preservation, and advocacy. The 3,000+ bridges in the HAER Collection at the Library of Congress, and hundreds of examples of preserved historic bridges across the country are all a testament to his lifelong determination and passion for saving historic bridges.
Abstract from ted.com: Bridges need to be functional, safe and durable, but they should also be elegant and beautiful, says structural engineer Ian Firth. In this mesmerizing tour of bridges old and new, Firth explores the potential for innovation and variety in this essential structure — and how spectacular ones reveal our connectivity, unleash our creativity and hint at our identity.
Author’s Note: This video came about via tip from one of the pontists in one of the social network sites devoted to historic bridges and serves as a reminder to another article published a week earlier on by Scottish engineers suggesting American bridge builders look for sources of inspiration in places outside their borders. In the past two decades, many new structures have been built to supplant other, fancier historic bridges, whose design presents an appealing taste to the public. The mentality of quantity versus quality at the lowest possible cost but at the same time with little or no maintenance for a century has resulted in blocks of concrete with no character ruling the rivers and streams with little or no aesthetic value. This myth is just a fantasy and is miles away from reality that we see on highways and in cities today. No wonder that protests against such projects to replace historic bridges with boring, bland modern structures presented by agencies with dilluted and questionable facts are increasing sharply, as we are seeing with the debate over the future of Frank Wood Memorial Bridge in Maine, for example. The advice to take from the article (accessed here) and by looking at the video below is this: If a bridge needs to be replaced, find a way to reuse the structure for other purposes and if a new bridge is needed, please with an aesthetic appeal that the community will be happy with. Sometimes looking to Europe, Asia or even Africa will help engineers be creative and place quality over quantity. Better is looking at the bridge designs that have been discarded and experimenting with them. After all, money does not matter to bridge building. Communities and the lives of the People living there do, though.
While travelling along the main artery connecting Munich with Berlin, the Motorway 9, one ought to consider turning off at Schleiz and following the Highway B 282 and E 49 in the direction of Plauen for a good 15 Kilometers to the east, heading into the small but rather active village of Mühltroff. With a population of 1800 inhabitants, Mühltroff straddles the river Wisenta and is one of the oldest villages in Saxony; it was first mentioned in 1274 and was officially declared a town by the district of Plauen in 1327. It was once a fishing community and ist shield reflects the hertitage of the community. With its historic houses lining up along the Wisenta, Mühltroff resembles Little Venice alá Vogtland, even though fishing no longer exists today, and only three bridges are known to exist.
One of them is the focus of the author’s stop on the journey, the Hopfenbrücke. The structure is one of the oldest in Saxony, having been built in 1396, and was the main crossing connecting the eastern and western halves of the village until after World War II. The structure features a one-span stone-brick arch bridge, which is anchored by houses on both sides of the Wisenta. Judging by the setting of the bridge, on each corner of its abutment was a historic house, and it appeared that there was an entrance on both sides at one time, resembling the housed bridges that were built during that time- among them that exist today still are the Krämerbrücke in Erfurt and the Rathausbrücke in Bamberg. Sadly, despite its historic appeal, the houses on the western side will become history for one became a garden a couple decades ago and the other will be removed before the end of 2018, according to recent newspaper articles.
The name Hopfenbrücke has nothing to do with the beer route nor a brewery for Mühltroff had neighter of them according to record. In fact, the community has a palace dating back to 1349, a windmill dating back to the 14th century and a textile industry that started in the 15th Century and is one of the key aspects of Mühltroff to this day. The Hopfensbrücke was named after the Hopf Family, whose house was next to the bridge and who also owned a shop at the structure until the beginning of the 1900s. The road it carried was a main route connecting Schleiz and Plauen, where horse and buggy first crossed, followed by cars. By the end of the second World War, there was a need to realign the road, especially to accomodate the military vehicles that had to be stationed near the border that had once divided Germany until 1990 when it became Saxony and Thuringia on the northeastern edge and Bavaria to the southwest. Therefore, another arch bridge was built to the north of the bridge, but unlike its neighbor, it was a Luten arch span and was made of concrete. That structure still carries traffic, and one can see the stone arch bridge 100 meters away while crossing the Wisenta.
The bridge was reopened recently after having been closed for rehabilitation. The cost for the work was 460,000 Euros and it consisted of strengthening the arches, removing the concrete facade covering the arch span and making repairs to the structure. It had been damaged by flooding in 2013 and was declared unsafe to cross. However, with the grand opening last Friday (the 7th of June), the community welcomed the bridge back with open arms. And it was good that way; despite its population and size, Mühltroff happens to be one of the livelier of the communities, with people walking the streets even in the evenings, music being played in the apartments, and apartments having colorful facades to make it look attractive to the tourists. Even the market square, which starts at the historic bridge and goes down the main street to the castle is narrow and enclosed, but lively. Next to the bridge across from the City Hall is the East German Museum, where people can visit, see the artefacts that were typical during that period before 1990 and learn about its history.
But inspite that, the people are happy to have their historic bridge back. After 600 years, the structure still symbolizes the community and its heritage- a former fishing community that is still today the Little Venice of the Vogtland. One can see the palace and historic windmill, but the visit is not complete without seeing the bridge, the structure that will hopefully continue its service for another 600 years. So take some time in Mühltroff and don’t forget the bridge. 😉
Mühltroff is only three kilometers east of the Saxony/Thuringia border. It had belonged to the District of Gera and on the Thuringian side from 1949 until March 1992, two years after Germany reunited. It became part of Saxony in April 1992 and merged with neighboring Pausa to become a joint community in 2013. Today, the community belongs to the Vogtland District, whose county seat is (none other than) Plauen, which is 22 kilometers to the east.