Stupp Brothers Bridge Company of St. Louis, Missouri

Buck O’neil Bridge in Kansas City- A product of the Stupp Brothers Bridge Company. Photo taken by Mark Frazier

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The Westward Expansion was one of the greatest developments in American History. From 1865 until the end of World War I in 1918, millions of miles of roads and railroads were built west of the Mississippi River.  And with that came bridges, big or small, that crossed whatever ravine was in the way. Hundreds of bridge building companies were established between 1865 and 1910 and while half of them either folded or merged with other bridge building firms, others remained in the business and with enough capital and a set of minds that were strong-willed and innovative, they succeeded in building unique crossings and competing with the bigger and more powerful conglomerates. Some of the companies eventually continued their business well into the 20th Century.

In the case of Stupp Brothers, they have been building bridges and other forms of artwork for 165 years and counting. Many people don’t know much about Stupp Brothers except when you find historic truss bridges with the Stupp plaques on them. Most of these bridges can be found in Missouri but this was because Stupp has its headquarters in St. Louis.  When looking at the history of bridge building, some of the unique crossings have been built by Stupp. Aside from the Jefferson City Bridges, Stupp built the Bird’s Nest Bridge in Crawford County, Broadway Bridge in Kansas City, the Martin Luther Bridge in St. Louis, and the Route 66 Meramec River Bridge west of St. Louis- all of which still exist to this day.

More closely is the history of the Stupp Brothers Bridge Company itself, for its founder, originated from Germany in what is now North Rhine-Westphalia. And this is where the story starts.  I did some research on the company and interviewed Judith Stupp, wife of the current president, John Stupp, in 2017 as efforts were being taken to find funding to restore the Meramec Bridge.  While the role of Stupp with that bridge will be discussed later due to changes in developments to date, here’s what we learned about the bridge company, the Stupp family and 165 years of engineering success.

Bird’s Nest Bridge in Crawford County. Photo taken by James Baughn

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1. Who were the founders of the bridge company?

 Technically, the bridge business was founded by George, Peter and Julius Stupp, the sons of Johann Stupp, but the story begins with Johann. Johann Stupp was born in 1827 in Cologne (Köln), Germany- Prussia at that time. He was trained as a metal smith and during his wanderberuf he developed friendships with several other young wanderers.

Economic conditions convinced some of these friends to immigrate to the US. Initially Johann resisted, but in 1854 he chose to join his friends in St Louis, Missouri. The influx of Germans was so great that by 1860, of the 160,783 citizens of St Louis, 50,510 were German-born.

By 1856 Johann was married and had started his own business fabricating small machine parts and doing some ornamental iron work. He brought his brother Peter to St Louis to work as foreman at J. Stupp and Bros., Blacksmiths.

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2. What role did Stupp Brothers play in the Civil War, both regarding the bridge building business as well as in their private lives?

Though there is no documentation to prove it, there is a family conviction that Johann’s shop made iron plates for the fleet of seven ironclad gunboats built by John B. Eads to support the union effort to take control of the Mississippi and its tributaries. Eads was under intense pressure to produce the fleet in 90 days, so it seems likely that a shop like Johann’s would have been involved in the effort. Johann hadproduced iron plates for barges while still in Germany. Johann served in the “Home Guard” during the Civil War. This group was instrumental in preventing Missouri from seceding from the union.

By 1867 the firm was being advertised as the South St. Louis Iron Works. They fabricated fire escapes, railings and various ornamental items. In the late 1860’s the firm received a sub-contract to fabricate the gates at the newly created Lafayette Park. It was a triumph for the shop. Of the 32 gates Johann created 30 remain standing. Johann would concentrate on ornamental iron gates and fencing for the rest of his time in the business. Johann was a superb craftsman, meticulous and an artist in his trade. He died in 1915 at the age of 88.

By 1873 all three of Johann’s teenaged sons worked in the business. George was office manager, Peter was assistant pattern-maker and Julius was a bolt cutter. That same year saw the credit crisis known as The Panic of 1873. Johann had borrowed $3000 from an unscrupulous lender and, unable to pay the loan when called, lost the business. As a result of this experience no doubt, George Stupp had enrolled in business classes. In 1878 George formed the George Stupp South St. Louis Ornamental Zinc and Iron works. When Peter and Julius came of age a partnership was formed and the name was changed to Stupp Bros. With George in charge the company began to move from ornamental to structural work. One of the firms earliest orders was from the Anheuser-Busch Brewery.

Hurricane Deck Bridge in Camden County (now replaced). Photo courtesy of the MoDOT Archives

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3. How did Stupp play a role in the Westward Expension?

The 1880’s was an ideal time for the newly formed company. St. Louis was growing and prospering, it was fourth among American cities in gross value of manufactures and fifth in capital invested in manufacturing. When Stupp built its first bridge in around 1886, it was one of five bridge companies in St. Louis.

In December of 1890, the brothers incorporated, changing the firm’s name to Stupp Bros.

Bridge and Iron Company. America was becoming an industrial giant, Americans were pouring into the frontier, cities like Omaha, Dallas, Denver and San Francisco had emerged from frontier outposts. The networks of roads and rails in the east were improved and expanded, while new lines pushed westward creating and feeding new markets for manufactured materials. Buoyed by the expanding market, in 1893 the brothers expanded their plant by adding a second story to house an office and drafting room.

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4. How did the bridge building expand after the Civil War? How many branch offices did it have and which ones still exist today?

In the early 1900-1920’s there were offices in Iowa City, Iowa, Kansas City, Missouri and downtown St Louis. Today manufacturing is done in Bowling Green, KY with the sales office at the company location in St Louis where has been since 1902.

Meramec River (Route 66) Bridge west of St. Louis. Photo taken by James Baughn in 2015 after the deck was removed.

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5. While as many as 28 bridge companies merged to become the American Bridge Company in 1901 (including the Wrought Iron Bridge Company), Stupp didn‘t engage in this venture and continued to build bridges in the face of competition. How did the company achieve that successfully?

Independent minded. It is unknown whether or not they were ever approached about a merger. The company had the capital  to remain independent.

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6. What major projects has the bridge company been involved with since 1900? Bridge examples included.

