This edition on Easter Sunday is the second of a two-part Easter weekend special. Again, this one’s for James Baughn.
Our 148th Pic of the Week takes us to Fayette County in Iowa. Speaking from my personal visit in 2011 and again in 2013, if there is a county that has at least a dozen truss bridges that are still standing, it’s this county in northeastern Iowa. 18 truss bridges make up the landscape, eight of which are nationally recognized as historic, including the Dietzenbach Bottom (a.k.a. Mill Race), West Auburn, Major Road, Eldorado, Fox Road, Albany, Lima, and this bridge: the Quinn Creek Kingpost Truss Bridge.
Before 2013, no one knew whether this bridge still existed. It had been mentioned in historic bridge surveys, including one conducted by the late James Hippen in the 1970s. Many thought this bridge no longer existed. Yet it was discovered during the 2013 Historic Bridge Weekend in Iowa, and it was both James Baughn and another bridge lover, Dave King, who found this bridge, located just off 300th Street, between Granite Road and Fortune Road. Although replaced by culverts, this unique crossing still stands to this day as an example of early American engineering and one that is considered, in my mind, a national monument, ranking it to the likes of the Bollmann Truss Bridge in Savage, Maryland, the Melan Arch Bridge in Rock Rapids, Iowa and even the suspension bridges of New York City, just to name a few.
This bridge was built in 1885 and features a kingpost through truss, the connectons are pinned. The portals are X-frame supported by curved heels that are subdivided. The end posts are V-laced. The structure is 60 feet long. Records indicate that Horace E. Horton had built the bridge, for he was the primary bridge builder during that time. According to HABS/HAER/HALS records, Horton, whose bridge building company was based in Rochester, Minnesota, had built all but a couple truss bridges in Fayette County during his time as contractor in the last two decades of the 19th Century. His atypical bridge designs made him a household name and he was responsible for numerous structures in six states, including Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Counting this structure, there are five bridges left in the country that have Horton’s name on it, including another bridge in Fayette County, the West Auburn Bridge.
Since the discovery of the truss bridge in 2013, the Quinn Creek Bridge has become a popular bridge and one in the spotlight for efforts are being made to preserve it in its original condition. Given the fact that it is located in a natural area, it is likely that the bridge will remain as is, unless there is interest in relocating it to a park. But no interest has come about at the time of this post. Unique about this bridge is that it has maintained its original coat of paint, which makes it very likely it will be around for a very long time. Nevertheless, the discovery of the bridge, combined with the photos, which James took in 2013, has concluded that the bridge exists. It’s just a question of listing it onto the National Register of Historic Places, where the chances of it joining the ranks of the bridge greats is more than very likely. It’s a matter of when…… 🙂
This week’s Pic of the Week features a two-pic special in observance of the Easter holiday weekend. The first part will be showcased today on Easter Saturday, the second part on Easter Sunday- all in honor of the bridgehunter webmaster himself, James Baughn.
Today’s Pic takes us to Chester, Illinois and this bridge, the Gage Junction Bridge. This pic was taken by Mr. Baughn in 2013 at the time where Spring is beginning to take its course with the blossoming of trees and the melting of the snow. When this pic was taken, the river levels were higher because of the run-off caused by the melting snow. Nevertheless, this shot deserves recognition for its beauty as the greening process takes its course.
The Gage Junction Bridge is one of the newer versions of the truss bridge. The bridge features a polygonal Warren through truss span supported by multiple plate girder spans. The portals are Washington-style (WA) and the connections are riveted. The total length is 1380 feet; the truss span is 240 feet. The bridge is located over the Kaskaskia River just above the Lock and Dam northwest of Chester, in Randolph County, Illinois. It was built in 1976 replacing a swing bridge that had been built in 1903 but was destroyed in a train wreck in 1975. Union Pacific continues to operate the line and this bridge to this day.
The Gage Junction Bridge represents an example of truss bridges that were still being used during the 1970s. Even though truss bridges became rare to build because of other bridge designs that were more commonly used, such as beams and girders. However, in the past decade, there has been an increase in the number of truss bridges being built. Even though nine out of ten newer truss bridges have been built for railway traffic, we have seen new truss bridges that have been built either for pedestrian use, like the Sutliff Bridge in Johnson County, or for roadway use, like the Motor Mill Bridge in Clayton County– both located in Iowa. We’re not talking about the mail-order-truss structures that are welded together at a manufcaturing company and installed on the spot. We’re talking about truss bridges that are put together and supported by riveted connections and feature genuine portal and strut bracings, V-laced vertical beams and upper and lower chords. And they are built together onsite and over the river. 🙂
This leads me to some questions for you to ponder:
How historically valuable are these modern truss bridges compared to the ones built between 1870 and 1940, including those made of iron and also those with special (ornamental) features?
