A few years ago, a fellow historian named Satolli Glasmeyer came up with an interesting concept that was short and sweet and would give the viewers a short overview of the historic places on video- not to mention an incentive to visit them on their next road trip. History in Your Own Backyard focuses on hidden treasures- past and present- that have historic character based on the author’s visit(s). The videos are between five and 15 minutes pending on topic and most of the places profiled in the videos are located in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania. While some examples will show up as guest column for the Chronicles, you can find the library of videos either on their website here or via youtube.
This HYB example takes us back to an old friend that has been gone for quite some time. The Cedar Grove Bridge once spanned the Whitewater River in Franklin County, Indiana. A product of the Indiana Bridge Company of Muncie, this 2-span Camelback through truss bridge, built in 1914 was the focus of one of the filmed documentaries that was done in its memory. This film was released on 22 February, 2016, five days after the structure was demolished after having sat abandoned for 17 years. Attempts to save it through fundraisers and other policies failed. Here is the video of the bridge’s history, which includes the demolition.
A slideshow of the bridge’s history follows as well:
Go Fund Me campaign to raise $15,000 to hire an independent contractor to look at options to restore the 1932 historic truss bridge
BRUNSWICK & TOPSHAM, MAINE- Conflicts between the Maine Department of Transportation on one end and locals from both Brunswick and Topsham as well as preservation officials have reached new heights for recent public meetings regarding the future of the three-span polygonal Warren through truss bridge have produced intensive strife, and locals have turned to other alternatives to ensure the 1932 product of Boston Bridge Works remains in place for years to come.
Since 30 March, the Friends of the Frank J. Wood Memorial Bridge has undertaken a campaign to raise funds for an independent contractor to conduct a structural survey and present an objective alternative to replacing the historic bridge- favoring the preservation and restoration of the structure. The contractor has had experience in restoring bridges of this caliber in the New England states and East Coast, and the cost for such an engineering study is estimated to be $15,000. To donate to the project, please click onto the link here: https://www.gofundme.com/save-the-frank-j-wood-bridge
Every single dollar will help a great deal for the project. Already at the time of this posting, over half of the funds have been raised. Your help will ensure the other half will be raised, and the counterarguments to MaineDOT’s claim of the bridge being at the end of its useful life be presented as objectively and professionally as possible.
During the last meeting, which spawned this fund-raising effort, officials from MaineDOT presented proposals for replacing the historic bridge using studies conducted by a bridge engineering firm that had no experience in restoring historic bridges. All the proposals presented were rejected flatly by residents and officials from the National Advisory on the Council for Historic Preservation and Maine Preservation, both of whom had requested the DOT to look at the cost for restoring the historic bridge, but was met with refusal. According to members of the Friends committee as well as locals, the meeting between both sides produced biased results and little room to comment on the alternatives to replacing the bridge, angering locals and proponents of restoring the truss bridge to a point where the committee has decided to forego the findings of the DOT and embark on this daring measure. Public sentiment for the bridge is very strong for reasons that restoring the bridge is cost-efficient and presents the two communities and their historic mills and wetlands with a sense of historic pride and heritage. A youtube video of the bridge and the two communities is an excellent example of the willingness to fight to keep the bridge:
Furthermore, at 30 feet wide, the bridge can hold two lanes of vehicular traffic plus an additional lane for bikes and pedestrians, even though a pedestrian portion practically exists on the truss bridge.
The battle for the objective truth is getting intense and it will set the precedent for any future preservation plans for other historic bridges in the region, nationwide and beyond. As mentioned in an interview with the Chronicles last year (click here for details) , the communities will even take the legal path if MaineDOT continues to refuse to listen to the needs of the residents affected by the bridge controversy and shove its new bridge down their throats against their will. Last month’s meeting has taken this matter one step closer to the danger zone. Whether this independent study on the future of the historic bridge, which especially includes alternatives to replacing the bridge that still has years of life left, will defuse the conflict depends solely on the willingness of both sides to come away with a proposal that will satisfy everyone.
The Chronicles will continue to monitor the latest developments on the bridge. In the meantime, if you have a dime to help, take a couple minutes of your time and do the right thing. Donate to save the bridge.