Stupp’s contract records identify nearly 20,000 projects. Bridges make up a significant portion of them though not the majority of them. Some notable projects include:

  • Hurricane Deck at Lake of the Ozarks, MO (1936 Prize Bridge winner)
  • George P. Coleman Bridge over the York River, VA (Multiple swing spans-1990’s)
  • Randolph Street Bascule Bridge Chicago 1970’s
  • Ohio River Bridge Renovations Louisville, KY 2014-2016 (20,000 tons)
  • Truss Bridges over the Missouri River at Washington, Herman, Chesterfield, St. Charles, Jefferson City, Miami for the state of Missouri 1940s to 1960’s
  • Choteau Bridge replacement at Kansas City MO 2001
Martin Luther King Bridge in St. Louis. Photo taken by James Baughn

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7. Who is in charge of the company today and what kinds of bridges are being built today in comparison with 100 years or even 150 years ago?

John Stupp is the president of the company and R. Philip Stupp, Jr. Is our executive vice president. They are cousins and great-great grandsons of Johann. Three members of the sixth generation are currently working for the company.

Stupp began building bridges in the 1880s.  Most of the bridges Stupp fabricated in this time frame were less than 100 foot in individual span lengths.  The majority of the bridges were truss bridges.  The vertical elements of truss bridges are top chords, bottom chords, vertical and diagonal struts.  These components form panels and the completed panels span the crossing.  Horizontal members tie the two trusses together and support the roadway. Thru trusses, deck trusses, and pony trusses are three types of bridges that made up the majority of our contracts during the period.  Railroad bridges and highway bridges were our primary bridge products.

In 1902 Stupp moved to a much larger plant and began building much larger structures (longer spans require larger structures)  Trusses remained a dominant bridge type for another 100 years.  Our expanded capabilities allowed us to build arch bridges, long span railroad bridges, and moveable bridges.  Categories of moveable bridges include bascule, swing span, and lift.  Rolled beams (wide flange) were introduced by Carnegie Steel and then mass marketed by Bethlehem Steel around the turn of the century.  Their use greatly reduced the cost of short span bridges and these are known as rolled beam bridges. 

Plate girder bridges became cost effective and widely used after welding was perfected in the 1950’s.  Prior to then riveting plates together with angles was the preferred method.  Today plate girder bridges make up over 80% of the steel bridge market.  Plate girder bridges are the only bridge type that Stupp manufacturers since 1999.

Photo by James Baughn

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To learn more about Stupp Brothers, click onto the link here and read more about it.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 106

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This week’s Pic of the Week takes us to the German city of Cologne and the Hohenzollern Bridge. The bridge spans the River Rhine and has a beautiful backdrop with the Cathedral of Cologne (Kölner Dom) in the background. The bridge was built in 1911 by four different people who devised a concept for the bridge and carried out the project: Paul von Breitenbach, Rudolf Schmidt, Fritz Beermann and Friedrich Dirksen. It features three spans of steel through arches but in a way that there are three passages- one passage has one arch per span or three in total when crossing the river. In other words, a total of nine arch arches are featured in this collosal crossing. The bridge was destroyed during World War II but was rebuilt using the collapsed spans in 1946. It was later rehabilitated to accommodate rail traffic in 1986.  Today, it is the most heavily traveled bridge in Germany with as many as 1200 trains crossing the bridge daily, including regional and long distance (InterCity and ICE) but also international trains from neighboring France, the Netherlands and Belgium.  Unique about this bridge are the statues of famed persons on horseback, which you can find on each end of the bridge. Two of them originated from the Cathedral Bridge, which was the predecessor to the Hohenzollern Bridge.  All of them featured the Prussian Emperor named Friedrich.

Another feature worth noting are the love locks. Love locks are locks placed on the bridge’s railings by two people in love with each other. During my visit to the bridge in 2010, the entire railing where the pedestrian sidewalk was located was decorated with different colors of love locks. While they may symbolize love on the bridge, they can also cause damage to the bridge itself if the locks provide too much weight on the railings. While they may not be much of a problem at this bridge, other notable crossings, includng the bridges in Paris have had issues with this theme to a point where the locks had to be removed for the purpose of safety.  Some bridges do provide areas where to put love locks on, but off to the side and not directly on the structure itself.

My visit to Cologne was brief as I was facing a two-hour delay waiting for my connecting train to Frankfurt and to my eventual destination of home. Yet with the bridge located near the train station, it’s worth the wait just to steal a few shots before heading home. That was the beauty behind getting this pic. This location has been used hundreds of times, rain or shine. But no matter when, the scenery appears different everytime you get a picture of the bridge and the cathedral. This was taken before s storm came with high winds and dense rainfall- resulting in train services in North Rhine Westphalia to be shut down shortly after I took my train to Frankfurt. But nevertheless, even with overcast skies and windy conditions, the shot was worth it, just as much as the quick visit to the bridge while waiting for a couple hours. As a pontist, you can afford the visit while waiting. 🙂

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Newsflyer: 28 February, 2020

Cascade Bridge obli view
Cascade Bridge in Burlington, Iowa. Photo taken in 2013

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Headlines:

Public Opinion Survey on the Future of Cascade Bridge in Burlington, Iowa

Information on the bridge: http://bridgehunter.com/ia/des-moines/cascade/

         Public Opinion Survey (due March 1): https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BQH3CXQ?fbclid=IwAR2Pmk63tx9deQHhqJiXSkrSzs1_R4ivQ6ZMivMilCjU4OsGu0zFI-STydA

         Facebook Page “Friends of the Cascade Bridge”:   https://www.facebook.com/groups/2084856478442260/

Bismarck Railroad Bridge in ND: Photo taken by John Marvig

Public Opinion Survey on Bismarck Railroad Bridge (closed)

  Information on the bridge: http://bridgehunter.com/nd/burleigh/bh44455/

        Information on the survey: https://www.regulations.gov/docketBrowser?rpp=25&po=0&dct=PS&D=USCG-2019-0882&refD=USCG-2019-0882-0001

 

Waterloo Bridge

Photo by Virginia Department of Transportation

Rehabilitation to begin on Waterloo Bridge in Virginia:

  Information on the bridge: http://bridgehunter.com/va/culpeper/5622/

        Information on the project: https://www.fauquiernow.com/fauquier_news/entry/fauquier-3.65-million-waterloo-bridge-restoration-project-begins-2020

Photo taken by Axel Mauruszat / CC BY 3.0 DE (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/de/deed.en)

Elsen Bridge in Berlin to be Replaced.