Will truss bridges make a comeback and become another option for bridge building? We’re seeing many examples of such bridges dating back to the 1980s and later in places like Indiana and Ohio. But what about the other states?
What truss designs are used to construct modern truss bridges and which ones would you like to see built?
And lastly, what’s a typical truss bridge to you and in your opinion, will these modern truss bridges meet your own expectations?
Feel free to comment here or in the Chronicles’ facebook pages. We love to hear from you. 🙂
After having read the guest posts that were written about the bridges of Youngstown with a profile of three of the bridges, this last installment looks at the tour guide of the bridges that a person should see while visiting Youngstown. With a population of 65,300 inhabitants, Youngstown was once a main port for the production and transportation of steel until the great collapse in the 1970s and 80s which resulted in the steel mills being shut down, and with that, the abandonment of much of the city’s infrastructure, including railroads, bridges and highways. The city is currently rebuilding, piece by piece, by reinventing itself and focusing on its history, entertainment and local culture, looking back at what the city is famous for and looking ahead as it becomes a tourist magnet and a day-trip stopping port for tourists. What is unknown is that Warner Brothers Studios was founded by the brothers themselves- Harry, Jack, Sam and Albert, who were born and raised in Youngstown. At least 10 steel and bridge manufacturers had once dominated Youngstown landscape, including the Youngstown Bridge Company, which built the Mill Park Suspension Bridge, also known by locals as the Cinderella Bridge. And even though the steel and railroad industries have dimminished, Youngstown is the center point between Chicago and New York City as well as between Lake Erie and Pittsburgh. And with that, the city will be that stopping point for visitors and commerce alike as it moves on from its 200+ years of steel and become a major entertainment attraction, and with it the historic bridges that are numerous in and around the city center and along the Mahoning River.
Hence the tour guide on the bridges in and around Youngstown. The guide is based on my visit in 2010, driving to Minnesota from the Historic Bridge Conference in Pittsburgh, yet not all of the bridges I was able to visit. There are some examples of structures that are worth visiting that were courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society as well as the crew from History in Your Own Backyard. They have been included as well. So without further ado, here’s a look at what you will see for bridges while visiting Youngstown:
Mill Creek Park Suspension Bridge
The Mill Creek Park Bridge is the most ornamental of Youngstown’s bridges and represents a fine example of a historic bridge that was built locally. The suspension bridge was built in 1895 by the Youngstown Bridge Company and features an eyebar suspension design, whose center span is laced with V-laced trusses supporting the cable. The entire structure, towers, railings and even the outriggers that support the towers are laced with steel trusses. The towers have finials and ornamental features on the lattice truss that forms the steel towers. The bridge is 90 feet long with the center span being 42 feet. It was rehabilitated in 2007. Currently open to traffic crossing Mill Creek at W. Valley Dr., the bridge is a perfect stop for a photo-op for parking is available at both ends of the bridge. With its natural backdrop consisting of trees and other vegetation, one can get many views of the bridge, regardless of which time of season, and still come away satisfied with the visit. If you visit Youngstown, you have to visit this bridge and spend a lot of time there. As there are picnic tables nearby, it makes for perfect picnic outing. Locals call this bridge the Cinderella Bridge because it’s the jewel that is hidden within a mixture of nature and rusted steel.
Spring Common Overpass
Featuring a closed-spandrel arch bridge spanning Mahoning Avenue, the Spring Common Overpass is part of the quartet of viaducts and crossings that belong to the Lake Erie and Eastern Railroad. They also include the Youngstown Interchange Viaduct, the Division Street and Mahoning River Viaduct (DSMV), and the Mahoning and NSR Junction Viaduct. Built in 1875, the line connected Youngstown with Pittsburgh and was the main transportation line during the days of steel mills. The arch bridge, like the other bridges, dated back to the turn into the 20th Century. The line was discontinued by 1992 as the steel mills in both Pittsburgh and Youngstown were shut down. Since then, the bridges have been sitting idle, their futures unknown. Sections of the DSMV near the West Avenue Bridge have already been removed. The arch bridge at Spring Common reflects its abandonment vegetation growing out of it and salt and calcium leaking out of the spandrels, which are visible from a far distance as seen in this pic.
