Mystery Bridge Nr. 144: A Small Unusual Bridge in the Ruins of a Large Military Complex

The best discoveries are found in your backyard. This mystery bridge fits the historian stereotype like a glove and can be found in the southeastern part of Glauchau in the area now designated as a natural reserve, behind the Rudolph Virchow Hospital and adjacent Agricola High School.  We found this bridge as pure coincidence, while we were hiking and taking pictures on a Sunday afternoon. The structure is a two-span deck arch bridge all made with metal, and the connections are welded. The bridge has a total length of 25 meters and it appeared that it used to span a body of water which has since shrunk in size, leaving the area the bridge crosses to be nothing more but a dry ravine to be forded because much of the decking on the bridge is in critical condition with missing or cracked flooring. The bridge used to carry an abandoned road, which we later found that it led to the hospital grounds and given its width, it was probably used only for cars and pedestrians only.

The bridge has a unique feature that is rare to find for bridges built during its time. One side of the bridge exposes the arch section where only a couple vertical beams support the arches. Both the arches as well as the center piers are tubular and are welded together. On the opposite end, the arches are covered with paneling resembling an appearance of a faux pas arch span: a beam bridge that is decorated with only the outer arches, whose spandrels are covered with paneling, thus making the bridge look like a real arch bridge but it’s merely a beam bridge that functions as the crossing supporting traffic.

It is unknown when the bridge was built, let alone who built it, but the area where the bridge was discovered by accident belongs to a natural area known as the Rümpfwald, an area that is the size of 10 football pitches that extends from the hospital, along the cemetary and past Bismarck Tower going south and east towards Rottenbach Creek and the adjacent forest near Niederlungwitz and St. Egidien, located six kilometers southeast of Glauchau’s Railway station. A map featuring both the forest and the bridge shows you the size of the natural area.

Before the habitat was created, it was once a military complex with a long history, most of which still hangs a dark cloud over Glauchau to this day.  In 1914, a military complex was established under the name Friedrich August Kaserne, which covered an area including the hospital, and the western half of Rümpfwald. Originally used for the German army, it was made irrelevant when Germany was forced to reduce its military to a quarter of ist size through the Versailles Treaty of 1919. Nevertheless, when Adolf Hitler took power in 1933, the military base was reactivated and used as a concentration camp for political prisoners. By 1936, it became a base for the Wehrmacht- the Nazi army. By 1945, the Soviet troops took over the eastern half of Germany and with that, the military base in Glauchau, which would later be expanded to include the production of weaponry and tanks as well as a practice area. The Soviets occupied the base until 1993, when the last Russian troops left the base. Afterwards, the entire complex was razed to the ground and the area was converted to a natural area, yet some of the relicts from the past still exist today….

….including this bridge. Given its current, deteriorating state, the bridge will most likely succumb to nature as the arches and the superstructure have corroded to a point where a full rehabilitation would be deemed impossible. Yet given the fact that this bridge is one of the most neglected of all of Glauchau’s bridges, it would be a shame to see it disappear without knowing about its history. While only a small portion of the military base has been preserved as a mini-library, perhaps there is a place for this unique bridge, even if the dark past of the military days in Glauchau have long since disappeared…..

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  The Watchman’s post and the Historic Gate to the military base at Wolffersdorfstrasse and the north entrance to the hospital were preserved, restored and converted to a library. The smallest library in Germany was completed in 2009 and received the 2011 Pegasus Award, the most important award of the EU devoted to preserving places of historic interest. More information on the project can be found here.  Ironically, book booth, a phone booth is located on the opposite end of the street at Virchowstrasse. There, you can donate your books and take one from the booth with. It’s next to a panel of what was part of the Berlin Wall.

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Plans are in the making to expand the Virchow Hospital further into the forest and former military compound, which includes rehabilitation areas and a health care sector. When the work starts remains open.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 143

Our first Mystery Bridge of 2021 takes us to California, to the town of Brookdale. It’s located in Santa Cruz County towards the Pacific Coastal area, and the San Lorenzo River snakes through the community with almost 2000 inhabitants in the heavily forested hills located southwest of San Jose along Highway 9.

