Endangered T.R.U.S.S.: Lincoln Highway Bridge in Tama, Iowa

TAMA, IOWA- Created in 1913, the Lincoln Highway is the first trans-continental highway that went from coast to coast. Starting in San Francisco at Lincoln Park, the highway runs for 3,389 miles (5,454 km) through 14 US states before terminating at Times Square in New York City. Much of the route has been marked as US Highway 30 and there are many stops along the way where people can enjoy local dining, do a lot of fun activites and lodge in some of the hotels, all of which have been a fixture along the highway, some for as long as the highway has existed. There are many major crossing and historic bridges one can see along the Lincoln Highway.

Among them is this one, located in Tama in central Iowa. The Lincoln Highway Bridge is located at Roadside Park, spanning Mud Creek. Until it was bypassed by the expressway version of US Hwy. 30 in 2012, this bridge was one of the first sites to see when entering the community of 2800 inhabitants. And its one that is worth a stop. The bridge is a concrete stringer bridge but decorated with ornamental globe lighting and a railing bearing the name Lincoln Highway. The bridge was built in 1915 by local bridge builder, Paul Kingsley of Strawberry Point, Iowa. According to HAER records, the idea of the highway bridge with ornamental railings had a special meaning to it:

“In September 1912, the Midwestern visionary Carl Fisher proposed to group of automotive businessmen a plan to build a road spanning from coast to coast. The route, later named the Lincoln Highway, would start in New York City, finish in San Francisco, an cross 358 miles through the state of Iowa on the way. This monumental undertaking was to be privately funded with the towns and counties profiting from its passage sharing a large part of the construction costs. Thus, a widespread advertisement campaign for the transcontinental highway was launched with each community along its path trying to outdo the next in making itself the most desirable rest stop. The town of Tama distinguished itself from the rest by constructing a special bridge for the route with the words “Lincoln Highway” spelled out in the concrete railing. This bridge remains a most unusual maker for this historic highway.”

-Juliet Landler, HAER, 1995

Listed on the National Register since 1978, this unique bridge of 24 feet long and 22 feet wide is the only known historic bridge in the United States that has lettered railings and one of only a dozen or so in the world whose bridge section feature letterings. Another known bridge that has a similar lettering can be found in Duisburg, Germany at the Bridge of Solidarity, built in 1950 replacing a bridge destroyed in World War II. It was one bridge I stopped at during my visit to Tama in 2010 and given its approximate location to the park, it’s definitely a rest stop worth using for some photo opportunities and a good picnic. The bridge is home of the annual Lincoln Highway Bridge Festival, which is held in the summer and draws in thousands of visitors from all over the US and Europe.

Despite this, this unique historic bridge is in danger of becoming history, or at least being altered to a point of no recognition. Cracks have been revealed in the bridge span and parts of the railing, much of it has to do with wear and tear over the year. Even as the bridge has become part of the city and local traffic has been using it since the highway was bypassed in 2012, the bridge is still a big tourist attraction. But the future of the bridge is in the hands of the city council, which according to many news stories, is more or less divided.

One party would like to rehabilitate the bridge and make the necessary repairs to the structure to ensure that it continues to function for the next half century. While the city council had put aside funding for bridge repairs of up to $150,000 and the rest of the funding would be covered through a series of donations and support from the Iowa DOT, when presenting the bids for rehabbing the bridge by the engineering firm of Schuck-Britson from Des Moines in October 2021, the lowest bids was double the amount. Still, an in-kind restoration of the bridge would allow the bridge to continue to function as a crossing and as a tourist attraction.

Railings of the Bradford Street Arch Bridge in Marble Rock, Iowa when it was replaced in 1995. This is located at Marble Rock Park. Photo taken in 1999.


By the same token, there have been growing calls from members from another party, which favors moving the historic bridge, or at least the lettered railings and lamp posts to the adjacent park and install a 15-foot culvert over the river. Their argument was that it was less expensive, easy to maintain and easy to replace even if it had a 15-year lifespan. The downside to this plan is that it would alter the bridge to the point of no recognition and it would lose the tourist appeal, let alone its status on the National Register. This was the case with the Marble Rock Arch Bridge in Floyd County. The three-span concrete arch bridge, built in 1914, was replaced in 1995, but its railings were relocated to a nearby park- out of site and out of mind. 😦

The Tama City Council was supposed to make a decision on the bridge’s future, based on the information they collected, on March 21, 2022. At the present time, no decision has been made. There is a consensus that the bridge should be restored to its original form, but the paperwork and instructions needed for the project is lacking (see article here for details). That plus the increase in costs for restoring the bridge might doom the project altogether. This bridge is the last of the structures along Lincoln Highway in Tama County, after losing a similar icon over Otter Creek at Chelsea in 2006.

