The Historic Bridges of Duluth, Minnesota

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Ariel Lift Bridge taken at sundown. Photo shot in 2009.

When I mention to my students of English that I originate from the State of Minnesota, the first question that mainly comes to mind is: Where is it? The second: What does it have to offer, apart from professional sports teams, like the Vikings (NFL), Timberwolves (NBA), Wild (NHL), Lynx (WNBA), Loons (MLS), Gophers (NCAA) and Twins (MLB)?

Well, the second question is easy to answer: Minnesota has a lot to offer year round- from fishing to ice carneavals, farming to multi-cultural activities in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul), snowmobiling to chit-chatting with a genuine Minnesotan dialect:

For the first, one has to include a little geography, using Niagra Falls as our starting point, between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Ah yes, Niagra Falls is one of the seven wonders that German tourists most often visit while in the US. As the northern half of the US consists of the Great Lakes Region, most of which straddles the border between the States and Canada, the city on the westernmost end of the region is almost opposite of Niagra Falls by over 2,000 miles. That port, located at the tip of Lake Superior, is Duluth. With over 86,200 inhabitants, Duluth is the third largest city in Minnesota, and combining it with Superior and other cities within a radius of 30 miles, the metropolitan area has 280,000 inhabitants, making it the second largest metropolitan area in the state. Founded in 1857, the city prides itself in its shipping and has several places of interest, whether it is a city zoo, a state park, historic city center, ….

…or even its bridges. 🙂

Since the 1870s, Duluth has been bridged with crossings made of wood and later iron and steel, connecting the city with neighboring Superior and providing access between the mountainous areas on the Minnesota side and the farmlands of Wisconsin, enroute to major cities to the east, such as Chicago, Cleveland and even New York. As the city was bustling with traffic on land and water, the first crossings were movable bridges, featuring bascule and swing bridges, but also a transporter bridge which later became a vertical lift bridge. That bridge, the Aerial Lift Bridge, has become the symbol of Duluth, making it the gateway between land and the deep blue sea. Together with the Slip Drawbridge and the Grassy Point Bridge, the Aerial Lift Bridge is the only movable bridge still functioning today, as it lifts its center span for boats to pass. The Slip Bridge is 26 years old and is sparsely used for smaller boats along the canal, which connects the port area with its business district. The Bong and Blatnik Bridges are two of the longest bridges in Duluth and in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, replacing their predecessors in the movable bridges that had served rail and vehicular traffic. The Grassy Point bridge is the only swing bridge still in use and one of two key railroad crossings that cross the border. A pair of arch bridges dated back to the 1930s used to serve rail traffic going westward, yet they are now part of a rail-to-trail consortium that provides recreation to the parks located to the west.

I first came across the bridges in Duluth during a visit with a few friends in 2009, having spent a vast amount of time at the Aerial Lift Bridge, watching the span raise for boats lining up to pass. With its beautiful amber color at night, one cannot miss this icon when visiting Duluth. Further research was conducted by two key sources: John Weeks III and the newspaper people at the Duluth Tribune, the latter of which had dug up substantial research and photos of some of the most important movable bridges that had served both Duluth and Superior before being replaced by the fixed spans. Combining that with additional research done by another pontist, John Marvig, it was the best decision to put together a tour guide on Duluth’s (historic) bridges, both past and present. Unlike the previous tour guides, this one features a bridge with links that will take you to the pieces written by the Tribune and Weeks, while some bridges feature photos and facts provided by Marvig and Weeks. A map with the location of the bridges is provided in the guide to give you an idea where these bridges are located.

Use this guide and you will have a chance to visit and photograph the bridges that still makes Duluth a key port for transportation, looking at their history and their role in shaping the city’s infrastructure- and that of the US and beyond.

