The Bridges of Niagara Falls

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Rainbow Arch Bridge next to American Falls. Photo taken while on boat tour. All photos and filming were taken by the author in August 2018

Hundreds of tour books, written in about three dozen languages have touted Niagara Falls as one of the 1000 places one has to see once in his lifetime. From the author’s point of view, even though the Falls area is one of the largest tourist traps in North America, maybe even the world, with thousands of souvenirs, restaurants and other main attractions, if one wants to see just the falls themselves, there are five ways to do it: 1. At level along the streets and boardwalks, 2. At night with the fireworks display, 3. Via boat tour which takes the person to the two falls, up close and personal, and 4. Via Skylon Tower on the Ontario side of the falls. And while a person can get a wonderful treat viewing the two falls- American and Horseshoe (the latter is the bigger one)- from Skylon, one can also get a treat viewing the Falls‘ bridges, which is the fifth way.

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Horseshoe Falls at night.

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American Falls at night

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While one can get a picturesque view of the Rainbow Bridge while doing the boat tour, one can photograph all but four of the 20+ bridges from Skylon Tower, including the I-190 Bridge, which is 25 kilometers (12 miles) away and spans the Niagara River. However, to get to all of them, one needs the bike or the car. In some cases, they are reachable by foot.  We did all five parts of the tour and got the bridges in the process. This tour guide will show you the bridges one really needs to see while enjoying the view of the Falls. It will feature a brief summary with a couple pics, plus a map showing where the bridges are located. More bridges can be found in the Chronicles‘ facebook and Instagram pages. In the end, the author can make some recommendations as to where a person can find these bridges with a Tour Guide hint to follow at the end of this tour guide.

We must keep in mind that the tour is focused solely on the Falls area. There are countless bridges along the Welland Canal area, but you can view them via Nathan Holth’s historicbridges.org website, which is here.

So without further ado, let’s have a look at the bridges, starting with the one closest to Lake Ontario going towards Erie.

 

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Lewiston-Queenston Bridge

Location: Niagara River at Interstate 190 (US) and Ontario Highway 405 (a.k.a Kingston Highway, Canada)

Bridge type: Rainbow deck arch

Built: 1962 by the Bethlehem Steel Company in Bethlehem, PA; designed by Waddel and Hadesty

Niagara Falls has four steel deck arches spanning the mighty river between Lakes Ontario and Erie and two of these rainbow deck arches, the bridge type characterized by the unhinged, ribbed arch span that supports the roadway going over it. The Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, which was built in 1962, is the youngest of the bridges in the region. With a total length of 1600 feet (479 meters) and the main span of 1000 feet (305 meters), the Lewiston-Kingston Bridge is the longest of the bridges in the region. It serves as the only US-Canadian crossing, where a person can head west into Canada. While both sides have border crossings and tax-free shops along the freeways, the best vantage point for this crossing is on the Ontario side, where there is parking along the street on the river side, just as the person is entering the freeway. This was where I got most of my photos.  The bridge replaced an iron suspension bridge, which was located downstream and featured Town Lattice portals. More details can be found here.  About 300 meters south of the bridge is the Floral Clock and Park, where one can get some beautiful shots in the spring and summer time, while having a picnic at the same time. However beware, there are costs for parking there, so have some cash with.

 

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Whirlpool Rapids Aero Car

Location: Niagara River at Whirlpool Rapids

Bridge Type: None- An overhead cable railway

Built: 1916 by Leonardo Torres Quevedo  Rehabilitated three times in 1961, 1967 and 1984

Even though the Aero Car is not a bridge per se, this overhead cable railway is considered a crossing, let alone a tourist attraction that one must see if one wants to visit the Whirlpool Rapids in person. The rapids is rather difficult to see from the street due to the high vegetation and because of the risk of drowning, any private boat traffic along the Niagara River and at the Falls themselves is prohibited by law. The exception is with the tour boats travelling up to the Falls. Instead of risking a massive fine of $10,000 or possible death by capsizing and drowning, one can pay $35-40 to ride the Aero Car for up to 15 minutes, getting pictures of the Rapids directly from below and perhaps the two railroad bridges pending on the weather. One can also see the Whirlpool Rapids State Park in the US side and the Robert Moses Power Station on the Canadian side. The concept was developed by Leonardo Torres Quevedo, who later founded the Niagara Spanish Aero Car Company Limited, which owns the 35-person cable car that goes 700 feet across the river.

 

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Whirlpool Rapids Highway Bridge (left) and railroad Bridge (right)

Whirlpool Rapids Highway Bridge

Location: Niagara River near Whirlpool Rapids, carrying Bridge Avenue and Amtrak Railroad

Bridge type: Steel Deck Truss with Pratt Truss features; double-decking with railway on top and roadway at the bottom.