Canfield Arch Bridge
There are several arch bridges that span Mill Creek in Youngstown. The Canfield Arch Bridge, which is located at Lanterman’s Mill Historic Complex, is the tallest and the longest of the arch bridges in this area. The bridge features a open spandrel arch bridge that crosses Mill Creek and has a span of 163 feet. The total length is 231 feet counting the approach spans. The structure was built in 1920 by N.R. Porterfield Inc. and carries US Hwy. 62 and Ohio Hwy. 625, which leads directly into the business district. The bridge was last rehabbed in 1990. Access to the bridge was difficult for you need to park at the Lanterman’s Mill lot approximately 700 feet away before you can walk to the bridge. Given its location in a deep valley filled with trees, vegetation, photographing the bridge was difficult during the visit. While one could experiment with a mirror-reflex digital camera with zoom-in lens, the best time to get a crystal-clear picture would be in the winter time, as the leaves are gone and there is enough white snow that would make for great pictures. Just a little word of advice from this bridge photographer. 😉
Spanning Marshall Street and Oak Hill Avenue, the Marshall Overpass is one of the oldest and most active of railroad bridges in Youngstown. The bridge was once part of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which operated from 1830 until ist dissolution in 1940. The structure dates back to the time between 1910 and 1920, for the spans feature two steel pony girder bridges, anchored by art deco arch piers and abutments. The bridge is one of the busiest of railroad crossings for it serves three different rail lines, including the passenger line Amtrak, which connects Chicago with Washington, DC via Pittsburgh. Ironically, the nearest Amtrak station is in Alliance, 27 miles southwest of Youngstown.
Lowellville Veterans Memorial Bridge
The Lowellville Bridge is the last crossing over the Mahoning River before reaching Pennsylvania. It is also one of the last bridges that features a portal bracing that is supported by heel bracings. It is also one of a handful of arch bridges that is skewed. The bridge is 297 feet long; the main span is 240. The structure was built in 1966 and features a steel through arch with lattice portal and strut bracings. The bridge was built to honor the local veterans who fought in the two World Wars and the Korean War.
Spring Common Bridge
Spanning the Mahoning River at Fifth Avenue at the junction with Federal Street, the Spring Commons Bridge is the third crossing at this location, having been built in 1949 replacing a Warren deck truss bridge that had been built in 1911 by the Fort Pitt Bridge Works in Pittsburgh and a Warren through truss bridge that had been built by the Youngstown Bridge Company in 1897. Unless the two previous spans, this bridge, which features a double-barrel through arch bridge made of steel, has outlived the two structures combined, having been in service for more than 70 years. The locals pen the structure the Mr. Peanut Bridge because of its dark brown color, yet it has nothing to do with Mr. Peanut from the Planters Peanut products. That company is located in Wilks-Barre, Pennsylvania.
While this bridge may be hard to find while passing through Youngstown, the White Bridge is one historic bridge that a person must see, let alone spend some time there. The bowstring arch bridge is one of six of ist kind left in the country that was designed by William Rezner. Built in 1877 by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company in Canton and the Ohio Bridge Company in Cleveland, the bridge is the oldest structure left in the city. The 126-foot long bridge crosses Yellow Creek and is located between the Methodist-Baptist Church and the Riverside Cemetary in the suburb of Poland, located east of I-680 southwest of Youngstown’s City Center. The bridge was rehabilitated in 2020 and is now open to pedestrians and cyclists. A video on the bridge’s history can be found below:
Most Endangered Structure
Fish Creek Bridge
If there is an abandoned structure that definitely deserves a second chance in life as a recreational crossing is this crossing at Fish Creek. This bridge is hard to find as it crosses Fish Creek on an abandoned township road, a half mile north of Lexington Road (County Rd. 24) east of Youngstown, yet it is deep in the forest. The decking is covered with vegetation and the brick abutments are covered in green moss. One will need to look more closely in order to find the Howe truss railings. The construction of the bridge dates back to 1880. The Howe truss features a crossing of a double diagonal beam with a single beam, the rhombus is cut in half by a vertical beam. As the diagonal and vertical beams are round, they are more likely to have been built using iron instead of steel. It is unknown when the bridge was abandoned but judging by the vegetation and the rotting wood, the bridge has been out of service for at least 30-40 years. Yet the historic value warrants a much-needed renovation of the trusses and a relocation to a park to be used as a bike/pedestrian crossing. Whether or not this will happen depends on the interest, let alone which park or owner is willing to take the structure.
West Avenue Bridge
The West Avenue Bridge is perhaps one of the most controversials of abandoned bridges in the city, let alone the region. This has to do with the question of ownership over the bridge as well as the right of way- permission to even cross it. The bridge spans the Mahoning River at West Avenue; sandwiched by two railroad lines, one on each side of the river. The Baltimore through truss span, with a measurement of 287 feet, was built in 1929, but has been closed to all traffic since 1997. The bridge is elgible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
Access to the bridge is extremely difficult, speaking from personal experience. On my visit in 2010, I wanted to access the bridge from the north bank only to be intercepted by security personnel who summoned me off the property with post haste. The claim was that the steet and the nearby building were private property and no trespassing was allowed, even though I never found the sign. On the south bank near the remnants of the viaduct is the access difficult but as you can see in a video presented by History in Your Own Backyard (HYB), it’s doable. Since its closure there has been a debate as to who owns the street and the crossing as one side has deferred responsibility and ownership to the other and vice versa. As long as that is not clarified, the bridge will remain as is, yet concerns about the potential of it being a safety hazard will grow over time, threatening the structure with its removal. Being in an obscure location, the only solution to prolong its life and reuse it again would be to relocate it elsewhere. Yet there is not enough money nor interest in this venture, especially at the present time.
