Covered Bridge in Maine Destroyed by Arson

Photo taken by Jack Schmidt in 2014

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LITTLETON, MAINE- One of Maine’s handful of century-old bridges was incinerated and the state fire marshal is looking into the possible causes. The Watson Settlement Bridge was a covered bridge featuring a Howe through truss design. It spanned the Meduxnekeag Stream on Former Carson Road in Littleton in Aroostook County, located between US Hwy 1 and the US-Canada border. It was built in 1911 and had served traffic until 1984 when the current concrete structure was built on a new alignment and the historic bridge was converted to a pedestrian crossing. Listed on the National Register since 1970, the 170 foot long bridge was named after the nearby Watson Settlement and was a magnet for photo opportunities including graduation photos.

May be an image of fire and outdoors
Soruce: Citizens of Littleton

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Fire Crews were called to the scene of a fire on Monday afternoon at 2:45pm Eastern Time only to find the covered bridge engulfed in flames. Three different fire departments from Littleton, Houghton and Monticello were at the scene to put down the blaze. The State Fire Marshal Office arrived at the scene an hour later to investigate. The entire structure, consisting of charred beams and a partially collapsed roof, has been considered a total loss and will have to be torn down. It is unknown at this point whether a replica will be constructed. The area has been barracaded off to keep people from going on the bridge due to its structural instability. The State Fire Marshal is looking into any information to determine the cause of the fire, including finding any potential arsonists. People with information on the fire should contact their office at 1-888-870-6162.

The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest involving the bridge, the fire and what happens next.

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Fire Destroys Iconic Covered Bridge in Kentucky

Photo taken by Melissa Jurgensen after its rehabilitation in 2017

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SPRINGFIELD, KENTUCKY (USA)- Local and state officials are looking for information that can lead to the arrest and conviction of one or more persons responsible for destroying an inconic historic bridge in Kentucky. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office as well as nearby fire departments were called to the scene of a fire at the Mt. Zion Covered Bridge at around 11:30pm Tuesday night. The bridge was built by Cornelius Barnes in 1865 but was bypassed by a new bridge in 1977 and had recently been fully restored in 2017. It has been listed as a National Register site since 1976. The 211-foot long covered bridge with a Burr truss design had spanned the Beech Fork River at Mt. Zion Road and was considered the longest remaining covered bridge in the state. It also goes along the names of Beech Fork CB or even the Morseville CB.

Source: Washington County Sheriff via facebook

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When officials arrived at the scene at 11:30pm, they saw the bridge fully engulfed in flames. It didn’t take long until the covered bridge collapsed into the river at around midnight. When the bridge was restored in 2017, flame retardant was applied to the trusses but not to the flooring itself. The bridge is considered a total loss– nothing more but a pile of rubble with only the stone pier standing. The bridge was one of only 13 covered bridges left in the state.

The fire is being investigated as arson and the case will be taken to the state fire marshal’s office. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office is looking for any leads and witnesses- anything that will be useful for the case and can lead to the arrest and possible conviction of those involved in setting the bridge ablaze. Any information should be directed to Sheriff Jerry Pinkston at 859-336-5400.

It is unknown whether the covered bridge will be rebuilt but the Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on this tragic loss.

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Setting a property on fire, covered bridges included, with intent to destroy it and/or cause personal injury, constitutes a first degree felony by law and those found guilty of the crime could face at least 20 years in prison, plus fines in the thousands.  The longest prison sentence ever handed out was 90 years to a man who arsoned two covered bridges in Indiana, one of which was destroyed in 2002. The prison sentence took place in Parke County in 2018 and this was after the person received mental health treatment.

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BHC Newsflyer: 12 February, 2021

Sulphur Lake Bridge in Redwood Valley, MN- To be removed in the near future. Built in 1928 and bypassed in 1997. Photo taken in 2010

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To listen to the podcast, click here.

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Headlines in this Newflyer Podcast:

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May be an image of bridge and nature

Judge Votes for Replacement of Frank J. Wood Bridge- Preservation Group to Appeal

Article: https://www.centralmaine.com/2021/02/08/topsham-brunswick-bridge-group-to-appeal-federal-ruling/

Article on Bridges on Highway 1 Project: https://www.pressherald.com/2021/02/07/southern-midcoast-bridge-replacements-included-in-mdot-work-plan/

Please note the cost estimates of the four bridge project vary due to different information sources.

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Sulphur Lake Bridge in Redwood Valley to be Removed

Information on Project: http://www.dot.state.mn.us/d8/projects/sulphurlake/index.html

Information on the Bridge Trio: http://loc.gov/pictures/item/mn0545/

!: Includes contact information.

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Historic Covered Bridge in Vermont Destroyed by Fire

Article: https://www.vnews.com/Vermont-town-hopes-to-replace-destroyed-covered-bridge-38774407

Information on the Bridge: http://bridgehunter.com/vt/orleans/101017000810171/

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Postcard of Plummer Creek Covered Bridge with the Burr Truss design. Source: Johnson Wholesale Co.