      Information on the bridge:  https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elsenbr%C3%BCcke

         Information on the Bridge Replacement Project:  https://www.tagesspiegel.de/berlin/totalschaden-ueber-der-spree-die-bruecke-mit-dem-25-meter-riss/25500656.html

         Information on the Highway B 96 (Documentary): https://www.zdf.de/dokumentation/zdfinfo-doku/traumstrasse-der-ddr-b96-von-zittau-nach-sassnitz-102.html

Photo taken by: thinking pixels mediendesign – André M. Hünseler / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Rodenkirchen Suspension Bridge in Cologne to be Replaced:

Information on the bridge: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cologne_Rodenkirchen_Bridge

Information on the Replacement Plans: https://www.ksta.de/koeln/fussgaenger-koennten-alte-bruecke-nutzen-36335350

  Information on Motorway 4: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bundesautobahn_4

Photo by: ANKAWÜ / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Kressbronn Railroad Bridge to be Dismantled and Transported to Scrap Pile after Failed Attempt to convert it into Museum/ Snack Shop

     Newsstory: https://www.suedkurier.de/region/bodenseekreis/bodenseekreis/Gemeinderat-spricht-sich-gegen-ein-Brueckenmuseum-an-der-Argen-aus-jetzt-wird-die-Bruecke-verschrottet;art410936,10454893

 

Katrine Aqueduct being Restored:

Information on the Project: https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/local-news/see-inside-historic-160-year-21573751

Information on the Aqueduct:  https://www.lochkatrine.com/loch-katrine-aqueduct/

 

 

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Changes to two Facebook Pages:

Article:  Click here

       The Bridges of Saxony:  https://www.facebook.com/brueckensachsens/

       The Historic Bridges of Iowa: https://www.facebook.com/historic.bridges.iowa/

 

Plus a memo on the Coronavirus, which has become a pandemic, and ways to handle it.

 

BHC 10 years

 

Cable-stayed Bridge in Leverkusen to be Replaced

By A.Savin (Wikimedia Commons · WikiPhotoSpace) (Own work) [FAL or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
52-year old bridge to be replaced due to structural wear and tear. Documentary following events.

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LEVERKUSEN, GERMANY-  There is a growing theory regarding bridge building which states: build one that lasts 100 years and requires no maintenance. This demand is especially high in the United States and therefore, the focus of bridge construction has come down to cable-stayed suspension bridges, suspension bridges, girders and slabs. Sadly though, this theory always gets rebuked when one needs to look at the increasing number and size of vehicules crossing them, plus the need to maintain them on a yearly basis to ensure that this utopian goal is realized.

With the Motorway Crossing in Leverkusen (known as the A1 Rheinbrücke), the bridge is overtaxed with vehicles and despite extensive maintenance, the state of North-Rhine Westphania, together with the cities of Leverkusen and Cologne are now working on a replacement bridge. Built in 1965, the bridge features a cable-stayed suspension design, using one set of towers and cables in the middle of the roadway with cables anchored in two different lines supporting the median, which supports a steel deck girder roadway that supports the Motorway A1. The bridge was built by Hellmut Homberg, who was the Othmar H. Ammann of bridge building, having built several crossings in the Rhine-Ruhr River regions, including structures in Duisburg, Bonn, Cologne and Emmerich. The longest suspension bridge in Germany was built in Emmerich and is credited to Homberg. The A1 Rheinbrücke provides direct service between Saarbrücken to the south and places to the north, which includes Münster, Bremen, Hamburg, Lübeck and two-lane to Fehmarn.  The crossing is one of the oldest of its modern type, even though records showed that a tunnel and a basket-weaved tied arch bridge were also on the table (note: The latter can be seen in the Fehmarn Bridge, as reference). The bridge has a total length of 1061 meters; the main span has a length of 280 meters. The width of 31.7 meters includes the expansion of its original four lanes to six in the mid 1990s.

Originally slated for replacement in 2025, construction of the bridge is currently in the preliminary stages with plans to have a new structure in place by 2020. The reason: Because of the increase of traffic, both on the bridge as well as underneath with ships travelling along the Rhine,  combined with weather extremities, structural weaknesses, especially in the steel, has become so great that rehabilitating the bridge has no longer become an option.  Patchwork and weight limits have been conducted on several occasions, but only for the purpose of prolonging the bridge’s life until its new structure is open to traffic and the old one is removed.

Already a new bridge is designed and crews are doing soil samples to determine where to place the bridge. German public TV channel WDR (based in Cologne) is doing a documentary on this bridge project in the form of Sendung mit der Maus, a TV program for children and families with a lot of interesting facts and experiments. Televising the document in irregular intervals since January 2016, one can see how bridges are inspected, planning is undertaken for constructing the bridge, and the actual project itself. One can have a look at the progress below, but ask yourself this question:

Do you agree with this design preference? If not, how would you go about with this project if you are the planner, engineer and city official?

 

 

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The Autobahn 1 is one of the oldest motorways in Europe, and the third longest motorway in Germany behind A3 and A7. The Weimar Republic proposed building a highway without intersections and traffic lights during the 1920s, yet was realized through massive construction efforts during the time of the Third Reich. The A1 was presented in 1939 but serving the Rhine-Ruhr region, as well as in segments to the north. The rest of the autobahn was completed in the 1960s and later expanded in the 1990s and 2000s. The last segment at Fehmarn is being fought by locals because of the negative environmental impact on the island through a new crossing between the island and Schleswig-Holstein as well as between the island and Denmark. The battle is ongoing and one can read more here.…..

 

The Rheinbrücke in Leverkusen is one of several bridges of its kind that have been targeted for deficiencies. Two other cable-stayed bridges in Duisburg and Cologne (Severin Bridge), plus the Köhlbrand Bridge in Hamburg are having the same structural issues because of too much traffic and are facing the same fate as the crossing in Leverkusen.

 

A bridge tour of the region along the Rhine can be found here.

 

Like the Mouse, the Chronicles will keep you posted on this project………

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Historic Railroad Bridges in Jena to Receive Makeover

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Railroad Underpass at Muehlenstrasse. Unlike the candidates, this three-bridge underpass will be spared. Photo taken in November 2014

JENA- Located in the eastern part of the German state of Thuringia, between Erfurt and Leipzig, the city of Jena has 105,000 inhabitants- 20% of which are students of the city’s two universities- and is the birthplace of the optical industry with Carl Zeiss, Ernst Abbe and Otto Schott leading the way more than 100 years ago. Yet the city, which is home to three profi soccer and a profi basketball team, has a major problem it is contending with- severe traffic congestion!

Cause?

The city, located square in the Saale River Valley is dependent on two major railways and two key highways and thanks to the plans by the German Railway, travellers, commuters and drivers will experience hell on wheels live beginning in April, for one of the rail-lines- a key commuter line- will be shut down for five months. And two bridges over key streets will be replaced, thus resulting in them being closed to all traffic- each of which has a key bus or street car line connecting Jena’s city center with its southern and western suburbs!  The city government as well as the German and Erfurt Railway services are bracing for the worst, while residents are scrambling for alternatives to survive the worst construction season Jena has ever witnessed since the end of World War II. The story behind it?