Struthers Union Truss Bridge
Spanning the Mahoning River at Union Street, this three-span through truss bridge was once a railroad bridge before it was converted to vehicle use. While I never visited the bridge, a documentary from HYB will show you its history and photos.
Mahoning River Skewed Railroad Bridge
This bridge is almost completely off the radar for it never appears on any of the bridge websites in the US. Yet this massive two-span skewed through truss bridge spans the Mahoning River near the suburb of Campbell. The bridge used to be a railroad crossing before it was abandoned. Now it is fenced off. Some more about this bridge can be found through this HYB documentary.
This sums up the bridge tour of Youngstown. There are a lot of bridges to see while spending a day there, one of the bright sides of the city that had seen its better days. While Youngstown may not be able to fully recover from the collapse of the steel industry oft he 1970s and 80s, the city has some bright sides which, if there is a lot of time and effort put together, it can reinvent itself and become a city devoted to ist history and heritage. The bridges profiled here represent the heritage which we can learn a lot from and if restored to their original glory, they will be profitable for biking, recreation and tourism. As we can see with the Mill Creek Park Suspension Bridge, if that bridge can be called Cinderella, why not nickname Youngstown a Cinderella City? Something for city council members and business leaders to consider.
A complete guide on Youngstown’s bridges can be found here, including those that no longer exist. You can read up more on Youngstown’s history and legacy through a column where a few oft he city’s bridges came from by clicking here.
Our next Pic of the Week tribute to James Baughn takes us out of Missouri and to neighboring Iowa. Located southeast of Mount Pleasant, the county seat of Henry County in the southeastern corner of the state is the Oakland Mills Truss Bridge. Spanning the Skunk River west of Franklin Avenue, the bridge was built in 1876 by the Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Company which was based in Leavenworth, Kansas. It’s one of a handful of combination spans left in the State of Iowa, featuring (from north to south) a Pratt half-hip, a wooden trestle, two Pratt through trusses and a four-panel Pratt pony. Sources indicated the trestle may have replaced a third Pratt through truss span but it hasn’t been confirmed in the bridge records. The entire truss system features pinned connections while the southern through truss span has ornamental portal bracings. The bridge was converted into a park in the 1970s and has been on the National Register of Historic Places for almost a half century.
The Missouri Valley was one of a few companies that lasted well into the modern era, having been formed in 1874. It was dissolved in 1975 after a fire destroyed the shop at its original home in Leavenworth. It was reorganized shortly afterwards but it left the bridge building business altogether. The Kansas State Historical Society did an extensive write-up on the company’s history, which you can view here. In the 101 years of business, the company constructed a wide variety of bridges, ranging from single and multiple span truss bridges to cantilever spans. It even constructed a concrete pony truss in New Mexico in 1915, one of two of its kind left in the US. 80% of all bridges built by Missouri Valley were towards the south central part of the country, concentrating on Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas. Only two bridges in Iowa were reportedly built by this company, yet the Oakland Mills is the only one left in the state that’s still standing.
And it is also one of the most popular bridges to visit among bridge lovers, tourists and historians as one can make a picnic on the bridge and devote time to spending it on the bridge. Even at night, one is greeted with Christmas lighting as was my case when I visited the bridge in 2011 in the evening, on the eve of the Historic Bridge Weekend in St. Louis. But James’ pic was taken at the time of the Historic Bridge Weekend in Iowa- two years later! In my opinion, the daytime shot was better than all the shots I took because of the lighting.
Still, who’s competing? 🙂 We both agree: The bridge is worth stopping for a visit, no matter for what purpose. And if properly and regularly maintained, the bridge will be around for generations to come. ❤ 🙂
Now, the bridge is staying put, but will be the centerpiece, crossing over the Blue Earth River connecting two of Mankato’s largest parks.
The 148-year-old historic iron structure will span the Blue Earth River between two of the city’s largest parks, providing a pedestrian and bike crossing that also will fill a gap in the local trail system, and create a vital link between the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail on Mankato’s northeast side and Minneopa State Park to the southwest. “From an engineering perspective, it’s an exciting project, but it’s also one that’s great for our community and the region on whole,” said Assistant City Engineer Michael McCarty in an interview with the Mankato Free Press. He was in charge of putting together the winning application in an eight-way competition for the one-of-a-kind bridge. Four finalists had submitted full applications to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) for the structure. Aside from Mankato, the other three finalists came from Watonwan County, Fergus Falls and Sherburne County. “It was a close race. The applications were all really good,” said historian Katie Haun Schuring of MnDOT’s Cultural Resources Unit, one of the members of the steering committee of engineers and historians that ultimately decided Mankato’s plan was the best. “… All of the locations would have been good. I think Mankato’s just rose to the top after a lot of great discussion.”