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Attempted Destruction of Covered Bridge in Indiana through Arson

Article (including contact information): https://www.wibc.com/news/local-indiana/greene-county-covered-bridge-closed-after-fire/

Bridge Info: http://bridgehunter.com/in/greene/plummer-creek/

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Photo by Steve Conro in 2012

Covered Bridge Hit for 13th Time Since Rehabilitation in 2020- Calls for Removal

Article: https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/lake-county-news-sun/ct-lns-long-grove-bridge-crash-st-0204-20210203-shhljplk65bp3l3p2hzllv7pkq-story.html

Editorial: https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/lake-county-news-sun/opinion/ct-lns-selle-long-grove-bridge-st-0209-20210208-asinkmjsfffufosgmrzuvma5wa-story.html?fbclid=IwAR1p3FF-dRM-LuN1SJegOOhy-HLJ6y30GlTH_jh6B7CxzF4LSI8bOVKUMdU

Bridge Info: http://bridgehunter.com/il/lake/49715027150/

!: Questionnaire on the bridge’s future on BHC’s facebook page.

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Waco Suspension Bridge. Source: Library of Congress

Original Cables of Waco Suspension Bridge to be Removed

Article: https://wacotrib.com/news/local/cable-removal-begins-on-historic-waco-suspension-bridge/article_b5924a9c-6a5b-11eb-8337-63c716ce53f8.html

Bridge Info (including rehab project): http://bridgehunter.com/tx/mclennan/waco-suspension/

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Rare Deck Truss Bridge in Quebec Incinerated

CHEMIN HAMEL/ SHERBROOKE/ QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC, CANADA-

A rare gem of a historic bridge is no more, and police suspect faul play. The Pont Davy was a wooden deck truss bridge, whose design resembles a truss bridge built almost two centuries ago but it was 70 years old when it met its demise. The bridge was a two-span Town Lattice deck truss bridge, with a total length of 200 meters. Built in 1951, the bridge carried a local road until its abandonment a couple decades ago. It was first discovered by pontists 10 years ago and the bridge has become a popular tourist attraction. Its red Town lattice trusswork is one of the youngest that was built, and its natural surroundings made it a popular stop for hikers and photographers alike. Work had been progressing on finding out its history prior to its destruction.

Police and criminal investigators are looking into the cause of the fire, which occurred at the bridge on 23 September, causing the entire structure to collapse. No one was injured in the disaster. Since then, authorities have suspected arson and are looking for person(s) responsible for the fire. Information and leads should be reported to the local authorities immediately.

More information and photos of the bridge can be found via link here:

The Pont Davy was one of over a dozen covered bridges that are remaining in Quebec. A tour guide on the bridges can be found here:

It’s also in the Tour Guide page of the Chronicles. The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on the arson at the bridge.

Wagon Wheel Bridge Meets Tragic End

Side view of the bridge taken in Aug. 2013. The eastern half- a Pennsylvania petit and a Pratt are all that is left of the bridge. Those are to be taken down soon.
Side view of the bridge taken in Aug. 2013. The eastern half- a Pennsylvania petit and a Pratt are all that is left of the bridge. Those are to be taken down soon.

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1910 Des Moines River crossing coming down after years of neglect, vandalism and natural disasters

 

BOONE, IOWA- Three years ago, the Wagon Wheel Bridge was one of the main attractions of the Historic Bridge Convention, which was attended by over 25 pontists from five states and two countries. It was originally part of the Kate Shelley Tour conducted by the Boone County Historical Society. It was one of the longest multi-span truss bridges ever built by the Iowa Bridge Company, one of many in-state companies that had dominated the scene since the consolidation of 29 bridge companies into the American Bridge Company consortium in 1901. The 1910 bridge had a total length of over 700 feet.

 

Now the steel span is coming down for good- in sections. Workers from the Hulcher Services began pulling down the western half of the bridge yesterday, which included two Pratt through trusses, one of which sustained damaged in an ice jam in February  and subsequentially fell into the river in March.  According to the Boone County engineer Scott Kruse, as soon as the water levels of the Des Moines River recede , the eastern half, featuring the Pennsylvania through truss and another Pratt through truss will be removed. The cost for the bridge removal will be $150,000, some of which will be deducted from the county highway fund, while the taxpayers will contribute to the rest of the expenses.

 

For many who know this bridge, it brings to an end a bridge that had historic character but was highly ignored and neglected. Closed since 2007, the bridge sustained damage to the eastern approach trestle spans in 2008 during the Great Flood. It took four years until new wooden decking was built on the span, but not before residents having voted against the referendum calling for the replacement of the bridge in 2010.  Debates on the future of the bridge came to a head, as talks of converting the bridge to a memorial honoring Kathlyn Shepard came about in 2013. Reports of the leaning pier between the collapsed Pratt through truss and the one closest to the Pennsylvania truss span raised concerns that the structure would collapse, creating warnings even from local officials that one should not cross the bridge. But the last ten months brought the bridge to its untimely end, as vandals set fire to the eastern trestle spans last August, prompting the county to removed them completely. The arsonists have yet to be found and apprehended.  The ice jams and the subsequent collapse of one of the spans, prompting the county engineer to put the bridge out of its misery for good.

