TOURNAIS, BELGIUM- This article pays a tribute to the Pont de Trous, a bridge spanning the River Scheldt in the City of Tournai in Belgium. At the time of this posting, this bridge is all but a memory as it was pushed aside in the name of progress. The project to demolish the bridge started on August 9th as part of the project to deepen and widen the River Scheldt to allow ships to sail through France to join the Seine, which flows into the Atlantic. The bridge was built in 1290 to replace a wooden crossing and was the last of the military crossings of its kind in the world. However, as the city claimed the bridge is being rebuilt with the stones being saved for reuse, this was the scene of this “reconstruction project:”
A news report shows the details of this senseless destruction:
A new bridge mimicking the original historic character of the crossing is expected to be in place by the end of 2020. However, despite its McDonald’s arches that are being proposed, one has to ask if this was really necessary, given the fact that the bridge was part of Tournai’s old town. Featuring historic buildings, inside the fort and a cathedral, all from the same era as the bridge, the old town of Tournai has been a UNSESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. With the proposed rebuilding of the bridge, one has to ask himself if this was really a necessity. Do we need larger ships to pass through or if it makes sense to transport by land, which has enough highways and railways taking goods and persons to ports in the areas mentioned? Is it really necessary to have the bigger is better mentality or is less really more? And lastly, how much do we care about history in general?
With this demolition of one of the most historic bridges in the world, I’m reminded of a comment one of my students mentioned about history in class: “History is history. We need to worry about the future.” Yet history is important to understand the present and change it for our future and that of the next generation. Without history we will never know how we got to where we are now and what is expected to come. We will never know how we progressed with our infrastructure and how it contributed to forming a nation, partnerships with other nations and society that we have today. It’s like the environment we fighting to save: We’ll never know until there’s nothing left…….
……but a memory. If we even remember this bridge a generation later, or if all that is left in memory are Ronald’s Golden Arches…….
Author’s note: The Pic of the Week and the Weekly Newsflyer will trade places from now on due to time constraints. That means the Pic of the Week will be held Mondays, instead of Fridays and Newsflyer vice versa.
This week’s Pic of the Week is also a candidate for Best Kept Secret in the category Individual Bridges International. With this bridge located in the Thuringian part of the Vogtland region (not far from the borders of Saxony and Bavaria), it is one of the most forgotten because of other, more famous bridges in the region, such as the Göltzschtal Viaduct, Elstertal Viaduct near Plauen, or the most recent posting of the Border Viaduct near Hof, a mystery bridge located in a mysterious region.
Yet looking at the bridge more closely, one will find some facts right in front of you that has a connection with another region that is closer to home than you think. This bridge alone is located over the River Saale in the village of Harra, which is five kilometers northwest of Bad Lobenstein and 10 km north of the Thuringian-Bavarian border, where the border between West and East Germany once stood. The bridge itself is a combination Parker pony truss and a polygonal Whipple through truss. Its connections are both welded and pin-connected- the former being found in the lower chords; the latter with the truss paneling. Its portal bracing is bedstead with art-greco design.
The bridge was originally built in 1898 in Großheringen, spanning the same river but providing a connection to Bad Kösen. Großheringen is between Naumburg and Jena, the latter is the birthplace of the optics industry and was where I spent the first eight years after arriving as an exchange student in 1999. The bridge was then relocated to its current spot in Harra in 1951, to replace a bridge destroyed in World War II that was built in 1932. It was later rehabilitated in 2000, which included new paint for the trusses and a new decking. It still provides access to the campgrounds to this day. As for the crossing at Großheringen, a through arch bridge was built in 1951 and served traffic until 2011, when another arch bridge replaced that span.
The bridge’s setting makes photographing it a paradise, as it fits nicely into the landscape featuring the steep bluffs and forest-covered hills of the Saale and the landscape of the small village of 700 inhabitants. Its quiet setting makes for a day of advantures on and at the bridge itself. One can enjoy a meal at the restaurant nearby, boat along the river or even hike the hills. In either case, the Harra Bridge is a treat for anyone with an interest….