Still, to this day, despite the highway being bypassed, the Lincoln Highway Bridge remains a popular tourist attraction and one where its original purpose was to serve as a rest stop for travelers going along this important highway. There is hope that this purpose stays that way- not as a piece of relict being put on display but one that still has this function as a crossing over Mud Creek. If this stays, Tama will continue to have a tourist attraction many people- bridge-lovers, tourists and all people alike- will stop by to see, and enjoy the scenery. ❤ 🙂

Mystery Bridge Nr. 166: A Concrete Bridge near the Native American Reservation in South Dakota

Photo taken in 1998


One of the bridges that is in the headlines lately happens to be the one where I visited while bridgehunting in South Dakota. But that was almost a quarter century ago. The Crescent Street Bridge is located in Flandreau in Moody County, between Sioux Falls and Brookings. It spans the Big Sioux River and features a three-span concrete bridge with ornamental railings. It was built in 1935 and was part of the Works Progress Administration project that was initiated by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt with the goal of getting millions of Americans back into the workforce, as the USA was in the midst of a Great Depression. It was considered elgible for the National Register of Historic Places under Criteria C because of its association with the WPA and bridge construction during that period.

According to news stories, the bridge is scheduled to be removed during the course of 2022. The bridge has been closed for some time and since there are two other crossings in Flandreau- one of which is only a half mile to the east, chances are unlikely that this bridge will be replaced. Because the bridge is located at the entrance to the Santee Sioux Indian Reservation, work has been ongoing between local government officials, Moody County and the Reservation to determine whether a new bridge is necessary and if so, when it will be built. At the time of this post, no agreements have been made as far as the bridge’s future is concerned. Unlike the Green Bridge in Waverly, Iowa, which was removed completely last November at the dismay of many residents living in the area, this bridge project is a delicate one because it involves more than two government agencies- namely the local government and the State Historic Preservation Office, which is part of the umbrella of the state department of transportation . This one involves a Native American Reservation which is a government of its own and therefore has as much say as the state. It will be interesting to see how things develop, even after the bridge is gone.

Before it goes, we would like to know about the bridge’s history- namely who built it and what predecessor existed before 1935. Do you know about it? Then write to us using the contact information here.


And if you are interested in donating to help Ukraine, click here for information.

Endangered TRUSS: The Three Historic Bridges of Christian County, Missouri

Unless noted otherwise, all pics were taken by the author in 2011


OZARK, MISSOURI- When I first became involved with Christian County’s historic bridges back in late 2010, we were at the beginning of a renaissance- a renaissance where our country was becoming more aware of the importance of historic bridges, and there were numerous exchanges of ideas and success stories on historic bridge preservation. The public was beginning to wake up and whenever they heard about a historic bridge that was targeted for demolition and replacement, they stepped forward to halt the plans and worked together to save these precious structures, those that played key roles in the development of America’s infrastructure and with it, bridge engineering. Myself, together with fellow pontists Todd Wilson, Nathan Holth, Bill Hart and the late James Baughn worked together with Kris Dyer and the organization to save the Riverside Bridge in Ozark, first restoring it onsite in 2012 and then after flooding caused damage two years later, relocating the bridge and restoring it at its new home at Finley Farms in 2020. The preservation movement gained a lot of support among the community and the county that they never forgot how important the Riverside Bridge really was to them- and still is today.


After a double-success story which garnered a two gold medals in the 2012 Ammann Awards and three silver medals in last year’s Bridgehunter Awards, plus several other awards, there is hope that the Riverside Bridge story could be spread to three other bridges in Christian County. As mentioned in last week’s BHC Newsflyer podcast, three historic bridges are slated for replacement, though it is unknown how the county will fund these projects, let alone when they will be replaced remains open.

Which of these bridges are targeted for replacement? Three remaining “wild” truss bridges- bridges that are either open to traffic still or have been abandoned for only a few years, waiting for repairs or replacement so that the crossing is used again. The only common variable: Like the Riverside Bridge, these three were built by the Canton Bridge Company in Ohio. Specifically they are as follows:

Green Bridge

Location: Finley Creek on Smyrna Rd. NE of Ozark

Bridge Type: Pin-connected Pratt through truss with A-frame portal bracings

Dimensions: 281 feet long (main span: 119 feet), 11.8 feet wide, vertical clearance: 14.8 feet high

Date of construction: 1912; rehabilitated in 2004 & 2017

The Green Bridge is one of only three through truss bridges left in the county and also the last of the single span truss bridge. Like the Riverside Bridge, its portals feature the typical markings and the bridge builder plates with the name Canton on there. It’s one of the tallest in the county and one where even a train could cross it. It’s narrow enough that only one truck and one person could be on the bridge at the same time. This was my personal experience visiting the bridge with Ms. Dyer and a friend (and former high school classmate) of mine and his family. The bridge is situated in a natural habitat surrounded by forests on both sides of Finley Creek. A beautiful place for a picnic or a photo opportunity.