 

The removal of the Wagon Wheel Bridge brings closure and relief to the city of Boone and the county, for despite pleas by preservationists to save at least part of the bridge, the county is doing its best to eliminate a liability problem that has been on the minds of many residents for nine years. The county engineer declared that they do not want any more problems with the bridge and therefore entertains no plans for keeping what is left of history. The mentality of “Good riddance to bad rubbish,” is floating around in the community, yet the city and the county will lose a key piece of history that was part of Kate Shelley’s childhood past as well as the history of Iowa’s transportation heritage. A piece of history which, if thinking dollars and sense, could have been saved years earlier, had everyone read their history books in school, and come together to contribute for the cause, that is. One wonders what Kate Shelley would think of this.

 

Facts about the bridge, based on the author’s visit in 2010 can be found here.

 

If you wish to know more about Kate Shelley, a link to her life and how she became famous can be found here.

 

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles has changed its cover pages on its facebook and twitter sites to honor the bridge and its heritage. If one is interested in relocating the Pennsylvania span, please contact the engineer using the information here. Hurry while the water levels are still high!

 

It is unknown if even a marker at the site of the bridge will be erected once the bridge is gone. Given the sentiment towards seeing the girl leave, chances of happening is highly unlikely unless a book is written about the county’s bridges or the bridges along the Des Moines River and the bridge is mentioned there….

 

 

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Wagon Wheel Bridge Damaged by Fire

West entrance to the bridge. Photo taken during the 2013 Historic Bridge Weekend.

Fire damages east approach span. Investigation ongoing.

BOONE, IOWA- Law enforement authorities are investigating a possible arson, which occurred on the Wagon Wheel Bridge most recently. According to reports from multiple sources, the fire was reported by Union Pacific Railroad on Sunday night at 11:00pm at the eastern end of the bridge. While the fire was brought under control and no damage was done to the multiple span truss bridge, the eastern approach spans were charred, prompting county officials to remove the spans. The bridge has since been closed off to pedestrians and cyclists with its future in limbo. Any information pertaining to possible arson should be directed to law enforcement officials in Boone as soon as possible.

The Wagon Wheel Bridge, built in 1910 by the Iowa Bridge Company in Des Moines, has seen its best and worst times, the latter occurring within the past eight years. Damage was sustained by high water in 2008 when sections of the eastern approach spans were washed away during the worst flooding since 1993.  Attempts were made to pass a referendum in 2010, calling for a new structure to be built in place of the vintage structure, only to fall on deaf ears by a vast majority. Two floods later, the structure had been still been standing in tact with new decking added to the entire 710 foot bridge. Even an idea of having a memorial at the bridge site, dedicated to Kathlynn Shepard was brought up in 2013. This was in addition to having two bills passed to make kidnapping a felony and increase the age of the vicitims of such crimes to 15 years of age (instead of 12). More on the efforts can be seen through Kathlynn’s Hope facebook site.  Homage was paid to the bridge through the Historic Bridge Weekend that same year, where 20 people from all over the US attended the event, with Pam Schwartz of the Boone County Historic Society providing the guided tour of that and other bridges- many in connection with the famous Kate Shelley story (click here for details).

With the eastern approach spans removed, attempts are being made to restore the bridge to its original glory. This includes providing new decking that will not be vulnerable to fires. But also the need for repairing the truss parts and stabilizing the cylinder piers are there. All of this is part of the plan to use the bridge as a centerpiece of a bike trail to connect Boone and Odgen with a possibility to connect with the trails in Des Moines. Already, a facebook page has been launched with over 1440 likes on there. The main goal is to raise enough funds to realize the project. Repairs are estimated to be betwene $700,000 and $1m. But the race against time is underway. While the bridge is fenced off to all traffic with the eastern approach spans are removed, consideration is being taken to remove the entire structure for safety reasons. This is being met with solid opposition from locals, the state and other members favoring the preservation of the bridge becaus of its connection with the city’s history. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1998 and any plans to alter, replace, or remove the bridge will require approval and survey, which could take time and money to take. With the love towards the bridge being as high as it was when the referendum failed in 2010, many paths to Rome will be built to ensure that the historic bridge will be saved from becoming scrap metal, even if it means spending more to rehabilitate the structure and make it part of the city’s history and bike trail network. It is more of the question of the availability of resources and effort to undertake this mission. If new decking was added after 2010 with no problems, and looking at the success with Sutliff Bridge, another multiple span truss bridge, people will more likely look at ways to make this project bear fruit.

The Bridgehunter’s Chroncles will keep you posted on the latest on the Wagon Wheel Bridge. Please click on the highlighted links to take a look at the stories written about this bridge and other items. Join the group saving the bridge on facebook and get in touch with them if you are willing to provide some ideas and help to restoring the bridge.

 

Oblique view of the longest span. Photo taken in 2010

View of the east approach. This is where the fire took place recently. The photo had been taken in 2013.

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2013 Ammann Awards: Smith picks his favorites

Bergfeld Pond Bridge in Dubuque, Iowa. One of the nine-span 1868 Mississippi River crossing that had existed until 1898 when it was dismantled. Photo taken in August 2013 by John Marvig.