Built: 1899 by Pennsylvania Steel Company; designed by Leffert Buck of Canton, New York

The Whirlpool Rapids Highway Bridge one of two bridges located at the rapids and the second of three international crossings in the Niagara Falls region. Like with the Kingston, its predecessor was a suspension bridge that had been built 30+ years before. The Highway Bridge is the oldest of the bridges in the region, even though the railroad crossing next door to the south appears older but was built 30 years later. It is one of several bridges of its kind that was designed by Leffert L. Buck, who was credited for designing and building all but one bridge over the Niagara River, but was held accountable post humously for the collapse of the Honeymoon Bridge, which had been built in 1897 but collapsed in 1938. The Rainbow Bridge now occupies this spot. Buck was also credited for bridge building in the New York City area, including the Williamsburg Bridge over the East River, which was built in 1903.  The bridge is measured at 790 feet (241 meters) in total, with the arch span being 550 feet (167 meters). It features a double-decker design, where the roadway is at the bottom and train traffic runs on top. Passenger trains also use this bridge and the Amtrak Railway Station is on the American side. Border controls are also found there, yet access to the bridge is rather restricted. While one can get some photos of the bridge from the Ontario side by foot, it is difficult to find a place to park if traveling by car or bike, as access is not possible unless on private property. Only motorized vehicles are allowed to cross the bridge, thus making it impossible to cross on foot unless risking being arrested.  The Highway Bridge has been maintained really well, with a new paint job and other inspections and the like to keep the structure functionally sound, which can cause confusion because it appears younger than its railroad structure next door. Yet there is a reason behind that, as you will see in the next bridge profile.

 

 

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Whirlpool Rapids Railroad Bridge

Location: Niagara River next to Whirlpool Rapids Highway Bridge, carrying CP Railroad (now abandoned)

Bridge Type: Steel deck arch with Pratt truss features

Length: 863 feet (263.1 meters); main span: 640 feet (195 meters)

Built: 1925 by American Bridge Company of New York; designed by Leffert Buck and Olaf Hoff

The Whirlpool Rapids Railroad Bridge is similar to its neighbor to the north and has a history of its own. Its predecessor was a cantilever deck truss bridge with Whipple and Howe features and was one of the first of its kind in North America, having been built in 1883. Its current structure was based on a design created by Buck. However it was shelved after he died unexpectedly of apolexy in 1909. The design was later taken out and modified by Olaf Hoff (and associates William Perry Taylor and J.L. Delming), who contracted with American Bridge to build the structure alonside the cantilever span, which was later removed. The structure appears older than its age, but this has to do with the fact that the crossing has been abandoned since 2001. According to Nathan Holth, an agreement was made between Canadian Pacific Railroad and the City of Niagara Falls (Ontario) where the railroad and bridge would be abandoned as it ran through the tourist district and it was considered a safety concern and a nuisance. The railroad would keep the bridge but eventually remove it completely. As of the visit in 2018, the railroad bridge is still intact and there were no cranes or other vehicles on site that would indicate that there would be any removal activity. The bridge is barracaded with barbed wire to ensure no one climbs onto the bridge to cross it. One can still get some pics- even better, when standing between the two bridges. The bridge can also be seen from Skylon if one looks at it more closely.  Yet beware that the days of the railroad bridge may be numbered and it could be removed sooner than later, unless a preservation party is willing to step in and claim responsibility for repurposing it for bikes and pedestrians. Until that happens, it is recommended to visit the structure while it is still standing.

 

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The Whirlpool Rapids Bridges was built at the site where John Roebling’s first wire suspension bridge had been built. It was constructed in 1855 and featured a double-decking with the railroad going over the top; horse and buggy the bottom deck. It was dismantled after the Highway Bridge was completed in 1897, but not before having undergone an extensive rehabilitation 11 years before.

 

 

 

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Rainbow Arch Bridge

Location: Niagara River at Roberts Street next to American Falls

Bridge Type: Steel deck arch with closed spandrel arch approaches

Built: 1941 replacing the Honeymoon Bridge

The Rainbow Arch Bridge is the most popular of the bridges in the Niagara Falls Region. It is one where attention is given by the tens of thousands of passers-by and tourists daily, whether it is on even level from the walkway, from the bottom while on a boat tour to the American and Horseshoe Falls, or from high up via Skylon Tower. The bridge is the centerpiece attraction which complements the two falls, day and night. The bridge is the oldest of the rainbow deck arches, but at 1444 feet (440 meters) and a main span of 950 feet (289 meters), it is the shorter of the two bridge spans of its kind. However, when viewing the bridge from a historical perspective, the bridge is the fourth one built at its present location. The first structure was a suspension bridge known as teh Falls View Bridge. It was built in 1867 at the site where the American Platform is located, but despite extensive rehabilitation in 1888 that featured the widening of the bridge deck, the suspension bridge, which had been built by Samuel Keefer, was blown down by a windstorm on January 9th, 1889. It was later rebuilt as a second suspension bridge, needing only 38 days until it was completed and reopened on May 7th, 1889. It didn’t last long, for another wind storm in January 1890 caused significant damage to the structure. Although it survived intact, workers came up with a new plan to replace the suspension bridge, which was the Honeymoon Bridge. Designed by Buck, Pencoyd Bridge and Construction built the superstructure in 1897 and featured a steel deck arch with grided pandrels, a Warren ribbed-arch main span and one bowstring deck arch approach span per side. The bridge remained in service until one tragic day on January 27th, 1938. There, an ice jam, combined with high winds, brought the structure down completely. Two people who were on the bridge at that time, barely escaped death by running across to the New York side. The collapse of the bridge was photographed by Frank O. Seed, which gained popularity. Because it was too dangerous to get out onto the river to remove the structure because of the high waves, wind and the high cliffs, the remnants of the Honeymoon Bridge remained on the icy river until April 13th of the same year, when it was moved down river by up to a mile and later sank to the bottom. None of the bridge has ever been recovered since then. Three years later, Waddel and Hardesty designed its replacement and Bethlehem Steel constructed the current bridge which has been in service since, carrying traffic between New York and Ontario.  The bridge provides some great views and should a book ever be written about the bridges in the Niagara Falls region, it would definitely reach the front cover because of its popularity that coincides with that of the two falls themselves. The bridge is found everywhere on postcards and booklets on the Falls, but eventually, a book on the bridges will need to be considered as well.