Links to the Bridges:

Aerial Lift Bridge: History as a Vertical Lift Bridge and as a Transporter Bridge

Interstate Bridge:   History and Ghost Stories

St. Louis Bay Bridge (extant): History  and its predecessor

Arrowhead Bridge (extant): History and Photos

Grassy Point Railroad Bridge: History and Facts

Minnesota Slip Drawbridge: History

Oliver Double-Decker Bridge: History and Facts

Richard Bong Memorial Bridge: History and Facts

John Blatnik Memorial Bridge: History and Facts

Superior Hiking Trail Bridge: Facts

Lester River Bridge: Facts

Zoo Arch Bridge: Facts

Stewart Creek Viaduct: Facts

Kingsbury Creek Bridge: Facts

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The Bridges of Aue (Saxony), Germany

In connection with a recent interview with a local newspaper about the bridges in the Erzgebirge, this tourguide has been updated to include information and bridge photos, most of which can be found via Google Map. The text has been updated as well. As mentioned here, the tour guide is the first of many parts on the bridges in the mountain region in western Saxony, yet it is also the first of its kind to use new apps other than what has been profiled in article form to date. This includes Google Map where you can click onto the bridge and view the photos taken. In any case, enjoy the new version of the tour guide on Aue’s historic bridges.

The Bridgehunter's Chronicles

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Sometimes experiments are needed in order to find out how to effectively reach your audience. It can be with the use of print media, such as newspaper articles, leaflets, broschures and the like. But it can also mean the use of various forms of technology, such as the internet and social networking. Aside from wordpress, which powers the Chronicles both as an original as well as the areavoices version, people have used facebook and pininterest to post their pics of their favorite bridges. Yet most of these have been individual bridges and not that of a tour guide, like the Chronicles has been posting since its launch in 2010.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles has just started using  Instagram recently, and I had a chance to experiment with putting a tour guide together, using the app , during my most recent visit to the city of Aue in western Saxony.

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The Bridges of Schlema, Germany

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Bad Schlema Railroad Bridge. Photos taken by the author in August-November, 2017

Part three of the historic bridge tour in the western part of the Ore Mountain region (German: Erzgebirge) takes us northeast to Bad Schlema. When we think of the community of about 5,700 inhabitants and the word Bad, it does not refer to the condition of the town. Granted there are many derelict buildings whose historic value warrants renovation and conversion into a recreational facility of some sorts per building, while some houses and even bridges that are at least 50 years old and have cracks and missing siding are in need of some renovations.  The word Bad in German stands for either bath(room) or health spa. In the case of Schlema, it is the latter. Nestled deep into the valley of the River Schlema, the houses, both modern and antique line up along the creek that is only 10 meters wide but cuts a huge gorge into the mountains enroute to the Zwickauer Mulde at the site of the Stone Arch Bridge (see article for more details).  The health spa in Bad Schlema is over a century old and consists of radon bath house, hotel and resort and a park complex- all within approximately five acres of each other, the size of a typical rural American golf course, like the one at Loon Lake in Jackson County, Minnesota, where I spent most of my childhood. One can recognize the health spa area by the large tent that pops up as you drive on the road connecting Hartenstein and Bad Schlema heading west in the direction of Schneeberg. That road is part of Silver Road, the longest road in Saxony which starts in Zwickau and passes through Schneeberg and Schlema enroute to Freiberg and Saxony. It has a storied history in connection with mining of copper, Silver, iron and uranium and many sites in Schlema serve as memorials for the regional past time.

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Close-up of the tent-style building which is the Radon Health Spa.

But as I mentioned in my previous article on the Stone Arch Bridge, Bad Schlema was once connected by a rail line, which branched off from the north-south route connecting Aue and Zwickau (enroute to Werdau and Leipzig), ran along the Schlema going past the north end of Schneeberg before terminating at Neustädtel to the northwest. Five stations provided access for people to board, including Oberschlema, Schneeberg and Neustädtel, yet by 1955 only the station at Niederschlema was still serving trains, but along the Zwickauer Mulde. That was later renamed Bad Schlema. The line to Niederschlema was discontinued and later dismantled to make way for the main highway (B169) that now connects Schneeberg with the Saxony Police Academy and all points westward. However, some relicts of the Schneeberg Line still exist in Bad Schlema, including the Oberschlema Train Station (now privately owned), flanked with three bridges.