The decision to keep the Kern Bridge home made a lot of sense as the last surviving bridge of its kind in Minnesota is also one of the Blue Earth County’s “Seven historical wonders” when it comes to architecture that had shaped the county in the past 150 years. Furthermore, the county is diverse in the number of different types of bridges that still exist and can be seen today. They include the Dodd Ford Bridge and, the Maple River Railroad Truss Bridge both near Amboy, as well as a Marsh arch bridge and the Red Jacket Trestle. Another truss bridge, the Hungry Hollow Bridge is sitting in storage and awaiting reuse elsewhere. When people think of Blue Earth County and bridges, the Kern Bridge would definitely go on top as it was the structure that spearheaded efforts by other engineers to leave their marks over rivers and ravines while expanding the network of roads and railroads that connected Mankato with Minneapolis and other points to the north and east.
Along with the wrought-iron bridge, now disassembled and stored in shipping containers, Mankato will be receiving federal funding that will cover 80% of the $1.8 million cost of reassembling it. According to the Free Press, numerous regulatory hurdles will need to be cleared because of the historic nature of the bridge, the need to build piers in the Blue Earth River, the existence of the flood-control system in the area, the design work on the bridge approaches, and the regulations related to federal funding. The Kern Bridge will be the main span over the river but will be flanked by steel gorders which will make the historic structure the centerpiece for the two parks. If all goes well, the bridge will be back in service by 2024 but as a pedestrian and bike crossing.
And while its 150th birthday celebration will most likely be in storage, the reestablishment and reopening of the longest bowstring arch bridge, combined with its reinstatement as a National Landmark, will serve as a much-deserved belated birthday gift in itself. Even the best things come if we wait long enough and work to make it happen. 🙂
The Kern Bridge finished second in the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards in the category Bridge of the Year because of the efforts to save the structure from its potential collapse.
The news came just as the Newsflyer podcast was released. To listen to the other news stories, click here.
One bridge that a person should visit while bridgehunting is this structure: The Orient Bridge. Located south of Harrisburg, this unique truss structure can be seen easily from Darby Creek Road where County Road 26 and Ohio State Highway 726 meet. The 225-foot long bridge features a Whipple through truss span with one of the most ornamental features of a portal bracing one will see while looking for bridges in Ohio. The portal bracing features from the top down, trapezoidal beam with four-leaf pedestals carved out, followed by a one-rhombus Lattice with ornaments at the Xes, and lastly a Town Lattice with heels. Builders plaque is on the top tier as well as finials that look like an ornamental bowl set with covers. Built in 1885 by the Cleveland Bridge and Iron Company, the Orient Bridge represents the most ornamental example of a bridge built by this bridge building company. Ironically, another bridge built by the same company, can be found in Paoli, Indiana. There, a female truck driver tried driving across the truss bridge causing it to collapse. Fortunately, the bridge has been restored to its original glory.
Here are some more bridge facts you will find in a video recently produced by History in Your Own Backyard.
Some other stories and facts you can find through bridgehunter.com and historicbridges.org. Just click on the highlighted words and you will be directed to the respective sites. Enjoy the info and hope you will take a chance to visit the bridge on your next road trip. 🙂
OKAY, OKLAHOMA- There are many historic structures that are endangered because of the need to have a concrete bridge to move traffic from point A to point B. There are some that have been sitting abandoned- many of which for too long and need the attention of the public to save it from its ultimate doom. When I think of the first endangered TRUSS candidate, the first bridge that comes to mind is this one: The Okay Truss Bridge. The bridge spans the old channel of the Verdigris River to the west of the town of Okay in Wagoner County. The structure was first discovered a decade ago and even though it has been abandoned for several decades, records have indicated that the structure was once part of the Jefferson Highway, the second oldest intercontinental highway that was built in 1915 and went from Winnepeg, Canada to New Orleans, cutting through parts of Missouri, Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma in the process.
There is not much information on the bridge’s history except to say that given the materials needed to build the structure, let alone the features, the bridge must have been built between 1910 and 1915, as part of the project to extend the Jefferson Highway through the small community. The bridge features two Parker through truss main spans. Each span features a 3-rhombus Howe Lattice portal bracings with angled heels, latticed struts and V-laced vertical beams. There is also a Pratt pony truss span on each outer end of the bridge. The connections are pinned and the material: steel for the trusses and wood for the decking.