 

 

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William Rankine Power Generating Station Bridge

Location: Niagara Falls Outlet at the Power Generating Station on Niagara Parkway.

Type: Closed Spandrel Stone Arch Bridge (5-span)

Built:  1905

Walking past the Horseshoe Falls, we have this bridge, a five-span stone arch bridge that is located next to the city’s power station. Both were built at the same time, and both were built with the purpose of directing part of the flow from the Niagara River to the power station, where it can produce energy via hydro-electric power. It is unknown who the bridge builder was, however, it is one of four bridges a person can find in the area, whose bridge type and aesthetics are the same. Even a smaller crossing along the sidewalk next to the top of Horseshoe Falls resemble a similar engineering artwork.

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Luna Island Bridge

Location: Segment of Niagara Falls at American Falls between Luna Island and Tesla Monument

Bridge Type: Stone arch bridge (one span)

Built: between 1900 and 1905

The Luna Island Bridge is the shortest of the stone arch bridges in Niagara Falls, with a length of no more than 50 feet. It is the closest bridge to American Falls, which provides tourists with an up-close view of American Falls from the American shoreline. It does provide its lone access from Luna Island to the Niagara platform, which was built in 1961 and gives a person a view of both the American and the Horseshoe Falls from the American side. On the Canadian side, the bridge is sometimes difficult to photograph from the walkway along the Falls in the warmer seasons due to vegetation, but one can get a good shot from Skylon if zoomed in as far as the camera can allow for it.

 

 

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Goat Island Bridges

Location: Niagara Falls on Goat Island Drive

Bridge Type: Stone Arch Bridge (each three spans)

Built: 1905

Goat Island Bridge features a thoroughfare crossing that connects Goat Island and the city of Niagara Falls on the New York side, with an intermission going through Green Island. Each section has three spans but according to data, the total length of the entire structure with the island in between is between 180 and 200 feet. Originally, the bridge provided vehicular access, but as of present, access has been reduced to pedestrian and cyclar traffic. The structure can be seen from the Canadian side but also from the Skylon Tower. Yet, measures are being sought to replace both spans due to age and structural deterioration. But the procedure will not be easy. The American Falls will need to be shut down beforehand and all the water flow will need to be diverted through Horseshoe Falls. It would be a first since 1969, should both city governments as well as the Canadian government approve the measure. This measure would be use to rehabilitate the American Falls to reduce erosion, while at the same time, replace the Goat Island Bridges. If and when this will all happen remains open.

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Grand Island Viaduct

Location: Niagara River at I-190 between Sandy Beach and Niagara Falls, New York

Bridge Type: Cantilever deck truss with Warren/Wichert truss features

Built: 1935; additional replica built in 1963

The Grand Island Viaduct is the easternmost bridge in the Niagara Falls area, as the bridge carries Interstate I-190 that connects Niagara Falls with Buffalo. The interstate bypasses the city before crossing the Niagara River the second time at Kingston and entering Canada. While the bridge is not visible on the ground, it can be seen clearly from Skylon Tower, if one has a camera that can zoom as far as what is shown in the picture.

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Bird’s eye view of both American and Horseshoe Falls taken from Skylon Tower

There is a map where you can have a look at the location of the bridges and the places where you can get your best shots of the structures. From the author’s point of view, there are four places where you can get the best shots of the Falls, all of which from the Canadian side which you will be greeted by a crowd of thousands who will have the same idea. But still, with patience, you can get the best shots: on even level along the walkway from the Power Station to the Rainbow Arch, from Skylon Tower, while on a boat tour to Horseshoe Falls and lastly, by crossing the city’s finest bridges, as mentioned here. And while Niagara Falls is a “once-in-a-lifetime” event which one should really see, as a pontist, the bridges in the area are just as important, not only because of its location, but also because of their history. Which is why it would not be a surprise if a book on this topic will be on the shelves within five years after this tour guide is posted. 😉

The Gallery presented here is a fraction of what you can find on the Chronicles’ Facebook page. Click here and you will be directed to the Album, where you can enjoy not only the photos but comment on some of the bridges, including those not mentioned here. A link to some more interesting facts about the bridges in the area can be found here. 🙂

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Spectacular Bridge Falls- The Top 10 and Film

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In connection with the collapse of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Italy, a couple of videos came to mind that I came across recently. Prior to the disaster, there has been a debate as to determining which bridge disasters should be in the top 10, for there are several sources that have their own set- be it in terms of history, natural disasters or even structural failures. Here are a couple examples of bridge disasters that feature the top 10 prior to the Genoa disaster. The first one focuses on disasters in terms of structural failure combined with history.