While many people are taking last minute attempts to submit their ballots for the 2013 Ammann Awards, as the deadline was extended to January 11th due to the extreme severe cold weather that kept many from voting, the author of the Chronicles went ahead and chose the select few bridges that deserve the best attention possible. In its third year, the Smith Awards go out to the bridges that serve as examples of how they should be preserved from the author’s point of view.  This year’s Smith Awards also hit a record for the number of entries, for many examples were presented that should be brought to the attention to those whose historic bridge may be deemed unsafe in their eyes, but restorable in the eyes of those who have the experience in preservation as those who have close ties with the structure.

So without commenting further, let’s give out the Smith Awards beginning with:

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

BEST BRIDGE FIND: 

USA:

This year’s Smith Awards for the Best Bridge Find in the United States is given to three Iowa bridges because of their unique features. The first one goes out to the Kingpost through truss bridge spanning Quinn Creek in Fayette County. Built around 1885 by Horace Horton, this bridge was thought to have disappeared from view in the 1990s when it was replaced by a series of culverts. Bill Moellering, the former county engineer and Ammann Award for Lifetime Achievement candidate was the first person to prove us wrong, for he mentioned of the bridge’s existence during our correspondence in March of last year (I had asked him to speak at the Historic Bridge Weekend, which he accepted). Dave King and James Baughn provided the pictorial evidence a few months later. Albeit not listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this one will most likely be listed in the near future. And given the county’s staunch stance regarding its historic bridges, this bridge will remain in its place for many generations to come.

The second one goes  to the Bergfeld Pond Bridge in Dubuque. This span was one of the nine spans of the 1868 bridge that had spanned the Mississippi River for 30 years before it was dismantled and the spans were dispersed all over the country. This one is in its third home, as it used to span Whitewater Creek near Monticello before its relocation to its present spot in 2006-7. The next question is: what happened to the rest of the spans? The Chronicles will have an article on this unique span in the near future.

Photo taken by the author in September 2010

And the last one goes to the Lincoln Highway Bridge in Tama in Tama County. The bridge was built by Paul Kingsley in 1915, two years after the Lincoln Highway, which the bridge carried this route for many years, was created. Its unique feature is the lettering on the concrete railings, something that cannot be found with any other concrete bridge in the US, or even Europe. The bridge was part of the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Highway celebrations last year and will surely have a celebration of its own in 2015, the same year as the 100th anniversary of the Jefferson Highway, which meets the Lincoln Highway at Colo, located west of this bridge. As James Baughn commented through his bridgehunter.com facebook page: “It is a true crime to visit Iowa and NOT photograph this bridge.” This one I have to agree.

 

Photo taken by S. Moeller. Public domain through wikipedia

International:

Fehmarn Sound Bridge in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany:  Spanning the channel connecting mainland Germany and Fehmarn Island, this 1963 bridge was unique for it was the first bridge in the world to use the basket-style tied arch design. It has since been recognized a national historical landmark. Yet another unique bridge in North Rhine-Westphalia received larger recognition this year, and because this bridge type was used extensively beginning in the 1990s, this bridge fell to the wayside. Yet it at least deserves this honor for the work engineers and construction crews put in to make this span possible, especially as it is one of the key landmarks to see, while visiting northern Germany. The bridge still serves rail and vehicular traffic today, albeit it will receive a sibling in a form of another crossing that will connect Fehmarn Island with Denmark, thus eliminating the need for ferry service and completing the direct rail connection between Berlin and Copenhagen through Hamburg and this location.  Construction is expected to begin in 2018.

BIGGEST BONEHEAD STORY:

International:

St Jean Baptiste  Bridge in Manitoba, Canada.  What is much worse than replacing a historic bridge against the will of the people? How about tearing down a historic bridge that is a key crossing to a small community and NOT rebuilding it. This is what happened to this three-span polygonal Warren through truss bridge in February 2013. Extreme hot weather combined with flooding from the rains in the fall of 2012 undermined the easternmost abutment and bank of the crossing, prompting officials in Winnepeg to not only close down the bridge, but dropped the entire structure into the Red River of the North. The implosion occurred in February 2013.  This has created widespread pandemonium not only because of its historic significance (it was built in 1947), but because of the detour of up to 50 kilometers either to Morris Bridge or to Dominion City to cross the river. There is still no word from Winnipeg regarding whether or when the bridge will be rebuilt, angering them even more.  A sin that is not forgiven, and politicians making that unintelligent decision will most likely be voted out of office in the upcoming parliamentary elections, if they have not been relieved of duties already.

Note: A new bridge would cost up to CDN $60 million and take five years to build.

More on this story can be found here.

 

Second place:

Europa Bridge in Rendsburg, Germany. The incident in Canada far eclipses the incident involving the 42-year old bridge crossing the Baltic-North Sea Canal, where crews closed most important crossing connecting Flensburg and Denmark in the North with Hamburg and the rest of Germany in the South. And this during the peak of summer travel in July!  While trying to squeeze across using the tunnel carrying a main street through Rendsburg, the closure left travelers with no choice but to use the rail line and the Rendsburg High Bridge.  You can imagine how crowded the trains were at that time. Given the fact that the A-7, which crosses this bridge, is the main artery slicing through Germany, many residents are still scratching their heads and demanding the logic behind this abrupt closure of an important link between the south and north.

