Stone Arch Road Bridge near Nineveh, Indiana

Photo taken by Tony Dillon in 2012

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There are thousands of metal truss bridges in Indiana that were discovered and documented in the 50 years James Cooper was in the field of historic bridge preservation and one could make a list of bridges that would not have existed as long as they did, had it not been for his contribution to his work. Part of the reason has to do with the fact that only a handful of truss bridges were used primarily for building purposes between 1880 and 1920, such as the Pratt, Whipple, Warren, Warren, Pennsylvania, Baltimore and Parker designs. Then we have the question of bridge builders who not only competed with each other for bridge-building contracts, but they also merged with each other and consolidated the businesses. Classic example was the creation of the American Bridge Company in 1900, which featured 28 bridge builders including Wrought Iron Bridge, Lassig Bridge and Iron Works and even Masillon Bridge Company.

Little do we pay attention to are the details of the truss bridge, such as connections, portal and strut bracings, types of beams used for the trusses, railings and most importantly, plaques and other ornaments. Most of these “decorations” indicated that the bridge builder wanted to leave their mark and make it fancier for the passers-by. In short, the more “decorations” the more likely it will be appreciated by the locals, and in terms of historic bridge preservation, the more likely it will be documented and preserved in the present for future generations to see.

In this film documentary, courtesy of Mike Daffron and Satolli Glassmeyer, we have one truss bridge that represented a classic example of a typical Pratt through truss bridge, yet its unique portal bracings and the stone abutments used for construction made it a unique structure that needed to be saved. The Stone Arch Road Bridge is located on a road where a stone arch bridge does exist nearby (will write more later), but is the more beautiful of the two bridges. The bridge spans Nineveh Creek near the community but in the Attebury Fish and Wildlife Preserves and was open to traffic in 1886. The bridge was fully restored in 2011 and has been serving vehicular traffic ever since. How the bridge was built and all the other details about it, you will find in the videos below.

Enjoy! 🙂

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History in Your Own Backyard:

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Mike Daffron:

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10th Anniversary Bridgehunter Awards: Now Accepting Entries for the 2021 Awards

Singing Bridge in Frankfort, Kentucky.

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2021 Bridgehunter Awards

Ten years ago, in November 2011, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles started the Othmar H. Ammann Awards, featuring bridges in the original categories of Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge, Lifetime Achievement, Best Bridge Photo, and Best Kept Secret- Best places to find a historic bridge. The voting was done by selected people and the awards were given out at the beginning of 2012.

Fast forward ten years later, we have a different name (awards name changed in 2019), same categories but also newer ones and we have many more people in public voting than the select few. And this year will be more exciting than ever before. 🙂

Between now and December 1st, entries are being gathered for the 10th Annual Bridgehunter Awards. This year’s awards are special as we are paying tribute to four pontists who passed away within the last year: James Baughn, who died on December 6, 2020, Toshirou Okomato who passed unexpectedly in May of this year, and lastly, JR Manning and Dr. James L. Cooper, who both died on August 19th.  The new categories and bridge entries presented in this year’s awards reflect on the achievement of each person. One of the categories is a reincarnation of the one that was hosted by Mr. Baughn who had created bridgehunter.com, which is now owned by Historic Bridge Foundation.

Photo by Miquel Rossellu00f3 Calafell on Pexels.com

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If you are interested in submitting your favorite bridges, photos and persons, who left a mark in historic bridge preservation and tourism, please use this link, which will take you to the page about the Bridgehunter Awards. There, an online form is available and you can submit your bridge entries there. For bridge photos, please ensure that there is no more than 1MB per photo and are sent in jpg. The online form can also be used if you have any questions, need the author’s e-mail address, etc.

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The categories for this year’s Bridgehunter Awards include:

Jet Lowe’s Best Bridge Photo

Othmar H. Ammann’s Bridge Tour Guide

Mystery Bridge

Ralph Modjeski’s Lifetime Achievement

Eric DeLony’s Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge

And lastly, Bridge of the Year.