 

This video focuses on natural disasters and bridge failures, originating from Russia…..

Now here is the homework assignment for you: How would you rank your top 10 bridge disasters? What criteria would you set before finding your ten best examples? Would your focus be on the international stage or would you prefer local examples? And would you agree that your top 10 would be based on natural disasters, structural failures, both or neither of them?

Have a look at the videos and then look for your top ten bridge collapses. You may comment here or on the Chronicles’ facebook page.

Good luck! 🙂

 

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2016 Ammann Awards Voting Underway

Devil's Elbow Bridge carrying US Hwy. 66 in Missouri. Photos courtesy of Roamin Rich
Devil’s Elbow Bridge carrying US Hwy. 66 in Missouri. Photos courtesy of Roamin Rich

After tallying and categorizing all the entries, in some categories the highest number on record, the voting process for this year’s Othmar H. Ammann Awards is currently underway. Between now and 6th January, you have an opportunity to select your favorite candidates in five categories: Best Photo, Lifetime Achievement, Best Kept Secret Tour Guide and Individual Bridge, Mystery Bridge, Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge, and Bridge of the Year. Because of a record high number of entries in all but two categories, for the first time this year there will be an unlimited number of voting allowed for each of the categories with the exception of Mystery Bridges. There, you are allowed four votes- two for the US and two for the International Scene (Int.). That means for all ofthe categories except what was just mentioned, you can vote for as many bridges and people as you want at any time. It will encourage you to have a look at the bridges more carefully, esp. with the pictures, before you decide which bridges deserve your vote.

To vote, please go to the wordpress version of the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. There you will have the ballot, which is divided up into Parts I & II. Part I has the categories of Best Photo (a gallery is enclosed), Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge, Lifetime Achievement and Mystery Bridge. In Part II, we have Best Kept Secret Tour Guide, Best Kept Secret Individual Bridge (both divided into US and International) and lastly, Bridge of the Year. Both Links are below.

BALLOT:

PART I

PART II

 

Bridges nominated but not on the list will be mentioned in the Author’s Choice Awards, which will be announced on January 6th, the same day as the last day of voting. They will most likely be candidates for the 2017 Awards as well.  Winners will be announced on January 11th.  As there are many entries from Germany, the announcement of voting in German can be found via sister column The Flensburg Files (click here for access)

If any questions of should some issues arise, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.

Good luck and let the voting commence.

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Historic Bridge Awareness Month: Interview with Craig Holstein

November is coming to a close, and with that the National Historic Bridge Month, a month where we take a look at the accomplishments involving preserving historic bridges in the US and elsewhere. This year, we have seen many more bridges preserved or in planning for preservation than in the past years. Part of this has to do with cost-cutting measures to repair the structure and prolong their lifespans. But another part has to do with the increased interest among residents and pontists to preserve the relicts that have contributed to the development of the infrastructure of the US, Europe and elsewhere.

To understand the importance of historic bridge awareness, Chris Hansen had a chance to interview Craig Holstein, historian of the Washington State Department of Transportation, for his talk show, Northwest Live, produced by Seattle-based radio station, KPQ. Although the state had been under scrutiny because of the collapse of the Skagit River I-5 Bridge while at the same time been criticized for losing many historic bridges in the last decade, the state has more bridges built before 1945 than previously thought. Washington has several claims in the construction of bridges, including Galloping Gertie and pontoon bridges, and therefore, to better understand more about Washington’s historic bridges, I’ve enclosed a link with some listening comprehension questions for you to answer and discuss in the Chronicles’ forum, either via facebook or directly here. Listen to the interview with Holstein and best of luck with the questions. The answers will be provided in two weeks. 🙂

 

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McMillan Bridge, the lone concrete truss bridge in Washington state. HABS/HAER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How many concrete truss bridges exist in the US?

 

Washington state was famous for concrete pontoon bridges. Who were the masterminds behind the development?

 

Galloping Gertie is the nickname of what bridge and why did it receive this nickname?

True or False: The pontoon bridge was open in the same year as Galloping Gertie.

How many roadway bridges exist in Washington state?

  1. 6000
  2. 7000
  3. 8000
  4. 9000

Washington state has only _____ covered bridge(s) in comparison with over _____ Oregon has.

 

True or False: Washington state has no book on historic bridges.

 

True or False: An Interstate Bridge over the Columbia Bridge will not be rebuilt.

 

Which historic bridge is the oldest still in service? Name the bridge, when it was built and where it was located.

 

 

 

2014 Historic Bridge Weekend in Michigan

Mackinac Bridge at night. One of the key bridges on the places to visit list for this year’s HB Weekend. Photo taken by Nathan Holth of HistoricBridges.org

Three-day Event to take place September 5-7, 2014.

Labor Day weekend usually marks the end of summer and the start of the school year throughout the US, unless you are living in some states that have already started school. Yet if you or your child is a bridge fan, like Nathan Holth, then you could consider this year’s Historic Bridge Weekend as the event to close out this summer vacation.

This year’s event, hosted by the author and columnist of HistoricBridges.org, will take place in Michigan, focusing on the creme dela creme of historic bridges. The three-day weekend will start with a tour of Historic Bridge Park on the evening of September 5th, beginning at 5:00pm. Located near Battle Creek, this park features six historic bridges that were brought in from places in southern Michigan, restored and erected as trails throughout the park. The complex received the Chronicles’ Ammann Awards for Best Kept Secret in 2011.