 

USA

Ponn Humpback Covered Bridge: Arsonism overtook the theft of metal components from bridges as the number one culprit that has either severely damaged or even destroyed historic bridges. At least a dozen reports of vandalism and arson on historic bridges were reported this year in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and even Iowa. What gets people to set bridges made of wood, or metal bridges with wooden decking is unknown, except for the fact that their ignorance is hurting the counties that maintain them as tourist attractions.  The Ponn Humpback Covered Bridge in Vinton County, Ohio is a classic example of one of those victims of arson. Built in 1874, the bridge used to be one of two in the country with an arched bridge deck until fire engulfed the bridge in June 2013. This five years after the county had spent over $300,000 in restoring the bridge by adding a new roof and improving the trusses and decking.  Police are still looking for the perpetrator to this day and more information about the incident can be found here. It’s unknown whether this bridge will be rebuilt, especially as there is a steel pony truss bridge built alongside the structure to accommodate traffic.

More on the tragedy here.

 

Second Place: 

I-5 Skagit River Bridge in Washington:  Not far behind the theme of arson is the collapse of the I-5 Skagit River Bridge in Washington state, which occurred in May 2013. A semi-truck exceeded the vertical clearance limit on the portal bracing of this 1950s through truss bridge, sending part of the bridge into the water. While the driver was not cited, it sparked a debate on how to deal with through truss bridges with many people wanting them taken off the roadways for good. One state senator even went further by advocating the elimination of the Section 106 and Environmental Impact Survey requirements for bridge replacement. Both of these are way too expensive and, as a political science professor at the University of Jena would say: “It will just not happen.” So we’re going to end this topic by travelling to a through truss bridge on any highway- on a reduced load- and cross it, appreciating its grace and beauty!

More on the bridge disaster here.

 

Bonus:

Ft. Lauderdale Railroad Bridge:  There are many reasons why No Trespassing signs are posted on railroad bridges. Add this incident involving a railroad bridge in the Florida community. A 55-year old woman, walking home from her breast cancer walk, found herself hanging onto dear life from a bascule bridge that had lifted to allow ships to pass- and getting a pose in the process from thousands of onlookers who took pictures and posted them onto the social network pages!  Being dressed in pink and in an outfit like that probably made many people react in strange way, but for her, it probably made her day. Fortunately she was rescued by fire crews, but it redefined the meaning of No Trespassing, which now ranks up there with being photographed by automated cameras in Europe if exceeding the speed limit on the motorways.  Do as expected, or expect to shamed in the media!  More on the story here.

SALVAGEABLE MENTIONED:

Photo taken in August 2011

Roof Truss Bridge at FW Kent Park in Iowa:  This crossing has a unique story. The truss bridge was built using the steel trusses from a vintage automotive dealer in Iowa City, four miles east of the park, which were found in the ditch along the road in the late 1980s and converted into a bridge to serve the pedestrian path encircling the lake. The bridge is a must see, as it is located on the north end of the lake and is one of nine truss bridges that makes the core of the park. Click here for more about this story.

 

 Honorably Mentioned

New Bennington Bridge in Vermont:  Technically, this bridge should have gotten this award for it featured a one of a kind Moseley iron arch span whose superstructure was found along the road in the ditch, cut in half and was put together as a truss bridge now serving a park complex. Yet the difference is the creativity aspect, for this salvaged and restored span had once been  a bridge before it was taken out of service. Hence its nomination in the Ammann Awards for Best Bridge Preservation Practice. It would not be surprising if these two bridges won their respective awards for 2013.

 

WORST EXAMPLE OF HOW TO PRESERVE A HISTORIC BRIDGE

View inside the bridge. Photo taken by Steve Conro, released into public domain through http://www.bridgehunter.com

 

New Castle Bridge near Oklahoma City: The 10-span Parker through truss bridge was a victim of a double-tragedy: a tornado that destroyed two of the spans and the demolition of all but one span, as directed by the local and state governments. It is unclear what the plans are for the remaining span, yet this act falls in line with eating up all but the head of the gingerbread man. A tortuous loss that should have gone one way or the other: dismantle and store the remaining trusses for restoration and reuse or tear down the whole structure and risk receiving the Bonehead Award for 2013, which was given to the arsonists who succeeded all the way in this type of business.

 

BEST EXAMPLE OF HOW TO PRESERVE A HISTORIC BRIDGE

USA:   

The Petit Jean Bridge in front of Danville City Hall. Photos courtesy of J. Randall Houp

Petit Jean Bridge in Arkansas:  While looking at this 1880 bowstring arch bridge, one would say that it is a typical vintage bridge that deserves to be honored, even if it is demolished with the information being placed in the books. Yet apart from its history with an infamous lynching incident in 1883 that scarred Yell County, the Petit Jean Bridge receives this award and is in the running for the Ammann Awards for Best Preservation Practice for a good reason: It is the only bridge in the state, let alone one of a few rare bridges that was relocated more than one time in its lifetime- and still retained its original form! The bridge was relocated three times, including one to its final resting point this past October: in front of the Danville City Hall to be part of a city bike trail network. If the Petit Jean Bridge wins the Ammann Awards in addition to this one, it will be because of the care that the county took in relocating and restoring the bridge multiple times. What other historic bridge can make this prestigious claim?