Simple.

Between the railway stations Jena-Göschwitz and Weimar, the entire line will be shut down beginning 2 April and lasting until 3 September for the rail lines are expanding to two tracks instead of its original one track line which had existed between Gera and Weimar. This includes the replacement of two historic but key bridges in Jena: the Kahlaische Strasse Underpass in Winzerla and the underpass at Magdelstieg just north of the train station, Jena-West, which will also be reconstructed during the total closure. It is part of the long-term plan to electrify the line and re-introduce long-distance train service connecting Cologne and Dresden via Jena, Gera and Chemnitz, a project that is scheduled to be finished by 2030. Already an Inter-City train is serving Jena and Cologne, but more are expected once the project is finished in September.  Jena is expected to lose two of its five bridges in the progress. Two of the three spared structures- the crossing at Katharina Strasse and one at Muehlenstrasse originate from 1848, when the line was originally established. Another was rebuilt in 1994, when the Berlin-Nuremberg-Munich line was being electrified for ICE-Train services, which was introduced a year later. The ICE trains are currently being rerouted through Erfurt, Fulda and Wurzburg, while the line through Jena will experience regional trains running every 15 minutes counting the ones to Weimar via Grossheringen beginning 2 April.

The two historic bridges coming down include the following:

 

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Kahlische Strasse Underpass- Located in the Ringwiese District in the suburb of Winzerla, the bridge once featured two arches when constructed in 1935- during the age of the Third Reich: one over the street and one over the sidewalk. As part of the plan to expand the streetcar line in 1968, the arch span over the street was replaced, while the pedestrian part was spared. Since the end of 2014, work has commenced on a replacement bridge which, once the entire bridge is demolished and the railroad grade is raised, will be slid into place. This is needed because the current structure does not fulfill the needs of the rail service that is expected to have more trains in service beginning in September. The vertical clearance for both the 1968 and 1935 spans also do not meet today’s traffic standards, especially for cyclists using the 1935 span. Therefore, the plan is to shut down the entire street, which includes the street car line connecting Winzerla with the city center, tear up the street, tear down the underpass and slide in the new bridge before rebuilding the street and tram line and reopening that portion by August of this year. Remnants of the totalitarian style bridge will be a thing of the past.

Westbahnhofstrasse Bridge  Photo taken in November 2014
Westbahnhofstrasse Bridge Photo taken in November 2014

The Bridge at Westbahnhofstrasse- Spanning Magdelstieg near Jena-West Railway Station, this bridge is the more ornamental of the five bridges along the East-West Railway line as the structure features a coat of arms on the steel piers as well as cylinder finials and steel railings with del greco patterns. Yet the bridge’s days may be numbered come July. It is unknown what will become of the structure, but word has it that at least the decking of the bridge will be reconstructed, which means the finials and the railings will most likely disappear. The future of the steel piers remain uncertain. As for Magdelstieg itself, the street will be shut down for the second time in three years, except for pedestrians and cyclists, meaning the key bus line between the University of Applied Science and Beutenberg Campus as well as the city center will not have service for two months at least.

 

The end result of this massive construction will be all train traffic being diverted to the north-south line with trains stopping at Jena-Paradies every 15-20 minutes, yet its main artery going into Jena, Stadtrodaer Strasse will experience traffic jams up to 10 kilometers long throughout the whole summer until the East-West rail line reopens, as with the streets connecting Winzerla, Beutenberg Campus and the city center. Given its wide networks of bike trails in the area that will mostly be spared any disturbances, it is highly recommended when visiting Jena this summer to consider entering from any points except Winzerla, carpooling with others or even rent a bike from the bike shops serving the city center as well as Jena-Ost to alleviate the congestion which will bring the city to a crawl. This summer will be the biggest challenge to the nerves of every commuter and traveller alike, but the bright side: it’s only once in a lifetime. Normalcy will return to Jena come this fall for everyone, student, worker and resident alike.

And even for this writer who will keep you posted on the latest and provide a tour of the bridges of Jena once the project is finished. Stay tuned.

 

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Padlocked Bridges: The Incident at Pont des Arts in Paris and the issue of padlocks on bridges

Pont des Arts Bridge in Paris. Photos taken in 1999

Lovelocks. Love locks the two together for eternity to come. And how to provide that but to attach a lock on a historic bridge and throw the key away into the river. The origin of lovelocks was from Serbia, where a school misstress fell in love with a World War I soldier and met often at the Most Liubavi in the Serbian town of Vrnjacka Banja. However, the couple broke up after he went off to war and the woman died a broken heart. In response, locals showed their solidifying love by putting their padlocks on the Most Liubavi and it became part of a work by Serbian poet and writer,  Desanka Maksimovi?. The bridge of love, where lovelocks are attached to bridge railings and other parts, later spread to other bridges in Europe, and today, lovelocks can be found in the hundreds of thousands on popular bridges, such as the  Ha’penny Bridge in Dublin, the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, and even the Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne.

Love locks on the Hollernzollern Bridge in Cologne, Germany

Yet these lovelocks are starting to pose a major problem, as can be seen with the latest incident with the Pont des Arts Bridge, spanning the Sienne River in Paris. According to reports by the BBC, parts of the parapet of the 1804 iron deck arch bridge collapsed on Sunday because of the weight of these love padlocks. This has raised a debate on whether the padlocks should be removed in its entirety due to concerns of the historic integrity and aesthetics of the bridge being compromised, as well as the hazard that is being imposed on boat traffic passing underneath the bridge. The Pont des Arts is one of three of the dozens of Parisian bridges that are laden with padlocks. The other two are the Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor and the Pont de l’Archevêché. Consideration is being taken to remove the padlocks in its entirety, as it has been done to several bridges in Europe and North America that have been the magnet for these lovelocks, such as the Humber Bridge in Toronto, as well as the aforementioned bridges in Dublin and Florence. Yet if any action is taken, it will run into stiff opposition by those wishing to keep the tradition alive, as this was seen by action taken with the Kettenbrücke in Bamberg and the Hollernzollern Bridge in Cologne last year. At both places, protests forced the proprietors of the two bridges (the City of Bamberg and the German Railways (Deutsche Bahn)) to retract their decision to remove the locks.

Close-up of the arches, the parapet and the lamppost.