After touring southern Michigan and parts of northern Indiana on Saturday (including a Saturday night photo opportunity of the bridges in Grand Rapids), Sunday’s tour will feature a visit to the Big Mac. Built in 1957 under the direction of David Steinman, the five-mile long bridge, with the main span of 3,800 feet, still remains the longest single bridge in the western hemisphere. Also included in the Sunday tour are the bridges in the Sault Sainte Marie area, which will mark the first time that the HB Weekend will include some bridges outside the US. Sault Ste. Marie is located at the US-Canadian Border and features over a half dozen key structures straddling the St. Mary’s River and the international border, including the International Bridge, built by Steinman and Associates in 1962.

If you have any questions or are interested in participating in this rather informal event that will bring together pontists and bridge enthusiasts from all over the country, please contact Nathan Holth using the contact details enclosed here.    Highlights of the Historic Bridge Weekend will be provided in the Chronicles in case if it is impossible to make the event but would like to know which bridges to see while visiting Michigan. The author of the Chronicles already has a few bridges to visit on his agenda for his visit to the region in the future.

Author’s Note: A book on the Mackinac Bridge will be featured in the Chronicles’ Book of the Month soon.

California Historic Bridges and Tunnels in Digital Form

Purdon Road Bridge over the South Yuba River in Nevada City, California. One of two half-through truss bridges left in the state. Photo courtesy of the HABS/HAER Collection

Forum Question: If you wanted to showcase historic bridges in your area online, how would you do that? Would you focus on existing bridges or include those that were unique but no longer exists? How much information and photos would you add about the bridges?

The first time a website appeared which showcased many existing historic bridges in a region was the one produced by the Minnesota Historical Society.  Created in 1996, the historic bridge page featured as many as 100 bridge examples from all over the state. Even though the website has changed hands and is now part of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, many of the bridges noted are still in service today in one way of another.

California has just recently launched its website, showcasing its list of historic bridges in the most populous state in the Union. By clicking here on CalTrans Digital Collection website, you will have a chance to read more than 20 pages worth of hundreds of historic bridges and tunnels that still exist in California.

Interesting enough, the website features photos and documentation conducted by CalTrans, the State Historical Society, local historical groups and even HABS-HAER, containing information on the bridge type, location of the bridge, and the history of its construction as well as its association with the area it is located. Most of the photos were taken between 1975 and 2004 with the majority of the bridges being determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places as of 2004. Some of the bridges have been replaced yet many others have been rehabilitated and retrofitted to withstand earthquakes, which are common in the Golden State.

This includes this bridge, the Purdon Road Bridge, spanning the South Yuba River near Nevada City. Built in 1895 by Cotton Brothers and Company, one of many California bridge builders that existed during that time, the Purdon Bridge was one of only two half-through truss bridges in the state, meaning the roadway is built halfway between the bottom and top portions of the truss. The bridge was scheduled to be rehabilitated in 2013, but it is unknown whether that has already taken place. More information on the bridge can be found here.

The digital collections are well detailed and has information on historic bridges that are considered significant on the state and national scale, yet some of them have since been replaced for structural reasons. There are also other bridges not listed in the collections but deserve some attention, including the wooden truss bridges in the northeastern part of the state.  But given the website’s infancy, it is more likely that the collection will become bigger in the future.

This leads to a pair of questions for the readers:

1. Apart from the bridges listed in the collections, including the Golden Gate, Vallejo and Bay Bridges, what other bridges should be listed? This includes bridges scheduled to be replaced in the next 10 years, like some in Los Angeles.

2. The Buellton (US 101) Bridge features seven through truss bridges that were relocated to Iowa and elsewhere in the 1950s. This bridge represents an example of historic bridges that have long since been nonexistent. Should these bridges be added to the list and if so, which ones?

This guide should provide other state agencies and organizations to compile a database of their own. Already some on the private scale, like bridgehunter.com and historicbridges.org in the US and Structurae.net in Europe exist. But there are only a quarter of the states in the US that have such a database. It is time for others to join the bandwagon, but the question is how. Perhaps suggestions based on the questions presented at the beginning of the article will help, yet the best suggestion is to ask the experts who have constructed it to see how the database should be built and how the information should be reader-friendly.

 

 

 

In School in Germany: The Pocket Guide to Industrial History

Rendsburg High Bridge in Rendsburg, Germany Photo taken by the author in April 2011

 

Joint article and forum with sister column the Flensburg Files in conjunction with the series on In School in Germany. Except this example focuses on Infrastructure, using Historic Bridges as an Example.

A while back, shortly before my debut teaching about industrialization in the US and Germany between 1870 and 1914, I had put out a question as to how to approach the topic of infrastructure in that era, in particular when it comes to bridge building, and how it ties in with the usage and proliferation of the material of steel- a replacement to iron. For more information on this inquiry, please click here for details.