 

International:

Three bridges in the UK have received the Smith Rewards for the best example of preserving a historic bridge. The first one goes to the Llangollen Chain Bridge in the Northeastern Part of Wales. The cantilever suspension bridge was built in 1929, even though the crossing has a 200-year tradition, yet it was closed to all traffic 30 years ago due to safety concerns. Since that time, efforts were undertaken to raise funds for restoring and reopening the structure connecting the Llangollen Canal and the railway. This was successful and the bridge is currently being restored, awaiting reassembly  this year.  The second one goes to the Whitby Swing Bridge in North Yorkshire, a duo-span deck girder swing bridge that underwent renovations totaling £250,000 last year to redo and waterproof the electric wiring, strengthen and paint the girders. It worked wonders for while flooding this past December left the swing spans in the open position, no damage was done to the electrical wiring and the superstructure itself. Something that people can take pride in and show others how restoring a swing bridge can actually work.  And lastly, the Sutton Weaver Swing Bridge, located near Chester (England) is currently undergoing an extensive rehabilitation to rework the swing mechanism, strength the Howe trusses and improve the decking for a total of £4.5 million, with the goal of prolonging its lifespan by 50 years. The preparations for this project was herculean for a temporary span was constructed prior to the closure of the 90-year old structure, for the bridge provides the only vital link between the two communities.  Once the bridge reopens next year, it will show to the public that the project and its difficulties in arrangement and processes was really worth it, especially as the people of the two communities have a close relationship with the bridge.

For more information on these bridges, click on the links marked in the text. As you can see in the selections, it is just as difficult in choosing them as it is for people voting for the candidates for the Ammann Awards. Yet despite the fear that 2013 would usher in the year of destruction of historic bridges- and we’ve seen a lion’s share this year- it actually was a good year for many unique examples were restored for reuse, marking a sign that the interest in historic bridges is huge- both in the United States, as well as elsewhere. How 2014 will take shape depends on numerous factors, which include the interest in historic bridges, the increasing number of preservationists and technical personnel willing to restore them, and lastly the financial standpoint. There was speculation that the Crash of 2008 in the US marked the end of the preservation movement, yet that did not seem to move the people whose close ties with these structures remain steadfast. If communities cooperate with private groups and provide support towards preserving the remaining historic bridges, as seen with the Bunker Mill, Riverside and Green Bridges, then there is a great chance that they will receive new life and will be greeted by the new generations interested in them. Without cooperation and funding, the structures will simply sit there rotting until they are swept away by the ages of time.

On to the results of the Ammann Awards; even though the deadline is January 11th to submit your votes, the results will be given out on the 13th. Stay tuned.

 

 

Bunker Mill Bridge sold to private organization

Bunker Mill Bridge southeast of Kalona, Iowa- victim of arson that occurred on 11 August, 2013 and whose future is in doubt. Photo taken in August 2011

Washington County sells bridge to private organization for $1 plus donates funds for restoration.

Kalona, Iowa-  Efforts to save and restore the 1887 Bunker Mill Bridge took two gigantic steps towards reality yesterday, as Washington County officials voted unanimously to sell the King Bridge Company structure to the Friends of Bunker Mill Bridge and the North Skunk River Greenbelt Association for $1. In addition to that, the county commissioners voted to appropriate the $80,000, originally set aside for demolishing the bridge, for restoring it to its original form.  With $80,000 from the county, plus the funds raised by the organization itself, the group will be able to proceed with the plans to restore the bridge, which includes determining what is needed for the bridge and carrying out the work.

The 290 foot long bridge, which spans English River southeast of Kalona, was severely damaged by arson on August 12th with the wooden decking destroyed. The Pratt through truss structure appeared to be unscathed in the blaze. There’s still no word on who started the blaze but those with information on the arson are asked to contact the county authorities.

The cost for a full restoration of the bridge is estimated at $460,000 with fund-raising efforts to continue together with applying for grants on the county and state level. Yet that sum may be reduced as the project progresses, according to Julie Bowers, Executive Director of NSRGA which is helping FBMB with the project.  FBMB with Suzanne Micheau as Managing Director and NSRGA, with Julie Bowers as Executive Director will be overseeing the project with plans to restore and reopen the bridge to pedestrians and cyclists. There is hope that the plan to use the bridge as part of the bike trail connecting Kalona and Richmond will be realized once the bridge is restored. But when that will be done remains open.

  If you are interested in donating money or expertise to this project or would like more information, please contact Suzanne Micheau, Managing Director at suzanne@kctc.com or (319) 936-6339 or Executive Director, Julie Bowers, jbowerz1@gmail.com (641) 260-1262.