While lovelocks are a symbol of eternal love and the tradition should be alive. The question is why choose certain bridges, such as the Ponts des Arts in Paris. Upon my visit in 1999, before the bridge became a magnet for this sensational ritual, the bridge was clean of all its padlocks, including the parapets and the lampposts dating back to the 1800s, when the bridge was not affected by the years of conflict it would sustain through the French wars with Germany lasting up until the end of World War II. It was restored in 1984 after parts of the span collapsed in the 1970s and was the hub for artwork, mainly from the students of the school of art École des Beaux-Arts. This included a series on cowboys and indians from the American wild west, which was on display during my visit:

 

 

And while art exhibits have changed from time to time on the bridge, nobody has expected the lovelocks to decorate the bridge, making it look colorful and more beautiful on the one hand, but ugly and one that can ruin the structural beauty of the bridge. But then again, love does have its good and bad sides as well, and conflicts can be solved through compromise, which will need to be made before too many lovelocks do indeed cause damage to historic bridges, causing damage and costing more money to repair and restore them than necessary.

It does not mean that lovelocks should not be allowed on the bridges and other places of interest. It should be encouraged, however in moderation. This means that only a limited amount of lovelocks should be allowed on a bridge or at or near a place of interest to ensure that the aesthetic and structural integrity are not harmed in anyway. This means that there are more places to show your love with lovelocks than just this one particular place, as long as it is allowed.

After this incident at the Pont des Arts, questions will arise as to what will become of the lovelocks on that bridge as well as the other two in question. Yet as lovers have done when being in love, when there is a will, there is a way to show the love and keep the tradition alive; if not at this bridge, then another one.

Question:

Apart from the aforementioned bridges in this article, which other bridges in the US, Europe and other places have this lovelock tradition? And if there is a bridge where you would love to see lovelocks on there, apart from the Lover’s Leap Bridge in Columbus Junction, Iowa and New Milford, Connecticut, which ones would you place your lovelock on and why?  Put your comments here as well as in the Chronicles’ facebook pages.

 

Red Bridge as a Romantic Pedestrian Crossing

Photo taken in August 2011

There is something very special about this particular crossing, especially when I visited it in 2011. We can start with the design features of the Red Bridge, located over the Blue River at Minor Park in the southern part of Kansas City. While it is rare to have bedstead trusses- truss spans with vertical endposts- this 1932 bridge features a curved version of a bedstead endpost, as you can see in the picture above. This is a common bridge type found in Europe, yet this bridge, whose name is because of its color, is most likely the only surviving structure of its kind in the US.  According to historical accounts, this bridge is located at the site where Daniel Boone and Jim Bridger used to settle in the 1820s. The Santa Fe Trail once ran at this location. And the original crossing used to be a covered bridge, built in 1859 by a Scotsman named George Todd, on masonry piers. It was replaced 33 years later.

When the present Red Bridge was built as the third crossing in 1932, Harry S. Truman, oversaw the design, bid and construction of the structure- as Presiding Judge of the Jackson County Court (akin to today’s County Legislature)! This was the same Truman who later became US President, taking over after the death of Franklin Roosevelt in 1945 and serving eight years. Sources indicated that the Red Bridge was his favorite of all the bridges in Jackson County, Missouri, where he spent most of his life.

Now, after 80 years, the bridge has a new purpose in life- to serve as a lover’s crossing. Since 2012, the bridge has been integrated into the bike trail network serving Kansas City, as it still crosses Blue River and goes through Minor Park and Golf Course. And given the fact that the bridge is almost 300 feet long, which includes the Art Deco-style approach spans and main piers, lovers are making use of the 93-foot curved Bedstead Parker through truss main span by doing something that was adopted by the people in Cologne, Germany with their beloved Hollernzollern Bridge: putting locks on the bridge’s railings, as a sign of permanent love and affection toward each other, and throwing the key into the river. This tradition was first used after the bridge was converted to a pedestrian crossing in 2012 and, according to latest reports, hundreds of locks have been placed on the railings.

An interesting concept that had existed for many decades with the famous Rhine River crossing, yet it is making its way to the US. It leads to the question of whether and where such practice exists on other (historic) bridges in the USA and Europe. Furthermore, are there other “Lover’s Bridges” where people don’t use locks and keys to show their love but other traditions. If you know of some stories about such bridges, place them in the comment section at the end of this article, or in the Chronicles’ facebook page. Readers would be happy to hear about such bridges that exist and the stories that go along with them.

In the nearest future, another Red Bridge article will be featured in the Chronicles. My question to you is as there are many Red Bridges in the US, where are they located? Apart from the one in Kansas City, there are two in Iowa, one in…… Any ideas?

 

2013 Ammann Awards Results Part II

Wiley Bridge in Berk’s County, Pennsylvania. Photo taken by Nathan Holth. Winner of the Best Photo Award.

 

Wiley Bridge wins Best Photo Award, Cologne and Fayette County win Tour Guide Award, Coffeville Bridge Best Kept Secret for Individual Bridge.  

Run-off elections for spectacular disaster underway; winner announced Friday.  New changes underway for 2014 Ammann Awards.

A grey foggy morning in rural Pennsylvania. All is quiet on the homefront, except for a few clicks with the camera, all covered in dew, taken by a pontist crossing an old iron bridge that is cold, eeiry, walking into the bridge…. and into nowhere! This is probably the feeling Nathan Holth had as he photographed the Wiley Bridge in Berks County in northern Pennsylvania. The bridge had been closed for many years, awaiting its removal. Yet if it happens, it will most likely be relocated to Alabama instead of the dumpster. This photo won the Ammann Awards for Snapshot which will be more points for the preservationists. A sure way to bid farewell after 110 years and say hello to its new home.

And the results for the other photos:

Wiley Bridge  (Nathan Holth)                                             10

Navajo Bridge in Arizona (John Weeks III)                     7

Eads Bridge (F. Miser) and

Wheeling Suspension Bridge  (Randall Whitacre)        6

and Riverdale Bridge in Indiana  (J. Parrish)

 

Best Kept Secret Award:

For this category, it was divided up into the Tour Guide Section, where we have a region or city with a cluster of historic bridges and Individual Bridge, awarded for finding a historic bridge.