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With the exception of Best Bridge Photo, Bridge of the Year and Lifetime Achievement, there will be separate categories: Bridges in the USA and Bridges on the International Scale. Entries are welcomed from all over the world in all of the categories.

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For Best Bridge Photo:  The top five winners will have their bridge photo posted on the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles website (for 1st Place), BHC’s facebook open page (for 2nd place), BHC facebook group page (3rd place), BHC twitter page (4th place) and BHC LinkedIn (5th place) for the first half of 2022.

Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels.com

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New to the list of category include:

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Endangered TRUSS: Reincarnated from James Baughn’s TRUSS Awards, the award is given out to a historic bridge whose historic value is being threatened with demolition or alteration due to progress.

James Baughn’s Individual Bridge: Awarded to a bridge, whose unique design and history deserves recognition.  This category replaces the old one, Best Kept Secret Individual Bridge.

Lost Bridge Tour Guide: Awarded to a region that used to have an abundance of historic bridges but have long since been wiped out or reduced to only one or two.

Best Bridge Book/ Bridge Literature: Awarded to a literary piece that is devoted to bridges. This can be homemade by the submitter or a book written by somebody else but deserves an award.

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While some entries have already been added in some of the categories, you have time to submit your entries between now and December 1st. Afterwards, voting will commence throughout all of December and the first half of January. How the voting will be done will be announced once the ballots are ready for you to use for voting. Voting will end on January 21st, 2022 with the winners to be announced a day later on the 22nd.

This year’s awards will be special for many reasons, all of which will be focused on one thing: Giving thanks to many who have devoted their time, money and efforts to documenting, photographing and spearheading efforts to restoring historic bridges, not only in the United States and Canada as well as in Europe, Asia and elsewhere. There are many people who deserve a large amount of thanks for their work. The Bridgehunter’s Awards, in its tenth year, is going to put these people and the bridges in the spotlight, no matter where we travel to, to visit the bridges.

Looking forward to your entries between now and December 1st and as always, happy bridgehunting and happy trails, folks. ❤ 🙂

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 160: Tribute to James Baughn

Our first Pic of the Week article since August 9th and with that, one of the pictures that was taken by the late James Baughn. This pic of the week provides us with a Guessing Quiz for readers to take a look at and guess where this bridge is located.

As a hint, James Baughn took this photo in 2009 while in Pennsylvania. The bridge no longer exists as it was replaced three years later, yet it is a multiple-span through truss bridge built during the time when the use of steel was at its peak.

Do you know what it is? Provide us with an answer in the comment section below, as well as in the Chronicles’ facebook pages. The answer will come in the next week.

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Reminder: The Memorial Bridgehunting Tour has been extended to October 31st. In case you haven’t posted your favorite bridge photo honoring Mr. Baughn on the Chronicles’ facebook or Instagram pages, here’s how you can do that- Click here for details.

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Happy Bridgehunting, folks. ❤ 🙂

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HYB: Able Mitchell Bridge in Parke County, Indiana

Photo taken by James MacCray

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Between now and the end of this year, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will be paying tribute to J.R. Manning and Dr. James Cooper through a series of photos and films to be posted on Sundays, as a way of giving thanks for their years of work reporting on and spearheading efforts in saving historic bridges in their regions.

Our first bridge in the tribute series takes us to the Able Mitchell Bridge, spanning Big Raccoon Creek northeast of Bridgeton. It is the last through truss bridge in the county that features a unique portal bracing, as seen in the picture. Yet even though efforts were undertaken to profile this bridge and its association with its builder, Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, OH, the bridge has been sitting idle for three decades in hopes that the structure will get a good facelift and a repurposement in hopes it can be used as a bike trail crossing or a park someday. Satolli Glassmeyer of History in your own Backyard will give you the rest of the story in the video below…….

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More information on the bridge can be found here.