Here is the follow-up on this particular topic, which has me thinking about a creative way of getting students acquainted with infrastructure and industrialization:

During the block-session, which consists of two 45-minute sessions into a 90-minute one, students had an opportunity to write down their notes in a small pocket brochure, compiled on my part. This is what the pocket brochure looked like:

The notes to be taken by the students (consisting of high school juniors) were in connection with a series of mini-presentations that they were supposed to give, based on the following topics that were given to them to prepare two weeks beforehand:

Iron and Steel

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871

The Chicago School of Architecture

Railroads

Bridges

Canals

The Automobile

The Roads

Inventions (Electricity, the Telephone, etc.)

Each presentation was 3-5 minutes long, with questions to follow.  The exception to the topic was the one on bridges, presented by yours truly.  The topics were presented in a way that materials go first, for they played hand-to-hand in the development of other forms of infrastructure and transportation.

The results were astounding. Lots of information on American and European inventors making their marks, yet one would need a couple more sessions to digest all the information presented.  Some questions in connection with this topic you can find in the Files’ article here.

The problem with presenting infrastructure and industrialization is that the development of both Germany/Europe and the US was exponential, that it would be difficult to cover everything. It even applies for bridges, as dozens of American and European bridge builders were responsible for hundreds of bridge designs and bridge examples that existed during that time (and still do today). Plus some of the bridge builders of that time period had their own colorful history that is worth mentioning; especially when it comes to those immigrating to the US from what is today Germany, Poland, Austria, France and Hungary (where they were once known as The French Kingdom, Prussia and later the German Empire, Austro-Hungarian (or Habsburg Empire) and the Russian Empire (as Poland became part of the empire in 1795 as part of a partition agreement with Prussia)).

The end result was a compromise presented by the history teacher upon evaluating the session: a pocket guide to certain aspects of infrastructure with a focus on a country and some key examples worth noting. If divided up into the aforementioned topics, it would make the most sense, as for each aspect, one can present some key facts that are relevant to the topic of infrastructure and industrialization, along with some fun exercises . Plus if the booklet is 10-15 pages per topic, it will be sufficient enough for pupils to get a whiff of the aspects of history that have been left at the wayside, while the remaining artefacts become a distant memory,  but at the same time, be encouraged to preserve what is left of history or take measures that matter to them. After all, when we talk about environment and protection, our heritage technically belongs to this fragile umbrella.

For the pontists and historians alike, some ideas of how to construct such a booklet pertaining to bridges is a tricky one, for especially in the United States, the topics and the number of bridge builder and bridge examples have to be narrowed down to only a handful of examples. So if we look at the proposal for such a booklet for Germany, we have the following:

Part I: German emigrants- focusing on John Roebling, Albert Fink, Gustav Lindenthal, Wendell Bollmann, Joseph Strauss und Lawrence H. Johnson

Part II: German bridge engineers (who stayed in Germany)- Friedrich Voss, Hermann Matthäus, Gustav Eifel, Hermann Gerber, Franz Meyer

Part III: Areas of bridge building- Cities (Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Halle (Saale), Leipzig, etc.- choosing three; Canals (Baltic-North Sea, Dortmund-Ems, Elbe-Lübeck) and a pair of River Examples

Part IV: Notable Works- using two bridge examples, like the Rendsburg High Bridge, for example, and presenting some interesting facts about them.

If you were asked to construct a booklet similar to the one mentioned here, for the US, how would you structure it? What contents would you put in there and what examples would you include?  You can place your comments here, on the facebook pages under the Flensburg Files and/or Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, or in the LinkedIn page under The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.  Do not be surprised if you have a question coming from either the author or one of the readers pertaining to a booklet on a similar topic but pertaining to Canada or another country.

Those wishing for a copy of the booklet I made for my history class or a power point presentation on bridges in Germany and the US can contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. Please be aware that both are in German and that if you want the English version, you will have to wait a couple weeks.

And now to the Files’ Guessing Quiz pertaining to Industrial History, which you can click on here.

Dodd Ford to receive a makeover

Dodd Ford Bridge spanning the Blue Earth River near Amboy, Minnesota. Photo taken by the author in September 2010

Truss bridge to be placed onto concrete stringer with the decking encased. Work scheduled to begin in Summer 2014

It is a beautiful piece of artwork when crossing the Blue Earth River, as seen in the video produced five years ago. It was built by a bridge engineer who immigrated to the United States from Germany and later went into politics. Despite being closed to traffic for five years and being threatened with demolition, it is a local landmark that is nationally significant with a unique appearance.

The Dodd Ford Bridge is now getting the rehabilitation it deserves. Residents living in and around Amboy, located south of Mankato in Blue Earth County, Minnesota have found a way to save the bridge by getting the support needed from the county as well as agencies on the state and national levels, with two goals in mind: saving the bridge and reopening it to traffic again. Both of them will be realized later on this year.

Workers will place the truss superstructure onto a modern concrete stringer bridge, encasing the lower chord with new decking, and adding new ornamental railings in the process. New paint and other repairs will be in the mix as well. The cost for the whole project: $1.3 million, $130,000 of which had already been allotted by the county for the project with the rest being provided by grants and other financial resources. Construction on this bridge is set to begin this summer, and while it is unknown how long the project will last, once the bridge is reopen to traffic, farmers and tourists alike will at last have the opportunity to cross the structure again. The 150-foot long bridge had been closed to heavy vehicles for over two decades and to all but pedestrian traffic since 2009. Upon inspection by both official contractors as well as private sources, the truss bridge itself was in pristine condition, leading to the question of “…why it was closed to begin with,” according to one source.