Hollernzollern Bridge at Cologne. Cologne and the River Rhine Region in NRW won the Bridge Tour Guide Award for 2013. Photo taken in March 2010

Tour Guide Award:

Like the Hafenbahn Bridge in Halle(Saale), the Bridges along the Rhine River in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which includes the Hollernzollern Bridge in Cologne, won the Tour Guide Award in both the international division, as well as All Around. The history of the bridges in this region go back over 100 years, despite the majority of them being severely damaged or destroyed in World War II as the Nazis detonated them in a desparate attempt to stop the march of American and British troops. This includes the Remagen Bridge, as well as the bridges in Dusseldorf, Duisburg and Cologne. Fortunately, some of the bridges damaged in the war were restored to their original form; others were rebuilt entirely from scratch. In any case, one can find bridges going as far back as 1877 along the river in this still heavily industrialized state, as mentioned in a WDR documentary last year. The NRW Bridges edged the bridges of Lübeck by three votes and Halle (Saale) and Quedlinburg by four votes in the international division.

Results:

Cologne and North Rhine-Westphalia           11

Lübeck (Schleswig-Holstein)                               8

Halle (Saale) and Quedlinburg                          7

Other results:   Magdeburg (6), Kiel (5), Baltic-North Sea Canal (5), Flensburg (3)               Note: All these candidates are from Germany

 

West Auburn Bridge in Fayette County, Iowa. Photo taken in August 2011

 

USA Division:

There are many regions, cities and counties in the USA whose historic bridges are plentiful. But there is no county that has used historic bridges as a showcase as Fayette County, Iowa, this year’s Tour Guide Award for the USA division. As many as four dozen pre-1945 bridges are known to exist in the county, half of them are metal trusses, like the West Auburn Bridge, an 1880 Whipple truss bridge built by Horace Horton that’s located west of Eldorado. There are also numerous concrete arch bridges located in and around West Union and in western parts of the county, including the Oelwein area. And lastly, Fayette County has the only Kingpost through truss bridge in the state of Iowa, and perhaps the oldest of its kind left in North America. Located over Quinn Creek in the northern part of the county, the 1880 structure has remained a tourist attraction, despite being bypassed by a series of culverts in the 1990s.

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

Thanks to Bill Moellering’s efforts during his years as county engineer, the county has the highest number of historic bridges in northeastern Iowa and one of the highest in the state. And the county won the Tour Guide Award by edging the City of Des Moines by one vote.

Other results:

Fayette County, Iowa                                                9

Des Moines, Iowa                                                         8

Caroll County, Indiana and                                    7

FW Kent Park in Iowa City

Other votes:  Franklin Park in Syracuse, New York (5)

In the All Around, Fayette County finished second behind Cologne, Germany, falling short by two votes, but with one vote ahead of Lübeck, Germany and Des Moines.

All-Around:

1. Cologne/ North Rhine-Westphalia (11);  2. Fayette County, Iowa (9); T3. Lübeck (8), Des Moines (8)

Coffeville Bridge in Kansas. Winner of the Best Kept Secret Award for Individual Bridge Find. Photo taken by Robert Elder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Kept Secret for Best Historic Bridge Find

In the second subcategory under Best Kept Secret, we have the individual bridges, where only a handful of bridges have been entered. While it is very few for a first time, the number will most likely increase when introduced for 2014. Only three bridges fall into this category, whereby the Coffeville Bridge, a three-span Marsh arch bridge spanning the Verdigris River in Montgomery County, Kansas not only won out in this category, but won the entire category, when combined with the Tour Guide candidates, beating Cologne by one vote and Fayette County by three. Not bad for a bridge that is about to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Here is how the winners fared out.

Individual Bridge Find:

Coffeville Arch Bridge in Kansas   (submitted by Robert Elder)             12

Field Bridge in Cedar County, Iowa   (submitted by Dave King)                                 9

Kiwanis Park Bridge in Iowa City       (submitted by Luke Harden)                            3

 

Total Count for entire Category (including Tour Guide Candidates)

Coffeville Arch Bridge in Kansas                  12

The Bridges of Cologne and NRW                11

The Bridges of Fayette County, Iowa            9

Field Bridge in Cedar County, Iowa                9

The Bridges of Des Moines                              8

The Bridges of Lübeck, Germany                   8

 

Run-off elections for Spectacular Bridge Disasters

The last category, the Smith Awards for Spectacular Bridge Disasters, ended up in a tie for first place between the Newcastle Bridge Disaster and the I-5 Skagit River Bridge disaster, with the fire on the San Sabo Trestle Bridge disaster being a vote behind the two in second place. Since there is no such thing as a tie-for-first place finish, we will have our very first run-off election among the three candidates. Go to the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ facebook page, look at the three candidates and like the one that should deserve the award (ENTITLED CANDIDATE NUMBER AND THE TITLE ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS). One like per voter please. The candidate with the most likes will win. Please like one of the three candidates by no later than Thursday at 12:00am Central Time (7:00am Berlin time on Friday). The winner will be announced on Friday in the Chronicles.

 

Fazit:

The use of social networks will be a prelude to the changes that will take place for the 2014 Ammann Awards. As there were some technical issues involving the ballot, which caused many to need more time to vote or even pass on the voting, the 2014 Awards will be using more of the social networks and other forms of 2.0 technology to ensure that there are more voters and the voting process is much easier and quicker. This includes the expanded use of facebook and linkedIn, as well as youtube, and other apps, like GoAnimate and other education apps. More information will come when voting takes place in December.  The format for the 2014 voting will remain the same: submission of bridge candidates will be taken in November, ending on December 1st. However, the voting process will indeed resemble the Bridge Bowl, as it will be extended through Christmas and New Year, ending on January 6th, the Day of Epiphany. The winners will be announced on January 7th, 2015. More information can also be found in the Ammann Awards page.

The Chronicles would like to thanks those who voted and apologize to those who had problems with the voting from the 2013 Awards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book/Documentary of the Month: A Tour of the Rhine in NRW

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Hollernzollern Bridge at Cologne. Cologne and the River Rhine Region in NRW won the Bridge Tour Guide Award for 2013. Photo taken in March 2010

There are many ways to write a book on bridges, let alone do a documentary for a TV program. One can focus on one bridge and its history, but that is more for locals who are closely attached to the bridge. One can focus on a region with a handful of bridges, like writing about bridges in a county or district. Again, the main focus would be the locals, but it would draw some attention from other bridge enthusiasts. As the region gets bigger, so do the number of people who are closely tied to the bridges, and the people from outside who are interested in these sturctures.

However, if you want to focus on bridges along the river, like we have here along the Rhine River, this is where one has to be walk a fine line. While documentaries like the one televised by German Public TV Station WDR can draw hundreds of thousands of viewers to the region, one has to be careful that the people do not become bored with each and every single bridge that is documented and told in the language that everyone can simply understand. This does not mean that it is impossible to talk about a tour of bridges along the rivers. The problem is when the length of the rivers are longer and there are more crossings, then one really needs to divide the project into segments dealing with region, history and in a certain degree, importance to the community.