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Remembering J.R. Manning and Dr. James Cooper- Key Contributors in the World of Historic Bridge Preservation

Photo by Kelly Lacy on Pexels.com

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When we travel along the rural backroads of Indiana, one might see an old, iron through truss bridge along the way, with a four ton weight limit, being narrow and having a wooden deck, yet a fresh coat of paint, LED lighting for safe passage for night driving and a restored plaque with the names of Vicennes, New Castle or Central Plaines on it reveal that it looks brand new.  In another location, this time in Wisconsin, one sees another steel truss bridge, located inside a park, serving bikers and hikers. Each bridge having a history info-board describing its history and why it deserves a National Register listing. Each bridge is visited by dozens of people every day, is talked about by teachers who lead field trips with school children to the historic site and is read in history books, magazines and newspapers.

Preserving historic bridges takes a lot of efforts to carry out. It includes collecting documents on the bridge’s history, including the companies that built them. It includes informing the public about the bridge and its significance, to encourage them to take part in the preservation efforts. It also includes a good bridge marketing program where a historic bridge finds a new home if it is in the way of progress.

It especially includes some very key figures who lead the campaign to make preserving historic bridges happen, special people like the people we are honoring in this article. 

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J.R. Manning:

There were many nicknames for Jerrold Robert Manning (known by many as simply J.R.), including Loose Lug Nuts, the Kitchen Guy or simply Jerry. But if there is one word to describe J.R. when it came to historic bridges, it was “Shooter.” J.R. was a very popular figure in the upper Midwest. Born in Akron, Ohio, the family moved to Michigan and then to Brown Deer, Wisconsin. J.R. attended Algonquin Elementary School, Brown Deer High School, UW-Milwaukee-Mass Communications and Cardinal Stritch University-Business Administration. He mastered Dale Carnegie’s Sales Course and is a Certified Technical Trainer. J.R. was a member Brown Deer U.C.C and St. John U.C.C in Germantown serving as a liturgist and was on several committees. Many people viewed J.R. as a talented salesman and a musician. Yet his key signature was his famous quotes on the meaning of life, something that people like me took with.  J.R. however traveled a lot and saw and photographed hundreds of bridges along the way: in Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. He was a key contributor of photos, histories and news stories of historic bridges in bridgehunter.com, having provided people with some interesting and useful information. Yet his dedication to historic bridges didn’t stop there. He was also a fan of architectural history and one can find dozens of pieces and photos in landmarkhunter.com, which is devoted to historic buildings in the US. I never met him in person but we corresponded frequently via e-mail and social media and as a person, he was a great philosopher- a person who could spend a whole day talking about life over a cup of coffee.

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Dr. James Cooper:

If there is one state that would be considered the hub for historic bridges, regardless of the materials used for building it, it would be Indiana. Indiana has one of the most comprehensive marketing programs for historic bridges, where each structure threatened with replacement is relocated to different sites for reuse, while others are rehabilitated with the purpose to prolong their functional lives. It has a comprehensive inventory on the history of bridges and their builders that existed in the Hoosier State. There are even books written on Indiana’s historic bridges, including covered bridges, concrete bridges and even metal truss bridges. Much of this was the work of one pontist, who was a professor of history and sociology but whose passion for bridges spans for half a century.

Born in Princeton, N.J., James L. Cooper moved to Greencastle in 1964 to join the faculty of DePauw University, where he served for more than three decades. At DePauw, Cooper was dedicated to faculty development, becoming the university’s academic dean in 1981 and then vice president of academic affairs in 1983. Yet his interest in historic bridges started in the 1970s.

“I started in the late 1970s with an introduction to material culture studies as a supplement to documentary research.  HAER contacts led me into bridge survey work in Indiana which I combined with more traditional research in my survey publications.  Then Indiana Landmarks Foundation contacted me to turn bridge surveying/historical research into preservation efforts,” Cooper stated during an interview with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles in 2012.