……even as a photographer, who has an album with more bridge pics which you can click here to view. 🙂
On March 26th, a major storm washed away a key highway bridge spanning the Waiho River at Franz Josef. The storm killed one person and caused millions of dollars in damage. A recap on the spectacular wipe out of the bridge:
While most crossings wiped out need 1-3 years of planning and reconstruction, this bridge rebuild was done thanks to planning and efforts by many key agencies, including the New Zealand army and its bridge planners. How this was done can be seen in the film below:
For a 300 meter long structure, it’s a feat that is for the books for the region, New Zealand and in the world of bridge engineering, one that will rake up some awards in the long term. 🙂
This November marks Historic Bridge Month, where we have a look at the achievements in restoring and saving historic bridges from modernization, while at the same time make historic bridges part of a tourist attraction, serving as a stop to learn about them. In light of the recent passing of Eric Delony on 23 October (an obituary can be found here), the Chronicles is honoring him and his achievements as well as this occasion with a collage of bridge photos the author took and collected over the years. They will be presented once a week between now and the time Ammann Awards voting starts in mid-December.
Our first collage looks at one of my favorite bridges in the US, the Smithfield Street Bridge in Pittsburgh. The bridge was a product of Gustav Lindenthal, having been built in 1883. It was expended and rehabilitated in 1911. It has been listed on the National Register since 1974. A real treat for downtown, and one can see the bridge even from Mount Washington- making it a splendid blend with the city’s skyline.
REMINDER:Entries are still being taken for the 2018 Ammann Awards between now and 1 December, especially in the category of Best Bridge Photo. Let’s honor both occasions, shall we? We have a lot to be proud of in terms of historic bridges, our heritage and the People who have done the work to preserve them. Information on how to enter ishere.
Author’s update: Funeral Arrangements are being planned for historic bridge preservationist Eric Delony, who died on October 23rd. According to Information from Christopher Marston, it is being scheduled for January 2019. When and where has yet to be determined, but the Chronicles will inform you in due time as soon as everything is finalized.
Mr. Marston, who worked with Eric for many years, write a much-detailed version of the obituary, honoring him for his three decades-plus work in documenting and saving historic bridges, much more than what the Chronicles covered when having honored him with the Ammann Awards for Lifetime Achievement. This was done in 2016. With his permission, the detail of his life and work are written below. More Information on him and the stories behind his historic bridge preservation will follow. For now, enjoy reading about Mr. Delony from Christopher’s point of view:
Eric N. DeLony, who served as Chief of the National Park Service’s Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) from 1987 to 2003, died on October 23, 2018, after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. Over his career, Eric became known as a pioneer in historic bridge documentation and preservation and one of the nation’s leading experts in historic bridges. In recognition of his achievements, Eric was the recipient of the 2000 General Tools Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Society for Industrial Archeology.
Early Years at HAER
After graduating from the Ohio State University in 1968, Eric was first hired as a summer architect on the New England Textile Mills Survey, a joint project of the Smithsonian (under the leadership of Robert Vogel) and the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). The following year he became a member of the Mohawk-Hudson Area Survey, HAER’s very first field team. This ambitious project documented several industrial sites and bridges in the Albany area, and team members were challenged to devise new recording techniques for manufacturing and engineering structures. His detailed drawing of the Troy Gasholder remains the logo of the Society for Industrial Archeology to this day. Once he completed his Master’s in Historic Preservation at Columbia University under James Marston Fitch (where he first met his lifelong friend and colleague, preservation educator Chester Liebs), Eric was hired as HAER’s first full-time employee in 1971. HAER began recording a variety of bridges and other industrial structure types as part of state inventories and themed surveys. These included surveys of the Baltimore & Ohio and Erie railroads, Paterson and Lowell mill towns, and later mining, steel, power, and maritime-related sites, among others. Eric also helped initiate “SWAT teams” to record endangered structures prior to demolition. By 1987, Eric DeLony had been promoted to Chief of HAER.