The bridge was later bypassed by another structure to the south, as part of the project to rechannel the Verdigris and the truss span has been sitting abandoned and in disarray ever since. The easternmost pony truss span collapsed many years ago and it would take a lot of climbing just to get onto the bridge itself.
The gravest problem though lies with the through truss spans because of a failing pier. It is unknown when and how this occurred, but the center pier is crumbling, causing the end post of the western through truss span to slip.
While the damage may be minimal when looking at it from a bird’s eye view, when on the bridge, it is far worse than it seems, as the crumbling pier, combined with the sagging of the endpost, is causing the western truss span to lean and twist on its side.
The twisted metal brought a reminder of one bridge that fell victim to flooding in 1990, which was the Rockport Bridge in Arkansas. Prior to its downfall, flooding in 1987 caused severe damage to the center piers causing the center span to tilt and twist. This is exactly what is happening to the Okay Truss Bridge, and if nothing is done with the truss span, the next flooding may be the bridge’s last.
What can be done to save the truss bridge? The easiest is to take the truss spans off the piers and dismantle them for storage. As it happened with the Bridgeport Bridge in Michigan, the twisted western Parker truss span could be straightened through welding, whereas the trusses in general would need to be sandblasted and repainted. The piers would need to be replaced and because the easternmost pony span is considered a total loss, a replacement span could take its place if one reerects the restored truss span and converts the area on the east end and the island between the old and new channels of the Verdigris into a park area. As this bridge is part of the original Jefferson Highway, research is needed on the structure’s history to nominate it to the National Register.
Oklahoma has seen a big drop in the number of truss bridges in the last two decades, yet efforts are being taken to save what is left of the bridges. There is little doubt that the Okay Truss Bridge can be saved if action is taken to salvage the trusses and rebuild the entire structure, while erecting a park to honor its history. It takes the will of not only the locals but also members of the Jefferson Highway Association to make it happen. Yet time is running out and we’re fighting windmills regarding even saving the truss structure before the next floodwaters. If there is a tiny sense of hope, removing and storing the trusses should be top priority. Afterwards, time and finances could be allotted to restore and rebuild the bridge to its former glory.
Author’s Note:A big thanks to Mark W. Brown for allowing me to use his pictures for this article.
And now, before we announce the winners of the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards, I have a few favorites that I hand-picked that deserve international recognition. 2020 was a year like no other. Apart from head-scratcher stories of bridges being torn down, we had an innummeral number of natural disasters that were impossible to follow, especially when it came to bridge casualties. We had some bonehead stories of people downing bridges with their weight that was 10 times as much as what the limit was and therefore they were given the Timmy for that (click on the link that will lead you to the picture and the reason behind it.) But despite this we also had a wide selection of success stories in connection with historic bridge preservation. This include two rare historic bridges that had long since disappeared but have now reappeared with bright futures ahead of them. It also include the in-kind reconstruction of historic bridges, yet most importantly, they also include historic bridges that were discovered and we had never heard of before- until last year.
And so with that in mind, I have some personal favorites that deserve international recognition- both in the US as well as international- awarded in six categories, beginning with the first one:
Best example of reused bridge:
The Castlewood Thacher Truss Bridge in South Dakota:
One of three hybrid Thacher through truss bridges left in the US, the bridge used to span the Big Sioux River near Castlewood until it disappeared from the radar after 1990. Many pontists, including myself, looked for it for three decades until my cousin, Jennifer Heath, found it at the Threshing Grounds in Twin Brooks. Apparently the product of the King Bridge Company, built in 1894, was relocated to this site in 1998 and restored for car use, in-kind. Still being used but we’re still scratching our heads as to how it managed to disappear from our radar for a very long time…..
Built in 1866, this bridge was unique for its arch design. It was destroyed by floods in 2015 but it took five years of painstaking efforts to put the bridge back together again, finding and matching each stone and reinforcing it with concrete to restore it like it was before the tragedy. Putting it back together again like a puzzle will definitely make for a puzzle game using this unique bridge as an example. Stay tuned.
While it has not been opened yet for the construction of the South Park Gardens is progressing, this four-span arch bridge connecting the Park with the Castle Complex was completely restored after 2.5 years of rebuilding the 17th Century structure which had been abandoned for four decades. Keeping the outer arches, the bridge was rebuilt using a skeletal structure that was later covered with concrete. The stones from the original bridge was used as a façade. When open to the public in the spring, one will see the bridge that looks like the original but has a function where people can cross it. And with the skeleton, it will be around for a very long time.
This one definitely deserves a whole box of tomatoes. Instead of rehabilitating the truss bridge and repurposing it for bike and public transportation use, designers unveiled a new bridge that tries to mimic the old span but is too futuristic. Watch the video and see for yourself. My take: Better to build a futuristic span, scrap the historic icon and get it over with.
