BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 10

Our next pic of the week is also a throwback dating back to almost a decade ago. This pic was taken at sundown at the Arial Lift Bridge in Duluth, Minnesota in September 2009. It was during that time we celebrated our last day in the States with a couple friends from the Mille Lacs region and we decided to take a day trip up north to see the city, its beautiful landscape and pieces of history that are typical of the city. The Arial Lift Bridge was one of those landmarks. Built as a transporter bridge in 1905, it was converted to a vertical lift bridge in 1930 and hs functioned in its original form ever since. For more details, click here. Nevertheless, the bridge still serves as a gateway to the Great Lakes Region , where ships start their journey through the five largest lakes in the United States before continuing along the St. Lawrence River and into the Atlantic Ocean.

And with that marks the start of the weekend. 🙂  Enjoy the pics and the information on the bridge. If you want to know more about the rest of Duluth’s bridges, click on this link.

 

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Sunset at Tappan Zee Bridge in New York

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If one has to go, it should go gracefully. It should go off into the sunset, foot-by-foot, mile by mile and in the case of the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York City, bit by bit.

Fellow pontist and photographer Dan Murphy had an opportunity recently to take a photo of both the new bridge and the old one, spanning the Hudson River connecting New York with New Jersey, and with that, the suburbs on both sides. The new structure, a pair of cable-stayed suspension bridges, whose towers are V-shaped are now opened to all traffic, providing a key connection to the Big Apple and other key areas along the East Coast and into New England via Thruway.  The old structure, a 1954 steel cantilever through truss bridge with Warren truss design is slowly disappearing into the sunset.

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And as one can see much more clearly, work has already begun taking apart the cantilever bridge itself after removing several deck truss spans, one by one.

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The old bridge is scheduled to disappear into the sunset by the end of this year. However, not everything will be scrapped, recycled and reused for other purposes. The bridge will be reused in multiple sections in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, which includes the City of Pittsburgh. How and where they will be reused is unknown. It is known that the bridge will disppear with the setting sun soon. And with that, a piece of history that will be seen in the history books, unless one wishes to see sections of them in Steelers country.  😉

Special thanks to Dan Murphy for allowing use of the photos to be posted. More can be seen in the Bridges page on facebook.  To learn more about the Tappan Zee Bridge, check out this article here.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 97: The Unknown Truss Bridge at Westword (Iowa)

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The best historic bridges are the ones that are unknown, undocumented and undiscovered, for they are the ones itching to be researched by those who are interested.

A couple weeks ago, as I was looking for some information on another bridge, I happened to stumble on this rather unknown historic bridge by accident. And while this bridge was filed by bridgehunter.com, this historic Iowa structure is very unknown. No historian, like the late James Hippen has touched it. No agency like IowaDOT and Henry County has mentioned it, yet. No information was ever recorded in any historic bridge or building survey. However when this gets out, many historians and bridge lovers will flock to it for pictures to be posted in the social media, the portal that is the most appropriate location to share information and discuss this.

The bridge at hand is a through truss bridge spanning the old channel of the Skunk River. Its exact location is in the Westwood district, a mile west of Mount Pleasant. It is a quarter mile south of the old Hwy. 34, a quarter mile east of Franklin Avenue (County Highway W55) and a half mile northwest of the Henry County Quarry. It used to carry what is now Graham Avenue, which ends 500 feet east of the bridge. Judging by the bird’s eye perspective via Google Map, the bridge appears to have 5-8 panels and pinned connections. Looking at it more closely, it appears to be a Pratt truss. It has been abandoned for many years but may have been fenced off to keep people from approaching the structure (and crossing private property), which would explain why the bridge has been untouched for that long of time.

And that is all we know of the bridge. We have no further information about its appearance up-close, meaning its portal view, truss type, its connections, builder’s plaques and even its total dimensions. Furthermore, we have no information about its history, which is very important as we would like to know whether or not it is elgible for the National Register of Historic Places. We basically know absolutely nothing about the bridge, except for its location. We just know that the river was channeled a century ago to straighten it out and protect the area from flooding. But the rest is completely open for research.

What do we know about the bridge? What does it look like? What about its history?

Comment via mail, in the comment section both here or on the Chronicles’ facebook page. A photo folder will be made for photos of this bridge should you decide to visit the bridge. The main thing is whether the bridge is historically significant to join Oakland Mills Bridge on the National Register of Historic Places.

Can you answer any of these questions and provide some stories and photos? If so, we are ready to read them. Thank you for your help. 🙂

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 6

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This BHC Pic of the Week is also a throwback, going back eight years to August 2010. Here, in the Minnesota town of Wabasha, on the Mississippi River, one can get a brillant pic of this bridge with the statue of the Dakota native American chief Wabasha in the foreground. The Chief Wabasha, whom the town was named after, had signed a treaty in 1852, ceding land to the United States which is today the southern third of Minnesota. It was the same Wabasha who fought on the side of the Dakota tribe during the War of 1862, which started the process of rounding up and designating them to reservations in the western half of the country. Wabasha was exiled to Nebraska, where he died in 1876. After 28 years of warfare, the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 ended the conquest of freedom for native Americans and the closing of the American frontier. Much of the history can be found at the Native American Museum in Wabasha, where the statue stands.

The bridge itself was built in 1987, and is the youngest through truss bridge on the Mississippi. The polygonal Warren truss span connects the community of 2300 with Nelson (Wisconsin) and is a half mile long from shore to shore. It has recently been renamed in memory of Michael Duane Clickner, a local resident who fought and died in the Vietnam War.

On the day of blue skies and warm temperatures, an afternoon shot was just right for the occasion. However, sometimes morning shots are even better too, if one takes the time to do that- especially in the summer, when the days are much longer and the sun is towards the north- in the direction of the bridge and statue.  🙂

 

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HYB: Cedar Grove Bridge in Indiana

Oblique view. All photos in this article are courtesy of Tony Dillon

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:

 

Frank Wood Bridge Raising Funds for Independent Inspector

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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.

 

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Minneapolis Bridge Company- Minneapolis, MN (USA)

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Granite Falls Suspension Bridge, spanning Minnesota River. Built in 1933

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.

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Kilen Woods Bridge in Jackson County, MN  Built in 1913. Replaced in 2004.

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.

Winona Bridge. Built in 1941

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:

Winona Bridge (Minnesota)

St. Mary Aqueduct (Montana)

Sorlie Memorial Bridge (North Dakota/ Minnesota)

Ortonville Arch Bridge (Minnesota)

Granite Falls Suspension Bridge (Minnesota)

Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter (Minnesota)

Ten Mile Road Bridge (Michigan)

Savanna-Sabula Bridge. Built in 1932. Demolished and replaced in 2018.

Bridges that no longer exist but were built by Minneapolis Bridge Company include the following:

Savanna-Sabula Bridge (Iowa/Illinois)

Kilen Woods Bridge (Minnesota)

Meadow Hill Drive Bridge (Wisconsin)

Walworth Bridge (South Dakota)

Rockdale Viaduct (Iowa)

 

Sources:

Frame, Robert III „A Report on Historic Bridges in Minnesota.“ St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society and Minnesota Department of Transportation, 1985

Gardner, Denis. “Wood + Concrete + Stone + Steel: Minnesota’s Historic Bridges.” Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008

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