There are several bridges located along the San Lorenzo in and around Brookdale, many of them arch structures. But this bridge, a postcard by John Smeaton, is not on any of the list of bridges in the Santa Cruz section in bridgehunter.com. The bridge is a pony arch with lattice features and judging by the photo, the structure is no longer than 90 feet long. It sits on a high cliff which is 30-40 feet above the San Lorenzo River. There is no information on its consturction, its history, its location and whether it still exists. A couple hints of where it could be is behind Pike Street as well as around Huckleberry Island but even then, there’s no guarantee that it’s there, we just know it was one of the San Lorenzo River crossings that deserves to be recogized and listed.

If you have any information on this bridge please contact Mr. Smeaton using the contact information in the Bridgehunter.com website. You can also provide information here at the Chronicles using the contact information found in the About page.

Many thanks and best of luck in the research. Happy Bridgehunting until we meet again! 🙂

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 144: An Unusual Through Truss Bridge in New York

This next mystery bridge takes us to New York; specifically, Fort Plain in Montgomery County and to this bridge. The structure spanned Mohawk River at River Street in the business district. The bridge features Phoenix columns and records indicated that the contractors, Dean and Westbrook of New York City as well as the Phoenix Bridge Company of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania were responsible for building the structure, which was between 130 and 180 feet. Yet it is unknown when the bridge was built. We do know that it was replaced in 1932 with a polygonal Warren through truss bridge with WV-portal bracings and riveted connections.

What is unknown and unusual is the truss design. When it comes to hybrid truss bridges, these bridges are hard to find for they serve traffic for a short period of time before they are demolished. The first bridge that comes to mind is the Philipp’s Mill and Crossing near Rockville, Iowa. It was a combination of Kellogg, Thacher and Warren through truss span that was a product of the Wrought Iron and Bridge Company. It was built in 1878 but replaced in 1958.

For this bridge, it appears to be a combination of Parker, Camelback and Pennsylvania Petit through truss bridge, which is unusual for a truss design. Yet others in the bridge community would have a better idea if this inquiry was posted……

….which is why I’m posting it right now. What kind of truss bridge was this bridge and when was the bridge built?

Feel free to comment. Additional information on the bridge’s history is more than welcome, especially as bridgehunter.com has no information nor photos on the truss bridge replacement built in 1932.

Mystery Bridge Nr. 140: The Slope Truss Bridge at Black Cat Road

Screenshot of the Google Street View photo of the bridge.

This next mystery bridge keeps us in Idaho but we go to Ada County and to this bridge, spanning Indian Creek at Black Cat Road. The bridge is a sloped, camelback Parker through truss bridge with Howe lattice portal bracings, supported by heels. The truss bridge has six panels and all the beams are pin connected.

Screenshot of the portal view

Bridgehunter.com has little information on this structure except for its location and the Street View. Unfortunately no other photos or information on the bridge were found. Hence the screenshot to give the readers an idea what the truss bridge is like. This structure is unique for it is one of the last truss bridges in the US, whose upper chord is sloped all the way to the portal bracings. Dozens of these bridges were built until 1910, when standardized trusses were introduced. Which explains why this bridge, which is between 100 & 150 feet long was built between 1890 and 1910.

Screenshot view of the strut bracings

The bridge has been bypassed for a couple decades, still it has historic value which warrants its nomination to the National Register. What’s missing is the information on its history, combined with the dimensions.

This is where you step in. Got any facts about the bridge? Then post them here as well as in the bridgehunter.com website. The more facts, the more likely it will be on the NRHP. And the more likely it will be used in the future as a recreation crossing.

Good luck and happy bridgehunting. 😎

Mystery Bridge Nr. 137: The arch bridge with unique railings

This next mystery bridge takes us to Kansas and this bridge: The Gypsum Creek Arch Bridge. And if there was a true meaning of something being located out in the middle of nowhere, this is it.