Photo by Nathan Holth at historicbridges.org

Hawkins Ford Bridge

Location: Finley Creek on Seneca Road

Bridge type: Two-span pin-connected Pratt pony truss bridge

Dimensions: 161 feet long (per truss span: 80 feet); 11.8 feet wide

Date of construction: 1915.

The Hawkins Ford Bridge is one of those mystery bridges, whose case needs to be solved before its ending as a vehicular crossing. It was relocated here in 1966 but no record mentions where its origin was. We just know that Canton built the structure in 1915 and that’s it. The bridge has been closed to traffic since 2017 and even though there are claims that justify its end of life, the bridge still has a chance at a new life for because of its bridge type, there are many ways to save it. The bridge is quite popular among locals, as you can see in the photos in bridgehunter.com.

Red Bridge

Location: Bull Creek on Red Bridge Road south of Ozark

Bridge Type: Three-span Pratt pony truss with pinned connections

Dimensions: 255 feet long in total (longest span 85.8 feet), 11.5 feet wide

Date of Construction: 1915; Repaired in 2005

The Red Bridge was built at the same time as Hawkins Mill but like the Green Bridge, it is located in a heavily forested setting and is a very narrow crossing- narrow enough that only one car and one person could fit, side by side. If there is one bridge that would need to be completely rebuilt, it is this one because of the piers that have been crumbling since my visit in 2011.

All three bridges are considered elgible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, but given Canton Bridge Company’s good track record with the county, let alone the company’s agent, these three structures should be on the National Register. In fact, given the fact that also the Riverside Bridge and Ozark Mill Bridge, now standing side by side at Finley Farms, have not been listed yet, there should be a historic bridge designation with the purpose of not only protecting them but also making them a tourist attraction, as it is being done with the covered bridges in Lyndon, Vermont (as mentioned in the most recent podcast).


The bridges at hand here are no longer suitable for modern-day traffic and according to Christian County Highway Commissioner Miranda Beadles, the new structures would be two-lane to allow for all traffic to use them, especially emergency crews, school buses and utilities. But the county has expressed interest in saving the structures and is open to all options, including giving them to a third party. The question is what options are available? Here are a few worth considering:

Leaving them in place

This option has been practiced where historic bridges could be in place alongside the old one. For the three bridges, there is the option of making a park/rest area on the bridge, integrating them into a bike trail crossing, converting them into a fishing pier or leaving it as is. Advantage is that the relocation costs would be subtracted and the cost would only be allocated for repurposing them onsite, including the cost for the parking area and possible lighting. Plus it would allow for easier and quicker listing on the National Register. The drawback is the costs for ensuring that the bridge is not a liable risk. That means repairs to the structure, esp. with the Red Bridge, plus security and flood protection would be needed. But for this option, it is the most popular avenue for historic bridge preservation.

Relocating them

This was done with the Riverside Bridge already as Finley Farms purchased the structure and financed the restoration project. Normally relocating a bridge takes a lot of money, not only for the cost of disassembly and reassembly, but also the transport and the construction of the abutment and decking. In the case of the three bridges, there is the question of where to place them, though Ozark would be the best spot for these structures, be it as a city-wide bike trail network where these bridges would be showcased, or a bridge museum and/or park near the Finley Farm complex, or an open space where the bridges could be displayed and a new park would be created. That option would depend on the availability of space in town but most importantly, the interest in the community in this endeavor.

Integrating the historic bridges into the new structure

This practice is being done with several historic bridges, including the Route 66 Bridge at Bridgeport, Oklahoma, which will be considered the largest ever. And even though all three bridges would benefit from this “reconstruction,” including the National Register listing, the county has made it clear that the new structures would be two lanes, thus making Hawkins Ford and Red Bridges eligible, and the Green Bridge would be left out, its future unknown.