During a period between 1870 and 1940, the United States experienced an exponential growth in the number of not only iron and steel truss bridges, but also the number of bridge companies and steel mills. Originating from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and New York, companies were established in the 1870s but through consolidations and insider business training, the numbers expanded westward, reaching Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa by 1910.
With these expansions came the development of the schools of bridge builders. Consisting of family dynasties and strong ties among the builders, these bridge builders were established either as family businesses or businesses with closest ties- whose founders later established ventures out west as a way to compete with the giant monopolies, like the American Bridge Company. Many schools of bridge builders existed beginning in the 1880s, including ones in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Ohio, New England,
and this one in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Minneapolis School of Bridge Builders featured bridge builders having established companies in Minneapolis and points to the east. These bridge builders were either self taught, had ties with companies to the east or both, and had a close-knit network of family members and close partners who later established companies or contracted westwards in the Great Plains and western states. They included the Hewett Family (William, Seth, Arthur), Commodore P. Jones, Lawrence Johnson and Alexander Bayne. Jones and Bayne were responsible for the Minneapolis Bridge Company, which was the longest tenured bridge company in the Minneapolis School and one of the longest in the United States.
Founded in 1887 by Commodore P. Jones, the Minneapolis Bridge Company has a unique history, some of which is still being debated by historians and scholars today. What is known is the fact that the bridge company operated under different ownerships as well as different names. According to the 1985 study on Minnesota’s bridges by Robert Frame, the company operated under Minneapolis Bridge Company from 1888 to 1898 and from 1913 to 1941, the Minneapolis Bridge and Iron Company from 1898-1910 and as the Minneapolis Bridge Construction Company 1941- ca. 1944. Jones operated the company before he left in 1910 to join Seth Hewett (with whom he was partners in the bridge business some years earlier) and formed the Great Northern Bridge Company, which operated until 1922. It is unknown what happened to the company between the time span of 1910 and 1913, although some sources claim that the company was out of business by 1910 and was restarted in 1913. But more research is needed to determine whether this was the case. However, one of Jones’s disciples, Alexander Y. Bayne took over the company in 1913, and the Minneapolis Bridge Company resumed its bridge building business. Bayne was president of the company from 1913 to 1917, when his partner, Oliver Matteson took over the presidency and held it until 1926. Matteson had been an agent of the company up to 1917 as well as an agent for two other previous companies prior to the resurrection of the Minneapolis Bridge Company. Another bridge builder, Isak Helseth took over the operations in 1941 and presided over the company until it folded in 1950. Assuming the bridge company was not closed down between 1910 and 1913, the Minneapolis Bridge Company relocated twice in its life span: first to the Met Life Building from its original location at the Lumber Exchange Building in 1913 and seven years later to 3100 NE 6th Street. The company was known to have constructed dozens of bridges during its existence. The 1985 study by Frame indicated that five were built by Jones and 27 by Bayne. However upon doing a count by the writer as part of a book project completed eight years ago, 31 bridges were constructed under Commodore Jones and dozens of others by Bayne.
Several historic bridges remaining in the country were built by Minneapolis Bridge Company, almost all of which were under the operations by Bayne, even though he had another business in Canada. Examples of bridges built by the company that are still standing include the following:
MoDOT has Route 66 Crossing for sale after failed attempt to buy the bridge. Deadline is March 15, 2019. Bridge will be demolished if no one claims it.
HAZELGREEN/ JEFFERSON CITY/ ST. LOUIS- One month after Workin Bridges withdrew from the Gasconade River Bridge project, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is looking for a new owner of the bridge that used to serve Route 66. Between now and March 15, 2019, you have an opportunity to claim this prized work- a four-span truss bridge featuring two Parker through trusses, a Pratt through truss and a Warren pony truss span, totaling 525 feet. According to the information on the MoDOT Bridge Marketing Page:
“The Gasconade River Bridge was constructed under State Highway Department project 14-38. The contract for the project was awarded on December 30, 1922 to the Riley & Bailey Construction Company of St. Louis, Missouri. Route 14 was being developed as a diagonal highway connecting St. Louis and southwest Missouri. The highway, designated under the Centennial Road Law passed in 1921, was funded by State Road Bonds, and connected the county seats and major towns between St. Louis and Joplin. In 1926, Route 14 was designated U. S. Highway 66.”