Demolishing the Pilchowicki Bridge in Poland for a Motion Picture Film-
Paramount Pictures and Tom Cruz should both be ashamed of themselves. As part of a scene in the film, Mission Impossible, this historic bridge, spanning a lake, was supposed to be blown up, then rebuilt mimicking the original structure. The bridge had served a railroad and spans a lake. The plan was tabled after a huge international cry to save the structure. Nevertheless, the thwarted plan shows that America has long been famous for: Using historic places for their purpose then redo it without thinking about the historic value that was lost in the process.
A one of a kind Thacher pony truss, this bridge went from being a swing bridge crossing connecting East and West Lake Okoboji, to a Little Sioux River crossing that was eventually washed out by flooding in 2011, to the storage bin, and now, to its new home- Parks Marina on East Lake Okoboji. The owner had one big heart to salvage it. Plus it was in pristine condition when it was relocated to its now fourth home. A real winner.
Dömitz Railroad Bridge between Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Pommerania in Germany-
World War II had a lasting after-effect on Germany’s infrastructure as hundreds of thousands of historic bridges were destroyed, either through bombs or through Hitler’s policies of destroying every single crossing to slow the advancement of the Allied Troops. Yet the Dömitz Railroad Bridge, spanning the River Elbe, represents a rare example of a bridge that survived not only the effects of WWII, but also the East-West division that followed, as the Mecklenburg side was completely removed to keep people from fleeing to Lower Saxony. All that remains are the structures on the Lower Saxony side- preserved as a monument symbolizing the two wars and the division that was lasting for almost a half century before 1990.
Forest Fires along the West Coast- 2020 was the year of disasters in a literal sense of the word. Apart from the Covid-19 pandemic, which brought the world to a near standstill, 2020 was the year where records were smashed for natural disasters, including hurricanes and in particular- forest fires. While 20% of the US battled one hurricane after another, 70% of the western half of the country, ranging from the West Coast all the way to Montana, Colorado, Wyoming and the Dakotas dealt with record-setting forest fires, caused by drought, record-setting heatwaves and high winds. Hardest hit area was in California, Washington and even Oregon. Covered bridges and other historic structures took a massive hit, though some survived the blazes miraculously. And even some that did survive, presented some frightening photo scenes that symbolizes the dire need to act on climate change and global warming before our Earth becomes the next Genesis in Star Trek.
Demolition of the Historic Millbrook Bridge in Illinois-
Inaction has consequences. Indifference has even more painful consequences. Instead of fixing a crumbling pier that could have left the 123-year old, three-span through truss bridge in tact, Kendall County and the Village of Millbrook saw dollar signs in their eyes and went ahead with demolishing the entire structure for $476,000, coming out of- you guessed it- our taxpayer money. Cheapest way but at our expense anyway- duh!
Planned Demolition of the Bridges of Westchester County, New York-
While Kendall County succeeded in senselessly tearing down the last truss bridge in the county, Westchester County is planning on tearing down its remaining through truss bridges, even though the contract has not been let out just yet. The bridges have been abandoned for quite some time but they are all in great shape and would make for pedestrian and bike crossings if money was spent to rehabilitate and repurpose them. Refer to the examples of the Calhoun and Saginaw County historic bridges in Michigan, as well as those restored in Winneshiek, Fayette, Madison, Johnson, Jones and Linn Counties in Iowa. Calling Julie Bowers and Nels Raynor!
Collapse of Westphalia Bridge due to overweight truck-
To the truck driver who drove a load over the bridge whose weight was four times the weight limit, let alone bring down the 128-year old product of the Kansas City Bridge Company: It’s Timmy time! “One, …. two,….. three! DUH!!!!” The incident happened on August 17th 2020 and the beauty of this is, upon suggesting headache bars for protecting the bridge, county engineers claimed they were a liability. LAME excuse!
Located near the Göhren Viaduct in the vicinity of Burgstädt and Mittweida, this open-spandrel stone arch bridge used to span the Zwickau Mulde and was a key accessory to the fourth tallest viaduct in Saxony. Yet it was not valuable enough to be demolished and replaced during the year. The 124-year old bridge was in good shape and had another 30 years of use left. This one has gotten heads scratching.
Collapse of Bridge in Nova Scotia due to overweight truck-
It is unknown which is more embarrassing: Driving a truck across a 60+ year old truss bridge that is scheduled to be torn down or doing the same and being filmed at the same time. In any case, the driver got the biggest embarrassment in addition to getting the Timmy in French: “Un,…. deux,…… toi! DUH!!!” The incident happened on July 8th.