The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest developments on this project and congratulates all parties on a job well done. Purchasing the bridge is half the battle. The second half is doing the actual work, which has received enormous backing from the county and elsewhere. Best of luck! 🙂

Newsflyer 2 October, 2013

Bunker Mill Bridge southeast of Kalona, Iowa- victim of arson that occurred on 11 August, 2013 and whose future is in doubt. Photo taken in August 2011

 

Bridgefest in Iowa; Bridge Closures due to Concerns

Let’s start off with a simple question for this Newsflyer: If you see a bridge that is unstable, who do you go to to address these concerns? Naturally a local government agency who oversees responsibility for the structure and passes it on to the state in hopes money will come their way for repairs or replacement. Yet with the US Government at a shut down due to impasses between the Republicans and Democrats on how to free up money to pay Washington’s employees, a chain reaction from Washington to the local levels occurs. And then we have the next problem, which is “We don’t have any money, sorry!”

Imagine that the number of unstable bridges increases into the hundreds and they include major crossings. This will be the case unless politicians at the House and Senate come together to resolve the fiscal issues that have faced them for weeks, or face recall elections that would be the largest ever in history.  Three bridges represent examples of pressing issues that need to be addressed.

Green Bay Interstate Bridge Closes- approach span collapses: Motorists last week woke to a nasty surprise as the commute across the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge was impossible. Reason: A pier in the southern approach span sagged, pulling the section down by four feet. The closure happened on the 25th of September and will remain that way indefinitely. Already people are developing bridge-phobia because of the height of the bridge, consisting of concrete slab approaches and a steel through arch main span over Fox River. But Gov. Scott Walker and transportation officials reassured the people that the bridge will be fixed and reopened, albeit it make months to even a year to fix the problem. Built in 1981, this is the third 80s style bridge in the country that has collapsed this year.

Barge rams Matthews Bridge, closing it indefinitely: Jacksonville, Florida is known for numerous large steel truss bridges spanning St. John’s River carryinmg massive volumes of traffic. When one bridge closes, the others endure more stress by extra portions of cars having to take a detour, causing jams and structural strain to the bridge. The Matthews Bridge, carrying FL Hwy. 115 (a.k.a. Matthews Expressway) represents a clogged artery needing to be opened again, after a ship carrying cars rammed the cantilever truss bridge on 26th September, forcing the closure of the bridge indefinitely. No one was hurt on the bridge, but the damage to the decking of the 1951 span was substantial, meaning it may take weeks until the bridge can be reused again.

Historic Bridge in Pennsylvania closed- future uncertain

Wolf Bridge, located over the Conodoguinet Creek near Carlisle, is a Pennsylvania through truss bridge with pinned connections, one of many examples of bridges built by Nelson and Buchanan, as it was built in 1895. Yet the 192 foot long bridge is in trouble as it was closed for safety reasons on the 26th of September. County officials are now determining whether the bridge should be repaired or remain closed until 2016 when it is scheduled to be replaced. This has put more strain on motorists who had relied on this bridge to access the community because another bridge is still closed for reconstruction. And that’s not all: the county is strapped for money for bridge repairs, which makes it a chore for people to find new alternatives. And this apart from the interest in saving the bridge….

Yet if the government cannot do something about the deficiencies, then it is up to the people, who are suffering from the effects of a governmental shutdown, to step in and get the job done. In Kalona, Iowa, the preservation group working to save the Bunker Mill Bridge, an 1887 wrought iron truss bridge that was severely damaged by arson last month, is making strides in saving the bridge. Already, the Friends of the Bunker Mill Bridge, an umbrella group of Workin Bridges (WB), a Grinnell-based company that specializes in preserving historic bridges, has raised over $5000 to carry out inspections to determine the needs for the bridge, with the goal of rehabilitating the bridge and keeping it in its place. Yet more is needed to actually carry out the work, pending on what work is needed for the bridge.

Apart from donations being accepted through WB, the Friends of the Bunker Mill Bridge and WB would like to invite you to join them for the 2013 Bridgefest, which is scheduled to take place this Saturday, October 5th beginning at 7:00pm at the Kalona Brewing Company and Restaurant, located at 405 B Avenue in Kalona. Proceeds from the festival will go to the restoration of the bridge. For more information or if interested in coming, click onto the link and contact Suzanne Micheau, who is in charge of the festival.

 

Newsflyer 10 September 2013 Part 1

Bunker Mill Bridge southeast of Kalona, Iowa- victim of arson that occurred on 11 August, 2013 and whose future is in doubt. Photo taken in August 2011

Historic bridge burned with scrappers drooling for money. Another set of historic bridges  destined for scrap metal. Historic icon receives a new icon. A replica of a lost bridge to be built. A pair of historic bridges to be focus of restoration campaign.

While away on hiatus for three weeks, which included the four-day long Historic Bridge Weekend in Iowa, a lot of events unfolded which involved historic bridges. This include a tragedy involving a historic bridge in Iowa whose future is now in doubt. Keeping all this in mind, the Chronicles will feature a summary of the events that are non-related to the Historic Bridge Weekend with the author’s feedback on each of the themes. Links are provided in the text, as usual.

North trestle span in the foreground with the truss span in the background. Photo taken in August 2011

Bunker Mill Bridge burns. Future in doubt.