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The three bridges at the former Oberschlema Train Station

But when comparing the bridges to the ones in Zschorlau (in the previous article), Schlema has many more small bridge crossings spanning the small river that empties into the Zwickauer Mulde- 44 to be exact! But unlike the crossings in the town south of Schneeberg, most of these bridges in Schlema are wooden crossings that serve private property on the opposite side of the bank. The exception is a crossing at a bus stop, which given the proximity of the road running parallel to the river, makes sense. That bridge and bus stop is co-owned by the community and the regional bus service RVE.

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Yet there are some standouts that are worth noting, which you can find on the map below. Like in the ones for Aue and Zschorlau, the location of the bridges include some information and photos, which will help you find the bridges when visiting Bad Schlema. A lot of information is missing and therefore, if you have any you wish to add, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles and will add it accordingly.

Good luck! 🙂

 

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The Othmar H. Ammann Awards

Entries still being taken for the 2017 Ammann Awards. Deadline is  December 3rd.

 

JENA, GERMANY- For people wondering when the 2017 Ammann Awards are taking place, I can only give you one answer:

It’s going on right now.

For those wondering if it is too late to enter their best bridge photos and bridges in general, I can only give you one answer:

It’s not too late.

Entries are still being taken for the 2017 Othmar H. Ammann Awards courtesy of the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles between now and 3rd December. If you have a candidate in the categories of Best Snapshot/Photo, Best Kept Secret (Tour Guide/Individual Bridge), Mystery Bridge, Best Bridge Preservation Practice, Bridge of the Year and Lifetime Achievement, click onto the link below. There, you will be directed to the Chronicles’ Ammann Awards page and with that, the contact details on where to submit your entries. For photo entries, please use the e-mail address provided in the page and keep in mind the limits provided when sending the pics directly.

Once the entries are collected on December 3rd, the voting will commence, which will last through the holiday season, ending on 6th January, 2018. The winners will be announced afterwards.

So for those who still think it’s too late, here’s my response:

It’s never too late. Go out there and bring us your best bridge(s)! 🙂

 

Happy Bridgehunting, Folks! 😀

 

Source: The Othmar H. Ammann Awards

Mystery Bridge Nr. 88: The Stone Arch Bridges of Zschorlau near Schneeberg

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Stone Arch Bridge at Nuschke Pond spanning Zschorlau Creek. The oldest bridge built in 1811. Photos taken in October 2017

Our next mystery bridge article features not just one, two or even five bridges. But 23 to be exact!

And the irony behind this is that they are all located in the small town of Zschorlau- a town of only 5,600 inhabitants!

Located three kilometers southwest of Schneeberg and six kilometers west of Aue, Zschorlau is a very quiet town, nestled away in the valley of the Zschorlaubach Creek, which starts in the mountains in the southwest of town and after feeding off from Filzteich Pond, located west of the Saxony Police Academy- Schneeberg Campus, curves around to the southeast, forming a glen and slicing the town in half. The Valley Road, connecting the community with Aue, was built in 1907 and along that highway, one will be greeted by Fachwerk houses in the town center, the Evangelical Church, and the St. Anna am Freundenstein visitor mine, where the annual matin shift, with music and food, takes place at Christmas time.

Along the Zschorlaubach, one will find 23 bridges connecting the north and south sides of the community. Most of them are publicly used to this day, providing access to areas to the south, such as the Eibenstock Reservoir, as well as to the north, which features Schneeberg and its suburbs. All but five of the bridges are at the most 15 years old. The remaining five that exist are all stone arch bridges that are at least 80 years old. The oldest bridge is 206 years old, is located at the site of the city pond, town hall and library and is still used as a crossing today albeit as a pedestrian and bike crossing.  Other bridges appear to have been built using the same material- tungsten ore with granite and wolframite features. Yet we don’t know when they were built despite having the assumption that they were homemade thanks to the nearby mine at St. Anna. Nor do we know how many more bridges built of stone arch design and using this material had been built before they were replaced with their current structure, all beam spans and made of concrete. One can assume that between 1800 and 1940 the stone arch bridges were built only to have been replaced because of neglect thanks to World War II and the subsequent Communist rule that followed until the Berlin Wall fell and Germany was reunited.