In addition, the bridge is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under criteria A and C for its significance in transportation and engineering, according to the website.
Parties interested in preserving the structure must have a commitment and a plan as to how to go forward with saving the bridge, as the structure has been closed to all traffic since December 2014 because of structural concerns. This includes restoring the bridge for reuse as a recreational crossing, even in its current place. Proposals are being accepted between now and 15 March, 2019 from one or more parties. In a statement made by MoDOT:
“Due to liability issues and limited funds, we will have to remove the bridge unless an outside entity steps forward to take ownership of and maintain the bridge,” said MoDOT Central District Engineer David Silvester. “We know that’s not what folks want to hear, but it’s the reality of the situation. We are hopeful some entity will step forward with a proposal to preserve the existing structure.”
This setback will not affect the plans for building a new bridge on new alignment adjacent to the existing structure. Bids for building the new bridge will be opened in April, and the project is scheduled to be awarded to a contractor in May. Construction is set to start in July, and MoDOT is expecting to have traffic on the new bridge by the fall of 2019.
Anyone interested in taking ownership of the old bridge can contact Karen Daniels, Senior Historic Preservation Specialist, at 573-526-7346 or Karen.Daniels@modot.mo.gov.
Cantilever K-Truss Bridge Imploded on 9 March; Running Slough Bridge also to Disappear.
SAVANNA, IL/ SABULA, IA- The end of an era has come for residents of the towns of Savanna and Sabula. One month after the replacement span- a tied-through arch bridge spanning the Mississippi River opened to through traffic, construction crews brought down the Savanna-Sabula Cantilever Truss Bridge on 9 March. Over 300 charges in 21 different places were used to bring down the main span. The Savanna-Sabula Bridge was built in 1932 by the Minneapolis Bridge Company, one of the major bridge companies that belonged to the Minneapolis School of Bridge Building, which featured the likes of Commodore P. Jones, the Hewett Family (Seth, William and Arthur) and Alexander Bayne, to name a few. Jones founded the company in 1887 and at the time of the construction of this bridge, Bayne was president of the company. The bridge had a span of 2481 feet, its main span was 520 feet. The blue-colored cantilever span featured a K-truss through truss span, one of the rarest of its kind in the country. The portal bracings were X-framed but a plaque was located on the Illinois end of the span. A video of the drive across the bridge can be seen below:
Because of its narrowness, combined with the roadway being in a flood plain and problems with river navigation, officials from Iowa and Illinois agreed to build a new span in 2013 while trying to give away the bridge to a party wishing to relocate it (see article here) Unfortunately there were no takers and therefore, the bridge was condemned, however some pieces will be reused for an exhibit in both ends, serving as a reminder of the bridge’s time as a toll bridge, serving the Short Route, connecting Cedar Rapids with Chicago.
Several videos of the bridge’s demolitions were taken, as it became a pile of scrap metal as of 10:35am on Friday the 9th of March, 2018. Some examples are shown below:
The Pratt through truss approach spans to the main span will be dismantled and the demolition of the bridge will be completed by May. At the same time, another accessory connecting Savanna and Sabula, the Running Slough Bridge (as pictured below) is being removed even as this article is released. The Pratt through truss span with West Virginia portals was built at the same as the Savanna-Sabula span and was the entry point to Sabula. The bridge was originally scheduled to be replaced this summer. However the partial collapse of one of the approach spans has prompted Iowa DOT to move the timeline forward and remove the bridge right away. At present, the new span is to be built and opened by the end of May. Whether this date is realistic depends on the weather conditions, especially because of the harsh winter the region has had, combined with possible flooding caused by the spring thaw.
Product of Lomas Bridge and Iron Works Company Collapsed on 18 February. Causes are being investigated
CINCINNATI, OHIO- Police and county officials are looking into the causes of a historic Bridge that mysteriously collapsed three weeks ago. The New Hope Truss Bridge collapsed during the night of 18 February. Remains of the Bridge were found in the water the following morning resulting in the alerting of authorities. The Bridge had been abandoned for over three decades, having been made obsolete by the current structure that was built to the west of the iron structure since 1960. That bridge carries US Hwy. 68. Built over White Oak Creek north of New Hope in 1884, the iron truss structure was the product of the Lomas Forge and Bridge Works Company of Cincinnati, having carried Main Street between the village and points to the north. The truss bridge featured a Whipple through truss bridge with two layers of Town lattice Portal bracings, sandwiching the builders plaque in between. The connections were pinned. The total length was 160 feet with a deck width of 14 feet. There had been interest in purchasing the bridge for the purpose of restoration and repurposing for recreation use, but nothing was ever realized.