For years, he tirelessly worked to document those bridges in a database that now serves as a resource for the historic preservation community. Furthermore, he helped fellow pontist Eric DeLony create an online network, where pontists and people interested in historic bridges would collaborate with each other. This network still exists and has been extended to include social media, especially in LinkedIn.  Cooper wrote several pieces devoted to historic bridges, including Artistry and Ingenuity in Artificial Stone: Indiana’s Concrete Bridges, 1900-1942 and Iron Monuments to Distant Posterity: Indiana’s Metal Bridges, 1870-1930.  Cooper’s work captured his appreciation for the culture, ingenuity and journey of the people who built, crossed, and settled around the bridges that he so admired.

“I credit him for helping me to understand the fragile plight of Indiana’s metal truss bridges and for shifting my focus towards preserving them. I will always considered him my mentor… something that he chuckled at when I told him one time,” mentioned  fellow pontist, Tony Dillon in a statement in bridgehunter.com.

From an author’s point of view, though I only conversed with him via e-mail, Mr. Cooper had extensive knowledge in his field of historic bridges. If you wanted to know about a bridge, engineer or bridge builder in Indiana, let alone the influence of the bridge builders in the Hoosier State on other states, especially after 1900, Mr. Cooper was that man to go to. His extensive research had a domino effect on historic bridge preservation throughout the US and even beyond. Some of the research and practice that has been done in Indiana is being carried out in other states, such as Texas, Oregon, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, etc. with mainly positive results for people wishing to see a piece of history that was a contributing factor in the development of America’s infrastructure.

Mr. Cooper’s work has garnered dozens of awards during his lifetime, including the the Indiana Historical Society’s Dorothy Riker Hoosier Historian Award, the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH)  Leadership in History Awards and lastly the 2012 Bridgehunter Awards for Lifetime Achievement (which was named the Othman H. Ammann Awards at that time), courtesy of the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles (an interview can be found here.)

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Death on August 19, 2021:

On August 19, 2021, both of these fine pontists passed away peacefully, surrounded by family. J.R. was 69 years old and is survived by his wife of 21 years, Kathy and his step son, Steve. A funeral service took place on September 2nd at the Schmidt and Bartelt Funeral Home, in Menomonee Falls, which included a storytelling session at Bub’s Irish Pub in Germantown that followed the service. The service was also live on Zoom.

Dr. Cooper was 86 and is survived by his wife Sheila, his daughter Mairi and her husband, as well as his son, James Jr. and his family (wife and two children).  Due to Covid-19, a memorial service will be held at a later time, but burial will take place in Auburn, NY.  

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While the 19th of August is considered a tragic day in the historic bridge community, it is (and will also be) considered a day of reflection on the years of achievement these two fine people have made, having left marks not only within their respective areas but also beyond. What they have done for historic bridges is being practiced elsewhere, not just in the United States, but also beyond. 

While many of us sometimes take life too seriously, here’s a quote J.R. left me in my last correspondence with him back in February, which states otherwise:

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“Don’t take life so serious, son, it ain’t nohow permanent.” ~Porky Pine in Walt Kelly’s Pogo

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You can only do so much in life. It’s a matter of how you can project your achievements and passions to others. For these fine pontists with a lifetime passion for bridges, all I can say is this: “Thanks for everything.” ❤

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Bostian Bridge Tragedy: 27 August, 1891

Photograph by William Stimson, courtesy of Betty Boyd. North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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We’ve heard of a lot of ghost stories involving bridges in our lifetimes. However the next film documentary presented here in the Chronicles has to do with one of the worst in its history. The story takes us to Statesville, in Iradell County, North Carolina and to one of the most haunted bridges in the state- Bostian’s Bridge. The bridge features five concrete closed spandrel arch spans, spanning Third Creek carrying the Norfolk and Southern Railroad. The bridge is 260 feet long and the deepest point oft he ravine is approximately 60 meters.  It is unknown when the bridge was built or who built it, the bridge is infamous for a tragedy that happened 130 years ago. On August 27th, 1891, a train disaster happened on the bridge which was so gruelsome, the historians have pegged it as one of the worst train-bridge disasters in the history of American railroad, sometimes comparing it tot he Ashtabula Railroad Bridge disaster of 1876. The disaster, as will be told in this documentary presented here, eventually produced supernatural encounters that have lingered to the present, eventually causing another train-bridge disatser 119 years later. Have a look at the story:

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This is what the bridge looks like today, the photo courtesy of Royce and Bobette Haley:

The train still serves traffic to this day, yet should the line be discontinued at some point, there will definitely be some hesitancy in repurposing the bridge because of its haunted past. Chances are likely that it will eventually succumb to nature, which will take over, and allow the ghosts to be at peace. For some haunted bridges, they are best if left as is without altering or even destroying it.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 150 Tribute to James Baughn

The 150th Pic of the Week is a bit fitting given the fact that it falls into the series paying tribute to James Baughn, let alone the time where we start saying our good-byes in one way or another. James’ memorial service was this past Sunday at Burfordville Mill and Covered Bridge in Missouri, with up to 175 people in attendance- family, friends, colleagues in the field of historic preservation and pontists. And those who couldn’t make it for various reasons, we had our minds focused on him and what he did for the community as we shared some memories of the event. Already plans for memorial bridgehunting tours in person are being considered, whereas the Chronicles has one of its own in the social media spectrum. If you are interested, click here to learn how.

James provided us with some very unique angles in bridge photography and this one is no exception. It’s a portal view of a through truss bridge with a steep cliff as a backdrop. This serves as a reminder of the McCaffrey Bridge in Winneshiek County in northeastern Iowa, yet there are three distinct differences:

  1. The portals of this bridge are different in contrast to the aforementioned structure
  2. The truss design is also different.
  3. This bridge no longer exist, whereas the Iowa structure still stands.

Nevertheless, such locations were useful in a way that it served as a notice to slow down while driving across, otherwise, something like this happens. Yet with the advancement of sleekness and speed, many of these bridges have given way to newer, more modern and straighter structures, where they are supposed to be safer, yet they are anything but that because of they encourage drivers to race across the bridge and they are ill-effective against floods. Even a 20-year old piece of concrete slab can be wiped out by floodwaters within a matter of minutes!

So with that in mind, our Guessing Quiz question is: Where is this bridge located? Any ideas? Feel free to submit your answers here or on the Chronicles’ facebook pages.

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And by the way, to answer the Guessing Quiz Question to last week’s pic taken by James Baughn, the answer is Madison County Iowa, near the Roseman Bridge. Info on that bridge can be found here.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 141: Tribute to James Baughn- Easter Edition Part 2

Quinn Creek Bridge in Fayette County, Iowa. Photo taken by James Baughn

This edition on Easter Sunday is the second of a two-part Easter weekend special. Again, this one’s for James Baughn.

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Our 141st 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.

View of Quinn Creek Bridge (in Fayette County) from a distance. Photo taken by James Baughn.

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.

Quinn Creek Kingpost Bridge in Fayette County, Iowa. Photo taken in August 2013 by James Baughn

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…… 🙂

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Photo by Alena Koval on Pexels.com

BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 140: Tribute to James Baughn-Easter Edition Part 1

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. What truss designs are used to construct modern truss bridges and which ones would you like to see built?
  4. And lastly, what’s a typical truss bridge to you and in your opinion, will these modern truss bridges meet your own expectations?

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Feel free to comment here or in the Chronicles’ facebook pages. We love to hear from you. 🙂

The Bridges of Youngstown, Ohio

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.

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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.

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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. 😉

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Marshall Street Overpass

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.

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Photo by David Case

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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.

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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.

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Photo taken by Janis Ford in 2016

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White Bridge

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:

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Most Endangered Structure

Photo: Ohio State Historical Society Inventory

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.

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Photo by Bob Harris, taken in 2010

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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