One of the most successful projects is a two-volume book written by a former Iowa teacher, Mary Costello, on the bridges of the Mississippi River. Her book featured sketches of bridges she drew while on tour and some history to each one, yet it was divided unto the bridges along the Lower Mississippi (Gulf of Mexico to Iowa) and the Upper Mississippi (Iowa to Lake Itasca, Minnesota, where the river began). But what about another long river, the Rhine River?

The Ludendorff-Brücke at Remagen after American troops conquered the Rhine Region in March, 1945. It collapsed two months later. Photo taken by unknown soldier, credit to US goovernment as public domain

For 1200 kilometers (or 760 miles), the Rhine starts in the Swiss Canton of Grisons in the southeastern part of Switzerland in the Alpine region and makes its way north, forming borders with Liechtenstein and Austria before entering Lake Constance and forming the border with Germany. After Basel, the river creates a border between the Bundesrepublik and France before flowing into Germany after Karlsruhe. After passing through Mannheim, Mainz, and Frankfurt, the river creates a deep gorge which slithers its way from Bingen to Bonn and later through the industrial metropolises of Duesseldorf, Cologne and Leverkusen.  After turning west from there, it enters the Netherlands, where after passing through Rotterdam and Utrecht, it creates a delta where the river empties into the North Sea near Katwijk.  Nearly 100 bridges cross the Rhine, half of them in Germany. Each of them has a history of its own, not only in terms of its design and construction, but also its involvement in history.

When WDR (an arm of Berlin-based German public TV channel ARD with its branch office in Cologne) produced the two-part documentary on the Rhine River crossings in 2010, it was aware of the fact that it had to narrow its focus to only a few bridges, for each one had its own personal history to it, and the broadcasters there were aware that they could not afford to lose their audience with too many bridges, nor get into conflict with other German public TV stations who could benefit from this experience, like HR, which covers Hesse and Rheinland Palatinate and SWR, which covers the Saarland and Baden Wurttemberg. Therefore, WDR focused its bridge documentary on just the bridges in North Rhine-Westphalia, covering the bridges of Cologne, Duesseldorf and Duisburg.

The End Result?

A two part series where the first part focuses on the historical aspect. The story there starts in 1945 where the Nazis, in a desparate attempt to fend off the Allied Troops that were enchroaching the country, blew up any bridges along the Rhine that were not destroyed. Yet the mission was unsuccessful because of one of the last standing bridges at Remagen, the Ludendorff Railway Bridge, which the Americans captured on 7 March, 1945. Yet the bridge collapsed 10 days later but not before the troops constructed the bridge heads on both sides of the Rhine so that they could construct a pontoon bridge in its place. The original bridge heads were kept in place and is now a memorial.

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Hollernzollernbruecke and Cathedral in Cologne Photo taken in March 2010

The bridges laid in ruins together with the cities that were bombed out. Yet, one bridge, the Hollernzollern Bridge was rebuilt, using the through arch spans that were bombed off the piers and were sitting in the Rhine. Originally consisting of two three-span arch bridges, an additional one was added in the 1950s and today is the key link for trains travelling to Frankfurt and points to the east of Cologne Central Station. The Bridge serves as a symbol of love, as the railings are covered with padlocks with signs of love written all over them. Legend has it when lovers meet, the padlock was locked on the fenced railing with the keys thrown into the Rhine.

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Love locks on the Hollernzollern Bridge

But the first part also featured a tour of the bridges, inspected by the city engineer on a regular basis to determine how stable the structure is and what repairs are recommended. Marc Neumann, the city engineer serving Cologne provided a tour of the inside portion of the Zoo Bridge in Cologne, one of the most heavily traveled vehicular bridges in Cologne that was built in 1962 and is a box girder bridge, the first built in Germany at that time. Other highway bridges in Cologne have dealt with problems with increased traffic and the city has desperately tried to keep up the pace by constant maintenance of the bridge, as shown with the Severin Bridge, a cable-stayed suspension bridge that was the first post-war modern bridge built over the Rhine in Cologne. The 1959 structure was the focus of structural issues with its stayed cables, which needed to be replaced with the rest of the bridge being painted lime green afterwards. The purpose: to protect the bridge from the salt and other debris that have a potential to make the bridge rust and corrode.

Oberkasseler Brücke in Dusseldorf  Photo taken by V. Janssen

The second part of the series focused on other bridges in the state. Apart from the ones at Remagen, there were many cable-stayed and steel arch bridges that were mentioned in the documentary. While the Theodore Heuss Bridge, built in 1957, was the first cable-stayed suspension bridge built in Germany, there are two bridges are worth mentioning: The Bridge of Solidarity in Duisburg and the Oberkasseler Bridge in Duesseldorf. The Oberkasseler Bridge was built in 1973 replacing an ornamental arch bridge built in 1909 that was structurally deficient. The bridge was built alongside the old structure on the south end and after the old bridge was razed, the entire cable-stayed bridge featuring a set of towers planted in the middle of the roadway, was moved 47.5 meters to the original location of the 1909 bridge, a feat unimaginable for a bridge of that size and length, at 617 meters.  The Bridge of Solidarity in Duisburg was built in 1950 replacing a similar bridge built in 1936. Yet the name stamms from a group of protesters who blocked traffic to the bridge to protest the closing of a steel plant nearby. From 10 December, 1987 until 20 January, 1988 the workers walked the picket line on the bridge and the nearby company they had worked, resulting in the state government discussing about the crisis in the steel industry and the bridge being renamed at the request of the protesters. A unique action that one can rarely see today unless one is in southern Europe protesting the European Union’s bailout package with the conditions, as seen in Spain, Greece and Cypern.

Bridge of Solidarity in Duisburg. Attribution: © Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons) 

The Rhine Bridges in North Rhine-Westphalia are unique in a way that one has to go beyond the appearance of each structure to look at its history, how they were built and rebuilt, and how they are integrated into the lives of the people today. While focusing on safety and history were the key elements of the document series, the report also looked at how the people and their bridges go together, whether it is a person living inside a bridge or if there are musicians performing inside or underneath the bridge- both were found at Zoo Bridge in Cologne. The Rhine bridges in North Rhine-Westphalia, once a pile a rubble because of the war, are now a part of the lives of the residents who use it regularly to get from point A to point B. And even if we are in the post-modern era where sleek modern designs dominate the land and cityscapes, the memories of the bridges, how they looked like in the past and how they look like now will remain in their memories for generations to come.