The single span, closed spandrel concrete arch bridge is located at least 20 miles away from the nearby towns in each direction. The nearest town is Roxbury, which is an unincorporated community. The bridge is approximately 25-30 miles northeast of the incorporated county seat, McPherson.   It spans a branch of Gypsum Creek on an old alignment of 27th Avenue. There is almost no information about the bridge, yet a pair of photos can be found in the bridgehunter.com website, including a Google Street View shot, presented here.  Judging by the bridge’s appearance, it must’ve been built between 1900 and 1920 but was replaced by a culvert on a new alignment at least 20 years ago, by which the bridge has long since been claimed by nature. The bridge is located in the vicinity of the Maxwell Natural Preserve.

Judging by the bridge’s appearance, the structure is a real diamond in the rough for not only is the structure an arch span, but also the railings reveal a series of arches with ornamental features on the top rails- something that is rare for an arch span, pre-rehab. Most arch bridges have vase-style ballustrade railings, especially for longer spans. Yet the bridge builder who designed this structure wanted to break away from that tradition and leave a mark for himself.

Yet who was he to be this creative and when did he leave his mark? And what other bridges did he build using such a fancy design?  This is the question we are trying to find out.

If you have any information about the bridge or its builder, please feel free to leave your comments here or in the bridgehunter.com website.  If we have enough data, the next step is to nominate the bridge fort he National Register, while at the same time, work to restore the structure for future use.  Such a diamond is worth a save to get a better understanding on its history.

Mystery Bridge Nr. 136: A Bridge at the Mansion of a Motion Picture Tycoon

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Photo courtesy of Rob Yasinac/ Hudson Valley Ruins

BHC Mystery Bridge

Our next Mystery Bridge takes us back to New York and features not only one bridge, but two. This came up on bridgehunter.com recently in a form of a post cardand features the two spans that cross a stream and a dam. The lower bridge featured a Howe pony truss span, most likely made of wood and used for pedestrian traffic. The upper bridge was a five span viaduct, built using stone piers with arches. Its decking was curved. It was a iron deck truss featuring Howe trusses that are subdivided.

The bridge was located on the former estate of motion picture Adolph Zukor. Zukor was born in Risce in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1873. He emigrated to New York in 1891 and after spending two years years working at a furrier, he started businesses selling fur products in Chicago and New York. In 1918, he bought property in New City in Rockland County from Lawrence Abraham (1872-1945), who had been the heir to the A & S Department Stores. The property had already featured a house and a nine-hole golf course; all in all, totalling 300 acres. It was here that the bridge had existed prior to Zukor’s purchase of the property, according to information by the Hudson Valley Ruins, which has a facebook page. Most likely the bridge must’ve been built made of iron before steel was introduced in bridge construction in the 1890s.  Zukor later bought an additional 500 acres of land in 1920. There he built a night house, guest house, movie theater, locker room, greenhouses, garages, staff quarters and hired golf architect A.W. Tillinghast to build an 18-hole championship golf course. Today, Zukor’s estate is the private Paramount Country Club.

It was the same Zukor who founded the Famous Players Film Company in 1912, which after a merger with two other film and theater companies, eventually became the Paramount Pictures Corporation. Today, Paramount, now part of ViacomCBS, still produces motion pictures films from its studios in Hollywood. It has had a great track record with films such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Star Trek (in all forms and types), Waynes World, films with John Wayne (like True Grit) and its latest release, Sonic: The Hedgehog.

 

 

Zukor himself occupied the estate until 1956 when he sold the estate and moved to Los Angeles permanently. It was the same year his wife died. He had two children from this marriage: Eugene, who became an executive at Paramount, and Mildred, who was married to another motion picture icon, Marcus Loew, who founded Loew’s Theatres and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio (MGM).  He retired from the movie business in 1959 and lived out his days until his death at the age of 103 in 1976.

As far as the bridge is concerned, it is unknown what happened to it, except to say that in the picture at the beginning of this article is all that remains of the two bridges. The property was sold in two segments. The golf course portion was sold in 1948 and later became Paramount Country Club. The rest of the property including the mansion followed eight years later. It is possible that the bridge’s fate was met after the estate was sold, though we don’t know when that may have been the case.

Therefore, we have a big mystery to solve regarding this bridge. It is clear that the bridge existed before Zukor bought it with the property, which means we need to know who built the unique structure. Even more curious is the bridge’s fate at of after the time Zukor moved to California for good…..