The current status is as follows: the three bridges are scheduled for replacement but the county has not given up on them just yet. They are looking for ideas on how to reuse them. The interest is still there to save them. The question is how. The Riverside Bridge has shown us that when there is the interest and the way to preserve a historic bridge, nothing will stop it from making it happen. While the Missouri Department of Transportation has been literally busy working on replacing every single historic bridge on the map, competing with Maine, Minnesota and Wisconsin for the title of the first truss-bridge-less state in the country, there are some counties in the state and those along the Route 66 Corridor that do not subscribe to MoDOT’s point of view. The end of a bridge’s structural life does not mean the bridge must be torn down and replaced. And newer structures designed to last 100 years have turned out to have lasted a quarter of that time. With global warming and its disastrous implications on our environment, we have to rethink the way we preserve and replace bridges. We have to appreciate how bridges are built and make use of what history offers us by preserving what is left and using the playbook to build those that are adaptable to change and conform to the environment surrounding it. Truss bridges have played a pivotal role in doing both- as a bridge type that fits with nature and a bridge type that withstands floods and other natural disasters.

And this is where we return to the three bridges of Christian County and their futures. How should they be preserved? If you have any ideas, here are the contact details of people with whom you can share your ideas and ask more about them.

Save the Riverside Bridge would be a good way to start. It has a fb page: https://www.facebook.com/saveriversidebridge

Then you have the following contact details of the Christian County officials:

Ralph Phillips:




Lynn Morris:




Hosea Bilyeu




Highway Administrator – Miranda Beadles mbeadles@christiancountymo.gov


Christian County Commission

100 West Church St., Room 100

Ozark, MO 65721

Phone: 417-582-4300



The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest involving the three bridges and their futures, which are currently up in the air. Will they be saved and if so, how and which ones will benefit? All options are open at this point.

Endangered T.R.U.S.S.: The Dresden Suspension Bridge in Ohio

All photos courtesy of Nathan Holth of historicbridges.org. Many thanks for allowing use of the photos.


DRESDEN, OHIO- There are several towns in the United States that are named after the German city on the Elbe in Saxony. Dresden in Germany, with a population of 550,000 inhabitants, prides itself in the Baroque architecture, much of which was rebuilt after World War II. It has several historic bridges spanning the river which has provided commerce for as long as the city has existed, many of them are over 130 years old and survived the bombings in World War II. Four of them have been restored to their former glory and they are considered one of the places a person should visit, for there will be many stories about them.

And with that, we will look at another Dresden which has a unique suspension bridge. This village has a population of just under 1700 inhabitants and is located in Muskingum County, Ohio. It was founded in 1799 by Jonathan Cass when his family created a farmstead. By 1835, it became a small town. It profited from the Ohio and Erie Canal, which connected Lake Erie near Cleveland and the Ohio River at Portsmouth and was in use during much of the 1800s. The triple lock has been preserved as a historic monument. The Episcopal Church and the Union School, both dating back to the 19th Century have become part of Dresden’s historic town. And lastly, we have the town’s suspension bridge, which the town has taken pride in.

This suspension bridge was built in 1914 by the Bellefontaine Bridge & Steel Company based in Ohio, with Clyde T. Morris overseeing the project. It had replaced a wire suspension bridge that may have been built by Roebling because of the design. But it is unknown if he had constructed such a span, let alone when it was built. We do know that either a bridge collapse due to overweight or flooding may have warranted the replacement of the original bridge with the current span, built higher and using all steel.

The suspension bridge spans the Muskingum River at the junction of state highways 666 and 208. The bridge is built all of steel, including the towers, the eyebar suspension cables, and the steel turnbuckle beams that serve as suspenders. The decking features a continuous Warren pony truss with lattice railings. At present, the decking is all steel and pavement. The bridge is one of a handful of eyebar suspension bridges in the USA and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since its listing in 1978. The bridge has a total length of 705 feet, its main span is 443 feet.

Despite its national significance, the bridge is owned by the Ohio Department of Transportation and it is planning to tear down this historic structure. The transportation agency is working to shed off some of its historic assets because of the lack of interest in keeping the structure in tact. At a virtual meeting that took place on January 24th, 2022, officials addressed the issue with the bridge and presented the following arguments justifying the bridge’s removal:


Costs for Renovation:

According to Ohio DOT, the cost for restoring the bridge is estimated to be at around $6 million, whereas removing the bridge would cost only $1 million. Should the bridge be demolished, ODOT would salvage some of the bridge parts to erect a memorial. To add salt to the open wound, the restoration would not guarantee that the bridge would last into the later part of the century, an argument that can be countered, if we look at the success stories involving the restoration of other bridges of its kind, including and especially the Sister Bridges (Rachel Carson, Roberto Clemente and Andy Warhol) in Pittsburgh, built in the same time period as this bridge and still maintaining its original form since having been rehabilitated.