As with the tour guide on the bridges in neighboring Aue, this tour guide features the remaining stone arch bridges in Zschorlau. Some information added to the photos are based on the inscriptions into the bridge itself. But the information is far from complete. What else do we know about the bridges that exist today still? What about the modern ones that exist- what were their predecessors like in terms of design and appearance and when were they built? One hint I will provide regarding the length and dimensions: the length of the remaining stone arch bridges are between 10 and 15 meters and the width between 8 and 10 meters, while two of the bridges were widened by 4 meters each- the last bridge to have been rehabilitated was in 2004.

But what else do we know about the bridges in Zschorlau? This is for you to stand up and shine with some information about them! Look at the map, click on the bridges and look at the crossings not marked (that are replaced). What can you tell us about them?  Information and pics are welcome! 🙂

 

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Route 66 Gasconade River Bridge Rehabilitation Project Being Launched

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Photo taken by James Baughn

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HAZELGREEN, MO-  The North Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSRGA)/ Workin’ Bridges has been given the green light by the Missouri Department of Transportation(MoDOT) for a conceptual agreement to begin the fundraising efforts to actually restore the Gasconade River Bridge at Hazelgreen, Missouri. A new by-pass bridge has been designed and will be constructed in 2018 which left the historic bridge at risk for demolition. The Rte 66 Gasconade River Bridge Guardians have lead the effort for preservation and MoDOT agreed to let the efforts begin to find the funding required. Let me be clear, the historic bridge is still at risk for demolition unless sufficient funding for restoration can be acquired in the next fourteen months.

The four spans of the Gasconade River Bridge include two Parker Trusses, one Pratt truss and a Warren Pony Truss, built in 1923 and designed by MoDOT engineers. A current engineering estimate by MoDOT estimated repair work at over $3 million dollars. The Workin’ Bridges qualified engineers and craftsmen will assess the bridge for possible phased options and costs that may differ from MoDOTs assessment. These real numbers, captured as Scope of Work and Estimates are required so that informed decisions can be made, for potential grants. Work with MoDOT on a risk management plan for their new bridge and the Interstate 44 bridge is being negotiated. We have proposed a Trust Account that would be in place for a catastrophic event, as well as utilizing the interest for future biannual inspections and site and security.

Developers are also being sought for this property and any design ideas are welcome. Route 66 has always been a mecca for travelers worldwide and with this bridge repaired the potential for crossing on special event days may still be an option as engineering will return the bridge to its former function. For more information on how the bridge was saved and how we are moving forward together check out Workin’ Bridges: Route 66 Bridge Rehab on Facebook

Our goal is to raise $10,000 in funds. Those funds are for engineering and planning. Jacqueline (Jax) Welborn has been designated the Project Manager. She will undertake the outreach for donors to help with the immediate engineering and planning needs for the bridge. Contact Jax at rte66bridgerehab@gmail.com or call her at 573-528-1292.

Then our efforts will turn to finding the pledges, grants and in-kind donations necessary to reach our $3.5 million dollar goal by December 31, 2018. That money will go to repairing the piers and abutments that hold the spans up, the stringer and roadway replacement, floor beam repair. The deck, or at least a portion of the deck will be removed by MoDOT using their demolition funds for that purpose. The lead paint abatement solution is still to be determined.

Those efforts are currently underway. NSRGA has begun the process to become a legitimate nonprofit corporation in Missouri, then the bank accounts will be procured. In the meantime you can still donate at Workin’ Bridges: Route 66 Bridge Rehab on Facebook. Your donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

Other questions, please contact Julie Bowers at jbowerz1@gmail.com or 641-260-1262. Check out this project and others on Facebook at Workin’ Bridges, www.workinbridges.org and become a Save Our Bridge (SOB) action figure today.

This is a press released by Workin Bridges, who granted permission for reposting. A detailed interview about the Gasconade Bridge was done with the Chronicles and can be found here.

 

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