This is where you come in. Good luck in the research. 🙂  Feel free to comment here or in the Hudson Valley Ruins facebook page which you can click here.

Please keep in mind that there will be a talk on the history of the Zukor Estate later this month. Info you will find on that page as well.

 

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 135: The Bridge at Zentendorf

Photo taken by Frank Vincentz (wikiCommons)

Our next mystery bridge takes us to the Lausitz (Lusatia) region of eastern Saxony and the remains of this bridge.  The bridge is located in the village of Zentendorf, located along the River Neisse at the German-Polish border. It approximately a kilometer north of the easternmost point in Germany and another kilometer south of the railroad bridge that connects Niesky and Weglieniec. It’s 20 kilometers south of the nearest city of Rothenburg (Lausitz/Lusatia), which is home of the Saxony Police University.

The bridge remains is on the Saxony side of the River Neisse, yet its mystery remains completely open for research and interpretation. It features a single span closed spandrel concrete arch span, yet the rest of the bridge has long since disappeared. Furthermore, there’s absolutely no information on the bridge’s history anywhere to be found- not even on a bridge website, like brueckenweb.de or structurae.net.  Therefore we have no idea what the bridge looked like, let alone when it was built and who was responsible for it.

We do have speculation that this bridge was one of many along the Neisse to have been imploded towards the end of World War II, as Nazi troops were ordered to detonate every bridge to slow the advances of Soviet troops, an act that was considered futile as Allied troops were already inside Germany in March, liberating every village and region in its path enroute to Berlin, where Hitler was holed up and eventually committed suicide on May 1st. Germany surrendered six days later.  Ironically, the railroad bridge, a Warren deck truss span, survived the war and remained in service until 2015, when it was replaced. Like the bridge in Fürstenberg (near Eisenhüttenstadt), the structure was never replaced but that was mainly due to another crossing at Deschka, only a few kilometers to the south, that is still open. Because of its dwindling population of close to 300 people plus financial constraints, the villagers of Zentendorf find it unnnecessary to replace the structure in their village.

Still, to close the book on the bridge’s history, we should solve it first. Therefore, any information on the bridge’s history is more than welcomed. You can find more pics of the bridge in another website; the link is found at the end of this article.

Good luck in the research and happy bridgehunting until we meet again. 🙂

 

Portal View on the German Side. The German border marker is in front of the bridge ruins

A link where you can see more bridge photos can be found here: http://b.mtbb.de/2012/08/23/strasenbrucke-in-zentendorf/

 

bhc george floyd

Mystery Bridge Nr. 133: A Small “Forgotten” Bridge in a Small Forgotten Village

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BHC Mystery Bridge

LAHR (BW), GERMANY- The next Mystery Bridge takes us to the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg and to the city of Lahr. The community of 44,000 inhabitants is located near the cities of Offenburg and Strassbourg along the River Rhine and is easily accessible by the motorway (A 5), train and boat.  The mystery bridge at hand can be found to the north of the city, near the town Friesenhaim and Heiligenzell, along the creek Leimbach.

Towards the playground in Heilizenzell on a small path running parallel to the main street one will cross the Leimbach. The crossing is full of bushels of reed and poison ivy on each side of the path. One will not notice the historic crossing unless you cut away at the vegetation and see the arch.  Yet one may perceive it as a modern-day culvert. Yet when looking at it more closely……

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……one will see the inscription on the arch and the stone spandrels, making this crossing definitely an arch bridge. Looking more closely, we have the inscriptions of I K 8 8 1 4- the first 8 is larger and resembles a letter S spelled backwards with an I down the middle.

This is our mystery bridge. Its design is just as unique as its history. Its history is linked to the history of Heiligzell and the disappearance of the town’s predecessor. At the site of the crossing was the village known as Leymbach. According to the history books, the village was first mentioned in the first Century, AD. It was large farm and trading post that was owned by the Romans during the time of the Empire. Evidence of that comes from a well that was built five meters deep. This was discovered in 1979 by gardener Klaus Schwendemenn and was restored by the neighboring community Friesenheim.