Consisting of vine bridges dating back hundreds of years, this area has become a celebrity since its discovery early last year. People in different fields of work from engineers to natural scientists are working to figure out how these vined bridges were created and how they have maintained themselves without having been altered by mankind. This region is one of the World’s Top Wonders that should be visited, regardless whether you are a pontist or a natural scientist.
This structure deserves special recognition not only because it turned 125 years old in 2020. The bridge is the longest of its kind on the South American continent and it took eight years to build. There’s an interesting story behind this bridge that is worth the read…..
For bridge tours on the international front, I would recommend the bridges of Schwerin. It features seven iron bridges, three unique modern bridges, a wooden truss span, a former swing span and a multiple span arch bridge that is as old as the castle itself, Schwerin’s centerpiece and also home of the state parliament. This was a big steal for the author as the day trip was worth it.
Geoff Hobbs brought the bridge to the attention of the pontist community in July 2020, only to find that the bridge belonged to a mansion that has a unique history. As a bonus, the structure is still standing as with the now derelict mansion.
The Bridges of Jefferson Proving Grounds in Indiana-
The Proving Grounds used to be a military base that covered sections of four counties in Indiana. The place is loaded with history, as not only many buildings have remained largely in tact but also the Grounds’ dozen bridges or so. Satolli Glassmeyer provided us with a tour of the area and you can find it in this film.
Now that the favorites have been announced and awarded, it is now the voter’s turn to select their winners, featured in nine categories of the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards. And for that, we will go right, this way…… =>
Sometimes the best photographers usually follow the events that are happening by visiting the site on a regular basis and taking lots of pictures. For bridge photographers, this applies when there are projects like bridge restoration or in this case, bridge replacement.
In our next series paying tribute to James Baughn, we go back to the year 2003 and to this bridge, the Cape Girardeau Bridge. This bridge was the oldest of the Twenties Trio that were built within a year of each other along the Upper Mississippi River. In 1926, President Calvin Coolidge signed a bill, authorizing the bridge project at Cape Girardeau. The American Bridge Company of New York (superstructure) and U.G.I. Construction of Philadelphia were given the contract to build the bridge, which the project started in February 1927 and was completed in September 1928. Three months later, the Quincy Bridge followed and at the beginning of 1929, the Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis. The bridge featured a series of six Pennsylvania through truss spans, followed by a continuous through truss span (671 feet), with a total length of 4471 feet.
In 2002, construction was let to build its replacement, the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge, the current bridge that features a cable-stayed span with H-shaped towers. The original bridge was closed to traffic on 13 December, 2003, the same day the new bridge opened to traffic. Demolition of the old bridge commenced in June 2004 and lasted a half year. What’s left of the original structure is an arch and the first two spans on the Missouri side, which were repurposed as an observation deck.
James did a detailed series on the bridge before and after its replacement and including the demolition of the bridge. During that time, he collected a series of facts and history of the structure, which he added as the bridge was being replaced. You can find this in his bridgehunter.com website by clicking here. The details he did of the bridge in terms of photos as well as research, served as an inspiration for another person to do the same with his website, Nathan Holth, who launched historicbridges.org in 2003, the same year the truss bridge was replaced. You can access his website by clicking here.
If there was a lesson learned from this, it is this: Details are key, especially if you are looking for hard-core facts that are needed to complete the bridge’s story or if you want to contradict the facts given by a previous author. Bridgehunter.com is like wikipedia as it provides a database with photos, facts and stories about bridges like these with the goal of making the information available for those to use for their own purposes, be it for research for a school project or for finding information to nominate a structure for the National Register of Historic Places or even for personal reasons. When this bridge was being replaced, the website was in its infancy. Now looking back at James’ legacy and in particular, this bridge, the website has been serving its purpose well- a library with interesting facts for all to access.
And if there is a word of advice for those who are doing a project that features one or more bridges, check out bridgehunter.com first, followed by the others. There you will find at least something that will serve as your starting point and can build off from there. The website is like an encyclopedia, you will most likely find what you are looking for. 🙂
The next photo in the James Baughn series takes us to Wayne County and this bridge, the Wapello Bridge. The Pennsylvania through truss spans the St. Francis River on County Road 517 between the Riverside Campground and Shepards Fold Ministry, four miles southeast of Lake Wapello. The bridge was a product of Stupp Brothers Bridge and Iron Company in St. Louis and the Pennsylvania truss design and the A-frame portal bracings were very common features of the polygonal truss structures built by Stupp. Built in 1911, the 10-panel truss bridge had a total length of 242 feet, the main span had a length of 209 feet. The bridge was one of James’s favorite spots to photograph and you can find a gallery with his pictures of this bridge on the bridgehunter.com website. Sadly, the bridge was replaced in 2008.
Years later, I had an opportunity to interview an extended family member of the Stupp family about the company’s history. It will be posted in a later article. For now enjoy the photos of this unique bridge. ❤ 🙂