No Interest in Owning the Bridge:

Neither Muskingum nor the village of Dresden have the finances to own the bridge outright and given ODOT’s current situation with regards to historic bridges falling apart, the agency, which owns the bridge, would like to relieve itsself of the obligations of owning the bridge. That argument was countered with the county being at a disadvantage regarding receiving funding for restoring, replacing and even fixing its bridges, a problem that has been recurrent and at the online meeting, was brought up to the table. Auctioning the bridge like it was the case with the Roche de Beouf Bridge in Waterville would be possible but only through parties willing to restore it and cover the costs including liability. The Roche de Beouf Bridge is scheduled for removal as early as 2023 because the interested parties could not come up with a concept to restore and reuse the partially collapsed arch bridge.

The future of the bridge is in limbo because of its location out of the way of much of the major highways and bike routes. Still the bridge is not out yet, as there are several creative options available to save the bridge. Many of the options are being used for other historic bridges. The Roche de Beouf Bridge was an epic fail with the auction because of a pair of collapsed arch spans- one wonders what the interested parties they saw in the bridge that was doomed to failure even with the money invested in securing it as a historic monument. The Dresden Suspension Bridge is in pristine condition with the only problem being that of the roadway that is drawing weight on the lower chords causing rust and corrosion. In a conversation with fellow pontist Nathan Holth, he mentioned the removal of the decking and converting it into a monument being an option, and perhaps the only option if county and local officials want to keep people off the suspension bridge.

Auctioning the bridge to a party that is willing to invest in restoring the bridge as a monument may be the best option to relieve ODOT of its duties in keeping the bridge. It would stay in Dresden and people can still enjoy the structure. If the option is chosen, it would have to include not only the local parties but also those from outside who have an interest in restoring the bridge to its original glory. As a park is next to the bridge, the bridge could be integrated into the area with information on its history.

Despite the aforementioned proposals, there are many other options available but with little time to spare. ODOT would like to demolish the bridge at the earliest in 2025/26 and has already stated that it would use its own funding and not contact federal authorities for permission. Already there is a growing opposition to the plan and given its National Register status, there may be some unknown bureaucratic red tape and other mines and traps that ODOT will have to go through in order to make its plan a reality. It will be interesting to see what proposals will be open to save the bridge- whether it can be auctioned off, converted into a park using state funds or even the craziest idea yet- relocate the bridge to Dresden, Saxony, Germany- where it would make the best company with the city’s finiest bridges spanning the Elbe and other rivers. All roads are open and ODOT will have to acknowledge that the story of the suspension bridge is not over with- not without a fight.

The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest with this bridge. The story is unfolding even as we speak. If you want to express your concerns and ideas for saving the bridge, ODOT will receive public opinion to the Dresden Suspension Bridge until February 25. Contact ODOT District Ty Thompson using the following e-mail address: ty.thompson@dot.ohio.gov


BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 167 Tribute to James Baughn

The 167th Pic of the Week has a perfect fall setting that was photographed by James Baughn in 2017. The bridge in the foreground however, as easy as you can access it, may be in danger of collapse.  This crossing is located across Blackwater River at McAllister Springs Access and features a Parker through truss span with Howe lattice portal bracings supported by curved heels. It’s near the village of Hustonia in Saline County, Missouri. The bridge has eight panels and has a length of between 160 and 190 feet. While there is no information on the date of construction, the pinned connections and the portals indicate a build date between 1890 and 1910.

At the time of the photo, the bridge was in a balancing act with the brick abutments cracking and spalling thanks to a tree that grew through it. Furthermore, the decking has rotted away to a point where the lower chords have been exposed. Some of lower beams have been shifted or are missing. Trees have landed on the bridge with branches found on the top chord and on the stringers. And lastly, the approach spans have disappeared with only V-laced columns dangling from the abutments. Another flood or two will seal the deal and put the bridge into the water. If that doesn’t happen, then most likely the bridge may collapse under its own weight. This happened with the Schell City Bridge in 2012 after years of abandonment, even though the decking was all but intact. Further photos taken this year shows a worsening state of the bridge. Click here to view.

The only way this bridge could be saved is if it is dismantled and restored in parts and built on new abutments as the old ones cannot be salvaged. Furthermore, it would have to be relocated to a better site where people can access the bridge. If and whether it is possible depends on the funding available but also the interest. Even if it was put into storage, it would be better than to just simply remove it.

The McAllister Truss Bridge is a bridge full of surprises, with history to be found on it and ways to preserve it. Yet it is a bridge in need of help and it hoped that someone will come to its rescue before Mother Nature finishes it with the next flood.



BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 165 Tribute to James Baughn

This week’s Pic of the Week takes us to Clay County, Illinois and to this bridge. When bridgehunting, one will find an abandoned structure out in the open and hard to reach. In the case of this bridge, it’s the exact opposite. The Parker through truss may be in tact, as one can see in this picture. But given the thick vegetation that has grown on the structure, it is almost inaccessible. One would have to brave cuts and abrasives as well as spiders and other insects just to get onto this structure. It has a scary resemblance of a bridge in Kansas that was covered in vines, but was sadly removed earlier this year.

Yet this bridge is one of three that can be found along US Highway 50 between Clay City and Noble. All three bridges were built in 1923, when the US Highway system had not been introduced just yet and the road was operated as FR 2114. It was one of the first in the state that was built using concrete. When the highway system was introduced in 1926, this stretch of road was designated as US Hwy. 50, which became a 3073-mile route from Ocean City, Maryland to Sacramento, California, but running through Cincinnati, St. Louis and Kansas City. Out west, it received the nickname “Loneliest Road in the Country” as it crossed through hundreds of miles of desert and mountains.

The bridge trio carried US 50 until the 1980s when the highway was realigned and widened and the structures were vacated. Now closed to all traffic, they can be seen while driving along this stretch. However, talks have been ongoing about making the stretch of US 50 an expressway, which means these three bridge may become history unless there is opposition to the project. Given their location in the wildlife area where the Little Wabash, and the branches of Muddy Creek are located, there is enough ammunition to put a stop to the plans with arguments involving the environmental impacts of such a project, let along the historical significance of the bridge trio. The bridges are not on the National Register but should be because of their association with the highway’s history, let alone their design and connection with the builder, whoever was responsible for the structures.

When traveling between Clay City and Noble, check out these structures, then find many ways to make preserving them happen.




Big Muddy Creek Bridge:

Location: Bug Muddy Creek west of N. Clay Rd. and Hites Hardware

Description: This crossing is a multiple span bridge with a riveted Pratt through truss span and concrete beam approach spans. The approach spans have brick railings. The truss span has lattice portal bracings

Built: 1923 by unknown builder


Length of largest span: 125.0 ft.
Total length: 558.9 ft.
Deck width: 21.0 ft.



Little Muddy Creek Bridge

Location: Little Muddy Creek

Description: This crossing is a multiple span bridge with a riveted Pratt through truss span and concrete beam approach spans. The approach spans have brick railings. The truss span has lattice portal bracings

Built: 1923 by unknown builder


Length of largest span: 125.0 ft.
Total length: 341.9 ft.
Deck width: 21.0 ft.


Litte Wabash River Bridge

Location: Little Wabash River east of Mayflower Road.

Description: Single span Parker through truss bridge with concrete decking, riveted connections, and Howe lattice bracings on the struts and portals

Built: 1923 by unknown builder


Length of largest span: 170.0 ft.
Total length: 172.9 ft.
Deck width: 21.0 ft.


The photos were taken by James Baughn sometime between 2015 and 2016 but we don’t know the current status as of present. According to Google Maps and Street View, they appear to be extant. We can only hope they remain that way and they can be saved for generations to come.



BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 164  Tribute to James Baughn

After a couple weeks away from the computer, we return to our weekly Pic of the Week, paying tribute to the late James Baughn. Our next pic, where he visited and photographed is one that is very dear because it is the only one of its kind along the longest river in the state.

We know that the Des Moines River, with a total length of 526 miles (845 kilometers), slices through the state of Iowa, including the state capital of Iowa that bears the same name. Even if the river forks into the east and west branches and starts in southern Minnesota, the river is loaded with unique bridges- both past and present, that bridge builders from as many as ten states have left their marks, six of which come from Iowa, including Iowa Bridge Company, A.H. Austin, Clinton Bridge and Iron Company, George E. King, Marsh Engineering, just to name a few.  The most notable bridges one can find along the river include the Murray and Berkheimer Bridges in Humboldt County, Ellsworth Ranch Bridge in Emmet County, the Kate Shelley Viaduct in Boone County, the arch bridges in Des Moines,…..

…..and this bridge in St. Francisville, in Missouri!

The St. Francisville Bridge spans the river at the Iowa/Missouri border. It’s a Warren-style cantilever through truss bridge with MA-portal bracings. The connections are riveted. It was built in 1937 by Sverdrup and Parcel of St. Louis, with FW Whitehead overseeing the constructon of the bridge. The bridge was formerly a toll bridge until they were eliminated in 2003. It used to serve the Avenue of the Saints and Jefferson Highway (Highway 27) until it was bypassed by an expressway bridge in 2004. It later served as a frontage road crossing until 2016, when the bridge was closed to vehicular traffic. Since then, the bridge has been sitting usused, awaiting its future. 