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The well and the remaining foundations from the Roman times. Photo taken by Andreas Loegler

The village was later mentioned by the Lahr registry books in 1356 but it was last mentioned in 1535. Afterwards, Leymbach disappeared from the map. Historians have speculated that the town’s demise had to do with pests, fire and warfare which led to the residents fleeing to safer places. But more research is needed to confirm. Leymbach had a district of Hovestadt, yet it was only mentioned once in the 1500s. What’s left of Leymbach are two farm field border markings with the names “Auf der Steinmättle” and “Hinterem Steinmättle”

The town of Heiligenzell was first mentioned in the 10th Century AD when the farm/ trading post was given to the Monestary by Emperor Heinrich II. It was christenen Heiligenzell by the 14th Century. It was an important trading post during the Middle Ages. It was destroyed during the Geroldsecker feud during the 15th Century, and it is possible that it was the same feud that devastated Leymbach. Heiligenzell was later rebuilt and it is possible that Leymbach folded into its neighboring post. A castle was built during the 1500s to protect the residents. Two churches were added- a monestary and later a Catholic Church in the late 1800s.  Heiligenzell had a coat of arms that resembled the number 8, which was the same coat of arms found on the keystone of the bridge.

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Coat of Arms of Heiligenzell

The coat of arms and the number is much larger than the other inscriptions, which means the bridge belonged to Heiligenzell. Interestingly enough are the other inscriptions. The first are the initials for the person who built the bridge, which was I. K. The second is the fact that the letter K has the same function as the number 1, according to the history books. Normally a Roman number 1 would have the same function as the letter I. Therefore we can conclude that the bridge was built in 1814 by a person, whose name starts with I for the first name and K for the last. Otherwise it would contradict the history books regarding the founding of Heiligenzell.

The Leimbach was rerouted to run along the path in 2014, and this was when the bridge was discovered. It has received lots of media attention because of its unique design and a history that has a place in the puzzle on the history of Heiligenzell, including its former neighboring village of Leymbach. It is a foregone conclusion that the bridge’s predcessor used to connect the two but we don’t know what it looked like  before this structure was built. We do know that person I.K. built the bridge but we don’t know who that person was and if he had built other arch bridges nearby.

Therefore the search for the history of the bridge and its connection with Heiligenzell’s own history is open to the forum. It is open to locals who have a lot of knowledge of the history of Lahr, its suburb of Friesenheim and Heiligenzell and the Black Forest region of Baden-Wurttemberg. It is also open to those who know a lot about Roman history and the role of the Romans in Baden-Wurttemberg. But it is also open to all who are interested in the research on the bridge, and everything else that goes along with that. The Chronicles did a podcast on this on June 20th. Now come the details and photos.

The rest falls to those who are interested. Good luck and let the author of the Chronicles know what you find. Thanks! 🙂

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Author’s Note: Special thanks to Ekehard Klem for the photos and the background information on the bridge and the surrounding area.

bhc george floyd

Mystery Bridge Nr. 132: The Motorway Bridge to Nowhere

Typical Reichsautobahn in the 1930s in Germany. Source: German Federal Archives (wiki)

 

 

 

The 130th Mystery Bridge takes us to the south of Germany to one of what Germans would call a “Soda-Brücke”. These are bridges that were built as part of the plan to construct a major road or highway only to have the project be abandoned with these structures considered in English to be “The Bridge to Nowhere.”  The State of Bavaria has dozens of Soda Bridges that exist as they were part of Adolf Hitler’s grand project to build and expand the German Autobahn (Motorway) system to be used for the war efforts. Known as the Reichsautobahn, most of the total original length of 3900 kilometers are being used today, which include the three most traveled Motorways: the A4 Cologne-Dresden-Görlitz, A9 Berlin-Nuremberg-Munich and the A7 Flensburg-Hamburg-Ulm-Füssen (Bavaria). At almost 1000 kilometers, the A 7 remains to be the longest in Germany.