Spanning the English River southeast of Kalona, this bridge is unique in terms of its appearance. It was built in 1887 by the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio and featured a six-panel iron Pratt through truss bridge with Town Lattice portal bracing with a span of 120 feet long. With the north trestle span being 170 feet long- enough to fit another through truss span- the total length of the bridge is 290 feet. In 1913, the Iowa Bridge Company reinforced the bridge which included the addition of M-frame portal bracing. Closed since 2003, plans were in the making to convert this bridge into a bike trail connecting Richmond and Kalona in Washington County. Sadly, the bridge, which was visited during the Historic Bridge Weekend, was burned on the morning of 12 August, destroying the entire bridge deck. The truss span is still in tact but it is unknown how much damage was done to the superstructure. At the present time, work is being undertaken to determine whether the bridge can be salvaged and relocated. At the same time however, sources have informed the Chronicles and the pontist community that the scrappers are making a bid to obtain the bridge for scrap metal. Police and fire officials are determining the cause of the fire, which is suspected to be caused by arson. The Chronicles has a separate article on this bridge based on the author’s visit to the bridge which will be posted after an interview with organizers trying to save the bridge is done.

Rulo Bridge in Nebraska. Photo taken in August 2011

Two Missouri River Bridges to be demolished. Two to be replaced soon.


If the rate continues its course, there will no longer be any pre-1960 bridges along the Missouri River by the year 2030. Two continuous truss bridges built in 1938 have been replaced and are closed to traffic, despite the 2-year delay because of the Great Flood of 2011 which turned the Missouri River into the Red Sea for 3/4 of the year. Already one of the bridges, the Amelia Earhart Memorial Bridge in Fort Atchinson, Kansas, built at the time of the disappearance of the first female pilot to cross the Atlantic Ocean, is scheduled to come down beginning 23 September after the tied arch bridge was opened to traffic. The demolition is scheduled to take two months to complete. The Rulo Bridge, which carries US Highway 159 through the Nebraska town of Rulo was rerouted to the new bridge and is now closed awaiting demolition. This may happen at the earliest in the fall but most likely in 2014. The Centennial Bridge in Leavenworth, a two-span tied arch bridge most likely to follow as Missouri and Kansas DOTs are planning on its replacement which will happen in a few years. And finally, a pair of duo continuous Warren truss bridges, the Fairfax Bridge (built in 1935 by the Kansas City Bridge Company) and the Platte Purchase Bridge (built in 1957) in Kansas City are planned to be replaced beginning in 2015. The reason for replacing the US Highway 69 crossing was because of its narrowness.  To know more about the Missouri River Bridges, it will be mentioned in detail in a presentation provided by James Baughn during the Missouri Preservation Conference, which takes place 18-20 September in Booneville. More information can be found here.

Another slab bridge collapses- this time in Illinois

Engineers and politicians are running out of bridge types to condemn in favor of modern bridges. Reason: another concrete bridge has collapsed after a truck rolled across it! This happened near Woodlawn, Illinois on 6 September. Woodlawn is near Mt. Vernon in Jefferson County. The bridge is over 200 feet long and was built in 1977. Fortunately, nobody was hurt when it happened for the structure collapsed right after the truck went across it. Investigators are trying to determine whether the weight of the loaded truck was too much and if a weight limit should have been imposed. This is the second post 1970 bridge that collapsed this year (a 1987 bridge in Missouri collapsed this past July) and has raised questions of whether weight limits should be imposed on all bridges and highways to ensure their prolongitivity and driver safety. But despite the “less is more” mentality that is becoming the norm in society, it will most likely take a few more collapses of modern slab before it get through the heads of the engineers and government agencies that are responsibility for the infrastructure in the US.

Bay Bridge Replacement opens to traffic.

When the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge first opened to traffic in 1936, the eight mile long bridge spanning San Francisco Bay was the longest in the world, with two sets of suspension bridges connecting Yerba Buena Island with San Francisco and a cantilever truss bridge and beam bridge between that island and Oakland. Since 3 September, the Oakland portion of the bridge has been replaced with a cable-stayed suspension bridge and closed to all traffic while cars are travelling on the new span. For those who are not familiar with this portion of the bridge, it was that particular bridge which partially collapsed during the Earthquake of 1989, the one that killed over 300 people, caused the double-decker Nemitz Freeway in Oakland to collapse and brought the World Series at Candlestick Park to a halt. A person videotaped the bridge and a car falling into the collapsed portion of the bridge. A link can be found here.  The bridge collapse prompted notions to replace that portion of the Bay Bridge and bring the suspension bridge portion up to earthquake proof standards, together with the Golden Gate Bridge. 24 years later, they got their wish with a cable-stayed suspension bridge made using steel made in China. This is still sparking a debate on whether Chinese steel has as high quality as American steel, especially as several flaws were discovered while building the Oakland portion of the bridge, which included broken bolts and anchors holding the stayed cables. Despite the bridge being a remarkable landmark that will surely be documented in 50 year’s time, especially with the statue found at the island, it is questionable of whether $4 billion was necessary to build the bridge or if it would have made sense to rehabilitate the cantilever bridge. This includes the cost and time it will be needed to demolish that bridge, which will commence sometime next year.

With all the bad news involving bridges in the US, there are some drives to save historic bridges with one being replicated after a 70 year absence. More in part 2 of the Chronicles’ Newsflyer.