The Dodd Ford Bridge was built as a Camelback through truss bridge in 1901 by Lawrence H. Johnson, a bridge engineer who had once presided over the operations of Hennepin Bridge Company but built this structure as an independent contractor. Born in northern Germany (with sources pointing to Flensburg in Schleswig-Holstein) in 1862, Johnson emigrated to the US in 1875 and eventually to Minnesota in 1884, when he started his bridge-building business. He served in the Minnesota legislature, representing the Republican party and Hennepin County from 1901 to 1910, during which he was also president of the Hennepin Bridge Company in Minneapolis.  He died in 1947 but it is unknown where he was interred.  Johnson built numerous bridges in Minnesota, both as an independent contractor as well as during his days as president at Hennepin, but the Dodd Ford Bridge, as well as the Old Barn Resort Bridge near Preston in Fillmore County are the only two structure left with his name on there (surprisingly enough, the latter has been closed to traffic since 2010 and is also the subject of efforts to reopen it to traffic again).

If the bridge becomes encased with concrete decking, it will not be the first one that will receive this treatment. Several Minnesota truss bridges have received similar treatments and are still in operation. Most notable ones include the Merriam Street and Washington Avenue Bridges both in Minneapolis. The former consists of one of the spans of the original Broadway Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River that was relocated to its present site east of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge in 1987, spanning the mighty river’s small channel. The latter spans the railroad tracks in downtown and was encased in 2001, with the trusses widened to accommodate traffic. While questions have been raised regarding the historic integrity of the bridge being compromised through this type of rehabilitation, many people have embraced this claiming it’s “…better that than to have no historic truss bridge at all.”

Compromise or not, the Dodd Ford Bridge is about to receive new life again, thanks to the efforts undertaken to save this bridge from becoming scrap metal. With 50% of the number of historic bridges gone across the country and Blue Earth County only having a handful left, including the Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge, people are taking a stand to preserve what is left of infrastructural history in America. The Dodd Ford Bridge not only represents that, but also a bridge that was built by an immigrant from a country that produced many bridge engineers of their time to build great infrastructures. And like Germany, the US and with regards to the Dodd Ford Bridge, the locals are fighting to save the unique few that are left for the next generations to enjoy.

Author’s Note: More information is needed about Lawrence H. Johnson’s life as a bridge builder and politician, as well as a confirmation of where he was born and where his tomb is located. If you have any information, please send it to the Chronicles at: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. Information will be added once it’s received.

Click onto the links to learn more about the bridge and Lawrence Johnson, including the photos taken by the author during his visit in 2010 as well as Nathan Holth during his visit last year.

Newsflyer: Christmas Eve 2013

Here’s to great success! Happy Holidays! Photo taken at the Christmas Market in Berlin, Germany in December, 2013

City Council Approves Public-Private Project for Historic Bridge; Restoration of Another Historic Bridge Under Way; So is Voting for Ammann Awards

It’s becoming a rarity that we are getting a series of good news about the future of historic bridges, even more so when you have the public sector involved. But at Christmas Time, it is almost a once in a lifetime opportunity. Here’s why as the Chronicles has a special Newsflyer dedicated to some preservation projects that are under way right now!

City Council Approves Public-Private-Project for Green Bridge

The Des Moines City Council last night unanimously approved a joint project to raise funding for the restoration of the Jackson Street /5th Street (a.k.a. Green) Bridge. The vote was 7-0 and reflects on the outcome that had come about a week earlier. There, the Friends of the Green Bridge presented the proposal for the project to the City Council, which included speeches by many people involved. There has been unanimous support for the project ever since the facebook and petition pages were launched in November, which was one of the key factors, leading to last night’s decision for the project. The approval includes relegating the $750,000 originally set aside for bridge demolition for the restoration project, plus raising additional funds for the project, pending on what is actually needed. While a report from the construction firm Shuck-Britson claimed that between $2m and $3.75m is needed for the project, another  firm, Jensen Construction, also based in Des Moines, will undergo a thorough inspection to determine the needs of the bridge.  Fundraising efforts will start in the next year, the Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest there.  Once deemed as condemned, the Green Bridge, built in 1898 by a local bridge builder is receiving a new life from unexpected sources, namely, the people wanting to keep the bridge- and now the City Council. 🙂

More information about the bridge can be found here.  An interesting story about Jensen Construction and its history can be found here. Article about the project: here.

Author’s Note: More updates, discussions and other facts about the bridge can be found here, but please keep in mind that restoration examples can be found in the Chronicles’ facebook page.