HAER Historic Bridge Program
In collaboration with Emory Kemp of West Virginia University, Eric began developing the HAER Historic Bridge Program in 1973, which would become the first comprehensive national program to identify and protect historic bridges. Through Eric’s efforts, HAER developed partnerships with the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP), the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), and state historic preservation offices (SHPOs). The first goal of the program was to promote comprehensive historic bridge inventories in each state. When inventories were required by law in 1987, Eric’s initiative became a catalyst in making highway bridges the first class of historic structures to be nationally evaluated.
After the preliminary state bridge inventories were completed, HAER partnered with state departments of transportation (DOTs) to undertake HAER summer documentation projects that would more intensively document representative bridges, with the first taking place in Ohio in 1986. Using funding from a variety of partners like the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOTs, and historic groups, HAER recording teams collaborated with national and local experts to produce large-format photographs, histories, and drawings of hundreds of historic bridges in Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington, from 1987-2001. Eric also worked with engineering professors such as Dario Gasparini at Case Western, Stephen Buonopane at Bucknell, and Ben Schafer at Johns Hopkins to hire students to compile detailed engineering analyses of a variety of historic bridge types, going beyond traditional architectural history reports. In appreciation of Eric’s initiatives, the White House and ACHP presented HAER’s Historic Bridge Program with a National Historic Preservation Award in 1992.
In addition to the nation’s highway bridges, the historic roads and bridges in the National Park system were also deteriorating from neglect and overuse. HAER developed a pilot project in the National Capital Region of the National Park Service (NPS) in 1988 to survey the historic and significant transportation-related structures and designed landscapes at various NPS units. With support from FHWA and NPS, this program expanded in 1989 and continued until 2002 to document the roads and bridges of large western national parks, national battlefields, and eastern parkways. HAER also partnered with New York and Connecticut to record several historic local parkways. The drawings of these projects are compiled in America’s National Park Roads and Parkways: Drawings from the Historic American Engineering Record (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 2004).
Eric DeLony was also influential in HAER’s involvement with a third major initiative involving FHWA and historic bridges. Realizing that covered bridges were a beloved but endangered resource, Vermont Senator James Jeffords proposed legislation to save them. The resulting National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation (NHCBP) Program was established by FHWA in 1998 as part of the TEA-21 transportation bill. HAER received research funding beginning in 2002 to document the nation’s most significant covered bridges, as well as developing other educational initiatives including engineering studies, a traveling exhibition, national conferences, and National Historic Landmark nominations. With the benefit of continued FHWA support, HAER Project Leader Christopher Marston has continued Eric’s vision and is in the process of finalizing several research projects. These include the 2015 publication Covered Bridges and the Birth of American Engineering, co-edited with Justine Christianson, and dedicated to Eric DeLony. Rehabilitation Guidelines for Historic Covered Bridges will be published later in 2018.
Eric was a longtime member of the Society for Industrial Archeology (SIA) and developed the SIA Historic Bridge Symposium beginning in the early 1980s to allow experts to share research and preservation experiences. Eric attended his last one in 2011; the 25th was held in 2016 in cooperation with the Historic Bridge Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri. He was also an active participant with the Transportation Research Board (TRB)’s Committee on Historic Preservation and Archaeology in Transportation (ADC50) beginning in the 1990s, which was comprised of professionals from state DOTs, SHPOs, and consultants involved in preservation issues on federally funded transportation projects. Research and best practices on preserving and maintaining historic bridges was always a major focus of the committee. As a subcontractor to Parsons Brinckerhoff, Eric DeLony co-authored A Context for Common Historic Bridge Types with Robert Jackson, for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCPRP Project 25-25, Task 15) in 2005.
Not satisfied to just record historic bridges, Eric was also determined to see as many bridges as possible saved and preserved. Some of the projects that Eric championed included: the 1828 Blaine S-Bridge and the 1868 Zoarville Station Bridge in Ohio; the 1869 Henszey’s Bridge in Pennsylvania; and the 1858 Aldrich Change Bridge in New York. As Ohio DOT’s Tom Barrett reflected, “Through Eric’s encouragement, I feel that the historic bridge inventory in Ohio has stabilized and improved in many ways. We strive to explore all plausible alternatives to demolition and find ways to educate everyone on proper rehabilitation and design solutions. Hard-fought successes here and nationwide in bridge preservation will always be a part of Eric’s legacy.”