The collapse of the bridge was a mysterious one for there had never been any flooding in the area. This leads to one of two theories: 1. The bridge collapsed under ist own weight as it happened with the Schell City Bridge in Missouri six years ago, or 2. Someone tried to dismantle the bridge in an attempt to steal metal parts to be sold in the market. In any case, because of flooding that has recently been affecting residents along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and their tributaries, authorities will not be able to find out what exactly happened until the collapsed span is removed from the creek.
The loss of the bridge is a crushing one, for there is now one more through truss bridge left in Brown County at Higginsport. That bridge has been abandoned for many years and many people are fearing if nothing is done to restore the 1885 Whipple structure, that might meet its fate similar to the New Hope Bridge. The George Street Bridge in Aurora, Indiana is the last surviving structure built by Lomas Forge. The Whipple through truss bridge was built in 1887 and was remodeled twice: in 1989 and again in 2011. The structure is still in use today.
HAZELGREEN/ ST. LOUIS- In connection with the recent pull-out of Workin Bridges from the Gasconade Bridge Project, members of the Group, now known as the Route 66 Gasconade River Bridge Guardians, have been Meeting to come up with plans to save the Bridge itself but on a small scale. As mentioned in a release on Monday, the withdrawl of the Grinnell-based organization owned by Julie Bowers was due to a combination of lack of concept in restoring the multiple span through truss Bridge, built at the same time of the Establishment of the mother road Route 66 between Chicago, but also some restoration and funding techniques that were considered questionable. After the meeting of 12 February, members have agreed to continue on with their own concept and have drawn out guidelines as to how to save the bridge without all the hassle. As mentioned in a conversation with Rich Dinkela, the motivational factor presented by Workin Bridges was (and still is) the catalyst to continuing the strive to preserve a pure treasure like the Gasconade. Yet as seen in the stories and some literature written about the Mother Road and its crossings, despite many artefacts having been abandoned or replaced in the name of progress, one cannot save everything, just those that are considered attachments to the communities and friends of Route 66. And those that can be saved like the Gasconade and other bridges are best done in small steps and on a tiny scale, sometimes at low costs.
Here is the Press Release made by the Guardians. You can visit their Facebook page entitled The Rte. 66 Gasconade River Bridge Guardians. You can follow their page as they will be providing updates on fundraising and preservation plans:
The Route 66 Gasconade River Bridge Guardians (Guardians) have been working hard to raise awareness of the potential fate of the Bridge since MoDot closed it to traffic in December 2014. Our efforts during the past 3 plus years resulted in a “stay of execution” for the Bridge and brought a company, Workin’ Bridges into the picture. After 5 months of their own efforts however, they have backed out of the project. The Guardians met again Feb 11, 2018, to discuss new ideas for bringing life back into the rescue effort.
We will be working hard in the coming months to raise the money necessary to save our Bridge. 1. We need to finance an engineering assessment of the condition of the bridge and obtain an estimate of costs required to make the bridge safe – perhaps for bicycle and or light traffic. Anticipated cost of survey $8,000-$10,000. 2. We need to create a persona associated with the Bridge so that it becomes a travel destination point 3. We need to figure out how we can create a situation so that the Bridge can help pay for its costs (insurance & continued upkeep). 4. We’d like to find an organization, private or governmental, that’s willing to take ownership of the Bridge. We believe it has much potential.
The Guardians core group is 8 people strong – but we believe we have hundreds – no thousands – of folks that are ready and willing to help us. We (Guardians) pledge that we will be transparent to the public with what we do, what our goals are, how much money we raise, and how it’s spent. We need your help in spreading the word, and we need your help in raising the funds needed, and we will need whatever time and talent you can donate to the cause of saving this grand old lady – The Gasconade River Bridge.