The photo was taken by Mr. Baughn in 2013, when the bridge was still open to traffic. Given the bridge’s proximity to the nearby park and boat ramp on the Missouri side, combined with the nearby communities, the structure is a great asset and with some repairs and renovations done with the superstructure, the bridge could continue as a local street crossing, sharing the road with a bike route. What is needed is money to strengthen and renovate the structure to a point where it can be reused again. The bridge is eligible for the National Register, which if listed, could open the door for grants and other amenities that will help with the cause. The bridge would be a perfect rest stop for commuters traveling in both directions and St. Francesville would benefit from a newly restored bridge.

The St. Francisville Bridge is unique because of its design as a cantilever truss bridge, something that has become a rarity these days. It is the only crossing along the Des Moines of this kind and one of a few examples of a bridge built by Sverdrup and Parcel, the same company that contributed to numerous major bridge projects in five states between 1920 and 1960. It is time that the bridge is given the tender loving care it deserves.

The question is are you willing to help with the cause?



Endangered TRUSS: Grand River Bridge on Old Highway 5 in Daviess County, Missouri



Sometimes historic bridges are better off when they belong to nature and are left untouched. Yet there are some that have a potential for being reused as a pedestrian bridge. There is a story behind this Endangered TRUSS species that I’m presenting you here and it goes back a decade to the time of the Historic Bridge Weekend in Missouri.

We were on our last day together- myself, James and Todd (Wilson) and had just completed a long day of bridgehunting in the western part of Missouri and part of Nebraska. The Weekend was marred by one natural element which hindered my ability to keep to my original schedule- flooding! The Missouri River flooded its banks and 90% of the valley was under water. The valley included areas between Kansas City (where we were staying) and Sioux City, Iowa, and included the greater Omaha area. The highways were not passable, towns were completely under water and much of the infrastructure, including bridges, were either damaged or destroyed.  Instead of combing up the western half of Iowa, I was forced to replan everything to include stops in Des Moines and in central Iowa on my way back to Minnesota.  The problem was which bridges could I stop along the way?

That was where James came in and showed me a few locations for photo opportunities. Daviess County was one of them, and it was loaded with historic bridges. Dozens of metal truss bridges were on my path going to Iowa, many of which were a maximum of 10 minutes away from Interstate 35, which connects Des Moines with Kansas City.



Of the 8-9 bridges I photographed, I found this structure to be the most unique. The bridge spans the Grand River just a half mile west of US Hwy. 69 south of Pattonsburg. It features a two-span through truss design, the larger being the Whipple and the smaller being the Pratt. Each have pinned connections and Lattice portal bracings. The bridge has a total length of 330 feet. It was built by the Kansas City Bridge and Iron Company in 1883, using steel from the Carnegie Steel plant in Pittsburgh. The bridge used to serve a main highway (Old Hwy. 5) until it was bypassed by US Hwy. 69 and its bridge in 1932. 35 years later that would be bypassed by Interstate 35 located two miles to the east.  It continued to serve traffic until the early 1990s and has been sitting unused ever since.



When I visited the bridge in August 2011, the entire structure was closed off and part of the decking disappeared, thus making crossing the bridge practically impossible. What made the bridge unique was because of its location next to the forest. In one of my photos, the smaller Pratt truss span was partially hidden in the trees. Given its proximity to the river and to the trees nearby, plus the fact that the old former highway is closed off on both sides of the bridge, one could wonder if the bridge and the road would make for a bike trail. It doesn’t necessarily mean a new stretch of road needs to be built. But it would be a trail that followed the original highway between Pattonsburg and Santa Rosa, but terminating at a nearby town to the south, like Alta Vista, or it could curve to nearby Lake Viking, using sections of the road that are in place already.  And even if it connected Pattonsburg and the bridge, where it could be converted to a picnic area, it would be enough to satisfy locals wishing to get some fresh air and go walking or even biking.



Since that time, four of the bridges I visited on my tour from Kansas City back to Iowa have been replaced, others may be up, especially if liability issues come about. Yet if there was a choice, this structure should be the first one saved. The bridge has some connection with the history of the development of roads in the area, yet it has more potential than that, if people come together with resources and all to make repurposing and revitalizing the area around the bridge happen. The bridge is eligible for the National Register and its history in connection with the region will make the structure a really attractive place to go for an afternoon picnic and all. It’s a question of finding the will to do just that. 



More information on the bridge can be found here.