This Soda Bridge is located along what was supposed to be the Reichsautobahn nr. 87.  This stretch of highway was constructed between 1938 and 1940, the same time as this bridge was built. This is located near Straubing in southeastern Bavaria and when it was built, it has a total span of 40 meters and a length of about 80 meters. Like most Autobahn-Bridges built during the Third Reich, the span was made of concrete, whereas the abutments and wingwalls were built using brick. Like with the rest of the stretch of Autobahn, it was never completed as the war halted the completion of the route and this bridge became expendable.  As a result, you see the bridge like it is in this film clip:

 

 

This was found by chance, which makes researching more fun to do.  🙂

After the war, talks of finishing the motorway were in motion until the 1960s when the plan was abandoned for good. Why?  Much of the stretch going towards the River Danube had an average grade of 5-6%, making it potentially dangerous for trucks to travel on the stretch.  Henceforth, much of this stretch was either abandoned or converted into local highway use- this bridge was one that belonged to the former. The motorway was finished but relocated 6-8 kilometers away from the original route and was renamed Motorway 3, which is being used today, connecting Deggendorf with Cologne via Würzburg and Frankfurt.  Another Motorway A 87 was in the planning but for the Stuttgart area. That plan was never realized.

Yet this still does not solve the mystery of how many other Soda Bridges that existed along the original Reichsautobahn 87, let alone how the route was followed exactly, and lastly, who was behind the design? This is where we open the page for discussion. Feel free to comment here or in the Chronicles’ facebook page or group page German History and Nostalgia.

 

bhc george floyd

 

Castlewood Bridge in a new home- On the Threshing Grounds

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Photo from City of Castlewood

BHC Mystery Bridge

Approximately two weeks ago, I did a write-up on the Castlewood Thacher Truss Bridge, which had once spanned the Big Sioux River just outside Castlewood in Hamlin County, South Dakota. The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993 but not before it was bypassed by a low-water crossing. On GoogleMaps, one can only see the lally columns and the wing-walls but no truss structure. My question was “Where’s the Bridge?”

Many people thought the bridge was long gone, however…….

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The bridge is still alive and well- but in a new home! 🙂 ❤

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Jennifer Heath made a stop at the Threshing Grounds located outside Twin Brooks in Grant County and found the Thacher structure in use. Thanks to Don Morrison, who added the coordinates in my article from 20 February, she took a brief stop at the bridge a couple days ago to cofirm the bridge’s existence.

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According to the information posted on the sign, the bridge was re-erected at the site in 1998, which meant that it had been taken off its original piers at Castlewood prior to 1997 and moved to this site. The bridge still serves traffic and is one of key features of the Twin Brooks Threshing Show Grounds. Featuring historic buildings (relocated here), farm exhibitions and a flea market, the Grounds hosts the annual threshing show in August, featuring antique tractor pulls and other forms of entertainment. It’s unclear how long they’ve been hosting the event or what the motive behind purchasing this historic bridge was. However it is clear that this bridge is the second of three hybrid Thacher structures that was relocated to a historic town setting to be used for exhibits and entertainment. The Yellow Bank Church Bridge in Laq Qui Parle County, Minnesota made its home at the Little Log House Pioneer Village, south of Hastings in Dakota County, Minnesota, when it was relocated there in 1989 and serves as a replica of the city’s beloved Spiral Bridge. The Castlewood Bridge sits over the creek and on concrete shows; its decking appears to be concrete, which makes carrying tractors and trucks a possibility.

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While more information on the creation of the Grounds and the relocation of the bridge is needed (and will require a few e-mails and phone calls to find out -stay tuned), the bottom line is that the Castlewood Bridge has been found and is still serving traffic- 22 years after its relocation from its Big Sioux crossing. And it appears that with as much care as it has been taken, this bridge will remain a key ornament for the Grounds for many years and generations to come. For Twin Brooks, as well as Grant County and the state of South Dakota, it is a win-win situation, when someone preserves a key piece of history and uses it for a tourist attraction. 🙂

Which makes me wonder whether the Ellsworth Ranch Bridge in Emmet County, Iowa will be the next candidate to make such a move….. And if so, where to? 😉

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Many thanks to Jennifer Heath for the wonderful photos of the bridge and to Don Morrison for providing the coordinates. You can find the new bridge via bridgehunter.com here.

BHC 10 years