Eric’s advocacy extended beyond bridges to roads as well. As Preserving the Historic Road conference founder Paul Daniel Marriott stated, “Eric appreciated that roads and bridges were intertwined. He was one of the first people to acknowledge that historic research and advocacy [were needed] for historic roads. Eric DeLony was instrumental in establishing the historic roads movement.”
Eric studied at Ironbridge with Sir Neil Cossons in 1971-72 as a Fulbright Scholar, and this experience led him to encourage collaboration between HAER and industrial archeologists and preservationists in Europe and other countries. Eric consistently hired International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) foreign exchange students for his summer field teams beginning in 1984.
He represented the United States at several meetings of the International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage (TICCIH). He also worked with several prominent European scholars, such as Barrie Trinder at Ironbridge and Louis Bergeron at Le Creusot, on various publications, exhibitions, and conferences. Another issue that Eric championed has finally shown dividends; after several decades, the U.S. delegation finally nominated the Brooklyn Bridge as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017.
After retiring to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2003, Eric became a bridge preservation consultant. Maintaining “The Pontists” email list, he advocated for various bridge preservation causes and initiatives, and continued to write and teach.
An avid collector of rare books, technical reports, and images of historic bridges, Eric donated his collection to two prestigious archives. The “Eric DeLony Collection of the History of Bridges and Bridge Construction” was established in 2010 at The Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. In 2013, the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Missouri received the “Eric N. DeLony Engineering & Bridge Collection.”
After health issues removed him from public life, Eric continued to receive various honors acknowledging his legacy. Beginning in 2014, David Wright of the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges established the Eric DeLony Scholarship, an annual prize awarded to a college student interested in historic preservation. Eric was also a recipient of the 2016 Othmar H. Amman Award for Lifetime Achievement from The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.
Eric DeLony was truly a pioneer in the world of historic bridge documentation, preservation, and advocacy. The 3,000+ bridges in the HAER Collection at the Library of Congress, and hundreds of examples of preserved historic bridges across the country are all a testament to his lifelong determination and passion for saving historic bridges.
2018 has presented itself with many surprises in all aspects. In particular with bridgehunting and bridge photography, where readers, followers and enthusiasts have been awed by many historic bridges abandoned for many years until discovered most recently, communities where historic bridges that are little mentioned are getting recognition, and historic bridges that are the spotlight for photographers and preservationists who worked successfully to breathe new life into them.
And with that, the 2018 Othmar H. Ammann is now open to business. Between now and December 3rd, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is now accepting entries of (historic) bridges and people who have worked to save them for reuse. Named after the Swiss bridge engineer who left his mark in bridge building in New York and the surrounding area, the Award is given out, both on the national and international levels in te following categories:
Best Bridge Photo
Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge
Lifetime Achievement (including post mortem)
Tour Guide- Communities, Counties, Districts with a high number of historic and fancy modern bridges
Best Kept Secret- Individual Bridge
Mystery Bridge and
Bridge of the Year.
More details can be found here. You can also find the results of the previous winners of the awards so that you have an idea which bridges, photos, etc. deserve to be entered.
Do you have a bridge, set of bridges, bridge photo(s) or even person(s) who has devoted time and effort to historic bridges that deserve recognition on the national and international levels? Send them here via form or e-mail:
You have until December 3rd to submit your entries. For bridge photos, please submit them using JPEG and keep it under 1MB, if possible. If you have any questions, please contact Jason Smith using the abovementioned form or e-mail address. Voting will proceed afterwards, ending on 8th January, 2019, with the winners being announced on the 12th. We will use the same scheme as before with polldaddy yet we may experiment with other options when we vote. More will come when the entries end and the voting begins. The contest is open globally. Anyone can enter. 🙂 If you have a bridge worth mentioning or a photo worth showing, let’s see it! 🙂