JB: Photos taken by James Baughn in 2010

JS: Photos taken by Jason Smith in 2011

Endangered TRUSS: W Avenue Bridge in Tama County, Iowa

This bridge is part of a series dedicated to the works of the late James Cooper and J.R. Manning. All photos here are courtesy of the latter, who visited the bridge in 2013.


Eagle Center, Iowa- All it takes is a quick turn onto a gravel road and it all goes down hill from there. All the way to the end and you will find this hidden gem. You cannot drive your car over it because it is too fragil. Hence the barriers and signs saying road closed. Yet you can walk or even bike across if you are careful. The bridge is a through truss, with typical truss design and portals- Pratt and Lattice with heels. You don’t know about this bridge except for its metalic beauty, yet the construction of the bridge corresponds to the history of bridge building during the Gilded Ages- 1870 to 1910. You wonder what can be done to keep the bridge in tact because the structure appears stable and look into ideas on how to keep it in place, even though the road is less traveled and it is hidden in areas often ignored by motorists passing by.

And this is the story behind the W-Avenue Bridge in Tama County, Iowa. Tama County has a diverse collection of truss bridges like this one, most of which can be found along Wolf Creek. Yet this one sticks out as a bridge that has a potential for reuse, even in its current location. There is not much to talk about the structure. The bridge is a typical Pratt through truss with pinned connections built after the turn of the century. It was built in 1903 by George E. King, son of Zenas King who operated his business in Cleveland, Ohio, yet the younger King had established his business in Des Moines and populated the state with bridges with his own signature portal bracings (Howe lattice with subdivided heels). The bridge had a simple life, serving local residents and farmers………

…….until its closure in 2011.

We don’t know the underlying reason behind the bridge suddenly being closed to traffic except for some inspection reports from bridge firms specialized in modern bridges, like Schuck and Britson with its lopsided report on the Cascade Bridge in Burlington, which led to its closure in 2008. Such biased reports and scare tactics are common but following them like lambs to the slaughter house makes structures like this one be dangerous, when in all reality, the bridge is simply fine. Just a few minor repairs and extra special care and the structure would have remained open today.

Or is it closed?

During his visit in 2013, J.R. Manning took a chance to visit the bridge and saw that even though the bridge was out, according to the sign, it was anything but that with missing boulders, signs knocked over and the like. Some of his observations showed that the bridge was in relatively good shape and one could just have simply put a weight limit on the bridge to keep the trucks off of it. The decking was covered in asphalt and there was no real structural issues that would have justified its closure. In other words, the bridge could have taken a few more years of traffic, assuming that cars cross this location which were rare on this stretch of quiet road

Three years later, new barriers were put into place, but one can walk across it, take some pictures and enjoy the scenery that surrounds the bridge, given the fact that it’s tucked away in the valley. Today, the road to the bridge is all covered in grass but the bridge is safe and sound, hidden away and unused except by the local farm nearby. It makes a person wonder whether the bridge will remain as is given its condition or if it will be reused elsewhere. In any case if it remains where it is, it will make for a good bike trail crossing or park. It’s a matter of sprucing it up and making it safe for use. But given its location, it should not be a problem to spend a few thousand for that.

Whether the people will use it or not depends on the will to spend some time down there. The bridge may be out but it’s still in use for those who want to spend time in the nature, along a quiet creek like Wolf Creek…

…. and think about things in peace. ❤

Endangered TRUSS: New Bridge in Salem County, New Jersey

Photo taken by Jodi Christman


Our next Endangered Truss article takes us to Salem County, New Jersey and to the New Bridge. Spanning Alloway Creek between Elsinboro and Quinton on the former County Road 623, this unique through truss bridge used to function as a swing bridge until the 1960s before it became a fixed crossing. The bridge is one of only three structures left that were built by the New Jersey Bridge Company and is considered elgible for the National Register. Yet the bridge has been closed to all traffic for three decades. Even though it is still accessible by foot, the bridge is being taken over by the remnants of time, for vegetation is covering the trusses and the bridge has become a focus for graffiti. Still, it has a potential for being a recreational crossing, if repairs are made to prolong its life.

Journalists from New Jersey.com, the state’s largest newspaper, have done a documentary on the state of the bridge, providing both video coverage of the bridge (inside and out) as well as an essay. While one could reinvent the wheel with their quotes, it’s simply appropriate to simply provide you with the video below as well as the link to the article, which you can click here to read.  Structural facts about the bridge can be found here, which includes a link to the HABS/HAER structural report on the bridge.

So sit back and enjoy the video on The Old and Abandoned: The Story of the New Bridge.