 

Restoration of Bunker Mill Bridge Underway

Rising out of the ashes caused by arson in August, another Iowa historic bridge, located 170 miles east of Des Moines, is currently being restored. The Bunker Mill Bridge, built by the King Bridge Company in 1887 and reinforced by the Iowa Bridge Company in 1913, is located southeast of Kalona in Washington County. The bridge’s decking was torched in August 2013- the same time as the Historic Bridge Weekend. Yet, thanks to the county’s approval of selling the bridge to the organization, Friends of the Bunker Mill Bridge and the fundraising that has been done so far, work is being undertaken on the bridge. At the moment, after removing the charred decking in November, crews have jacked up the bridge’s superstructure to strengthen the abutments. I-beams, which support the decking of the bridge, is needed for the work, and many bridge parts are being strengthened through welding and new parts that coincide with the original construction of the bridge- termed in-kind restoration.  Nels Raynor of BACH Steel, a candidate for the 2013 Ammann Awards for Lifetime Achievement, is overseeing the project with 20-years of experience and many successful projects under his belt already. While the cost for the project has been reduced to $275,000 (from the $450k that was originally estimated), the funding is over a third of the way finished and more is needed. For more information, click here for details.  A step in the right direction and thanks to the work of many dedicated people, Suzanne Micheau, Julie Bowers and others, the bridge is making a comeback bit by bit. 🙂

 

Voting underway for Ammann Awards

Don’t forget that the Chronicles’ Ammann Awards is in full swing. Because of the high number of entries this year, you still have a chance to download and fill out the ballot (click here) and submit it via e-mail before January 3rd. The winners for each of the eight categories will be announced on the 7th. If you have problems filling out the ballot, an e-mail with your favorites is also fine, too.

At the end of the year, there will also be a Smith Awards voting for the category of Biggest Bonehead Story. There the voting will be different as articles will be posted on the Chronicles’ facebook page, and the winner will be based on the number of likes received. Like the Chronicles and follow for more details.

 

Author’s note to close things off: The Chronicles was a bit absent this month due to a tour through Berlin’s Christmas markets. Berlin is Germany’s capital. More information, photos and articles about the Christmas markets can be found through sister column, The Flensburg Files. Articles about the various markets and interesting facts will be posted both on the page as well as on its facebook page during the holiday season.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles and the Flensburg Files would like to wish you and yours the best and safest this holiday season! Merry Christmas and Happy 2014 from our house to yours! 😀

 

 

 

 

Petit Jean Bridge receives new home- for the third time!

The Petit Jean Bridge in front of Danville City Hall. Photos courtesy of J. Randall Houp

Yell County, Arkansas. Home of Mattie Ross. And Rooster Cogburn, who saved her life. There are some things about the county that make the people become that of true grit: hard working and honest, and valuing their history.  The Danville-Mickles Bowstring Arch Bridge is one of those bridges that is characteristic of the historic places that people work hard to preserve for it has a unique history that belongs to the county, especially when an event is tied to the bridge’s story. The bridge was built by the King Bridge Company in 1880, contracting to representative S.A. Oliver to build the 100-foot long bridge over the Petit Jean River at Danville at a cost of $3100. The bridge remained in service until its relocation to Mickles in 1922 (which included being disassembled and being stored two years beforehand.)

At each of the two sites, a tragedy occurred, which scarred the county and its bridge in terms of history. In June 1883 a mob lynched John H. Coker and Dr. John Flood after they (together with Rial Blocher) conspired to allow Jack and Bud Daniel to escape from the local jail located next to the bridge in Danville. Blocher’s life would be spared, only to escape from jail in September and disappear forever. Both Blocher and the Daniel Brothers were wanted for the murder of Bill Potter. At its new home in Mickles, a tragedy occurred on the bridge in June 1951, when Charles Osburn fell through the bridge with his tractor, killing him instantly and injuring two others that were with him. He was only two days shy of his 16th birthday. This is in connection with the five floods between 1904 and 2008 which spared the bridge.

In 2006, a historic survey was written and submitted to the state historic preservation office, which was later forwarded to the National Park Service, who listed the bridge on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.  After years of fundraising and pursuing grants and support from the private and public sectors, the days of the Petit Jean Bridge spanning the same river for 133 years at two locations are officially numbered.

On 13 October, the bridge was taken off the banks of the river, loaded onto a semi-truck and hauled back to Danville to be set on new concrete piers. The process of bringing the bridge back home to Danville took only 30 minutes. Part 3 of the bridge’s life is about to start. Using the bridge as a tourist attraction, the bridge will be spanning the green lawn of the town’s city hall, with bike trails encircling and even crossing it, with plans to have the structure ready for use next year. For the bridge, it has already accomplished two feats in its extended lifespan: it is the second oldest bridge left in Arkansas and is the only bridge in the state to have three different homes. For the latter, it is rare to see a bridge be relocated more than once because of the stresses on the superstructure caused by providing restraints on it, being lifted by crane and even the travel. While such multiple relocation attempts have failed with other historic bridges, like the Ellingson Bridge in Allamakee County, Iowa, the Petit Jean Bridge was one of the rare occurances where relocation for the third time was not a problem.

We’ve seen many bowstring arch bridges being the center of attraction for parks and bike trails, used as exhibits or picnic areas. The Petit Jean Bridge has now joined the ranks, while at the same time, its history will be shared with others who may not have known about it until now. As Yell County has numerous historic bridges still in use or reused for recreational purposes, it is not surprising that people take their historic artefacts seriously. And if that is not enough, it has garnered one more fame- apart from that of True Grit: its nomination for the 2013 Ammann Awards for Bridge of the Year and Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge. Whether it wins in one or both categories depend on your vote in December.

 

The Author wishes to thank J. Randall Houp for providing information about the bridge via mail and allowing use of the photos. More photos and facts about the bridge can also be found here