With this in mind, I would like to close with a couple questions for the forum, and for those interested in producing a thorough and history and culturally enriched documentary similar to what was produced by WDR on the Rhine Bridges of North Rhine-Westphalia. The documentary covered many key points that were important for people to know about bridges, infrastructure, safety, culture and history, giving them some interest and perhaps an incentive to pursue something that is similar to what was shown on TV. But the questions posed here are something different from what was profiled here. Keeping the documentary in mind:

1. How would you do a documentary on bridges along the river? Would you chop the river up into segments or keep it the same? Which aspects would you include?

2. When looking at the documentaries enclosed below (in German), what is your opinion of the documentary? What words of advice would you give to people wanting to do what WDR did with the Rhine? This applies not only to the Rhine itself but other rivers.

3. Which other rivers would you imagine doing a documentary on apart from the Rhine and Mississippi Rivers?

Links:

http://www.wdr.de/tv/wdrdok_af/sendungsbeitraege/2013/0222/Brueckengeschichten_vom_Rhein.jsp

http://www.wdr.de/tv/wdrdok_af/sendungsbeitraege/2013/0301/brueckengeschichten_vom_rhein-helden.jsp

Rhein River Crossings to see (in NRW):

Ludendorff Bridge

Severin Bridge

Hollernzollern Bridge

Zoo Bridge

Theodor-Heuss Bridge

Bridge of Solidarity

Oberkasseler Bridge

Griethausen Railway Bridge

These are the bridges mentioned in the TV documentary. There are dozens of others that were not mentioned but should be visited. Please click on the Rhine River Crossings for more details.

 

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Bridgeport Bridge (finally) comes down

Portal view Photo taken in August 2010

When you first take a look at this bridge, you’ll find that it is located in a very rural setting- abandoned for many years with lots of vegetation overgrowing on and around the structure, making it impossible to cross unless you want to deal with beds of thorns, poison ivy, and deer ticks. However, as you can see in the next pictures, the augmented views of the bridge, taken from the side of its successor, a piece of bland concrete piece of monotonous artwork which puts a blotch in the city scape, you will find that the bridge has gone through years of abuse and neglect, with peeling paint, rusting sections, and flooring system that has been taken out, exposing the bottom chord, most of which is corroding or missing. If you go underneath the bridge, like yours truly did during the time of the Historic Bridge Conference in Pittsburgh, last August, it was like going through the jungle of Dante (as in Dante’s Inferno), with the banks of the Ohio River, where this bridge spans, being littered with garbage, signs of darkness thanks to the overgrowth on the bridge and if there was a hint of sunlight, it created a very eerie sensation, as if you were walking through a bombed out cathedral after the war with blown out windows, charred pews and pipes of an organ, and the silence and loneliness you only see when you are clinging barely onto life while facing death at the same time.

I’ve only seen one bridge that had this eerie sensation and that was with a railroad bridge spanning the Rock River on the west end of Rock Valley, Iowa, even though it has long since been converted to pedestrian use. However, after being on and underneath this structure, it really shows what nature can do to a structure after years of neglect and what life can do to someone or some agency for neglecting it to begin with.

The Bridgeport Bridge, spanning the Ohio River at Wheeling, West Virginia, separates the state with Ohio to the east. It is one of the rarest bridges of its kind that you can find in the US- a three-span bridge whose endposts are vertical and not diagonal like a common truss bridge has. One can find those in many places in Europe, like the Hollernzollern Bridge over the Rhein River in Cologne, Germany or the Chancy Bowstring Truss Bridge over the Rhône near Geneva, Switzerland. Yet by examining the portal bracing and the finials that are located at each corner on the upper chord, it is typical of an American truss bridge, as many portal bracings on arch and truss bridges in Europe at that time were either a common portal (A-frame) or have a concrete arch entrance, like you see when entering the castle across the drawbridge. Also unique is the fact that unlike the Hollernzollern Bridge, the bridge is a three-span  pin-connected Parker through truss bridge, with all these aforementioned features, which leads to the question of why a bridge company would market that in their truss bridge catelogue, like the Wrought Iron Bridge Company did.

When the bridge was built in 1893, the Wrought Iron Bridge Company was in the middle of marketing their bridges through the catelogues. That means governments and residents wanting to have a bridge in or near their town or home would order the bridge through the company catelogue, then have the company agent send the order to the manufacturers, who construct the parts to fit the needs of the customer before it could be shipped by train and assembled on site. Wrought Iron’s style of business, similar to ordering products through a Sears Catelogue in the US or Quelle in Germany (before it folded in 2009), was later practiced by other bridge companies that wanted to keep the bridge company giant in check; especially after Wrought Iron Bridge became part of the American Bridge Company consortium seven years after the Bridgeport structure was built. It is unclear how many bridges similar to Bridgeport’s were ordered and built, but it did become clear that unless something is done to keep the crossing at Wheeling intact and used for anything apart from vehicular use that consequences would come out of it, which would scar the city for life.

The Bridgeport Bridge used to serve US Hwy. 40 until the successor was built, the Military Order of the Purple Heart Bridge, in 1998. Before that, the roadway was strengthened in 1987 by adding a Bailey truss bridge onto the deck to serve as a roadway. Unfortunately, it was not enough to accomodate the traffic flow and it was closed to traffic once the Purple Heart Bridge was open to traffic. Then it just sat there, rotting away until it became clear that the structure, deemed a beatuy when it was first opened to traffic, because an ugly eyesore, which needed to be removed- at least in the eyes of the City of Wheeling.

Attempts have been made for at least five years to do something with the structure- either restore it for pedestrian use or remove it. The former was brought up by preservationists and those interested in saving the structure, but fell on deaf ears. The latter was attempted by those who did not want the structure anymore but it fell on deaf ears due to funding and opposition.  Promises and predictions to remove the bridge has gone on since 2006, with the last call to remove it being in 2009. That did not happen. Now the US Coast Guard has come in, ordering the bridge to be removed post haste, as debris and parts from the bridge have fallen into the Ohio River. Therefore, the plan is to have the bridge removed beginning in July, with help from the department of transportation offices of both Ohio and West Virginia. The project is expected to take two months, but it will also include salvaging the most memorable parts to be exhibited at the local museums. Whether this plan will be realized due to the deficit problems in the US and the struggling growth of the economy remains to be seen. Given the situation that is being dealt with at the moment, it is possible that the plan may yet be pushed back again, and again, and again……

While removing Dante’s jungle may be a relief to many, it will serve as a permanent scar to the community as the structure would have served as a complement to what Wheeling has already. It has one of the oldest suspension bridges in the country, as well as a historic city center, and the city does have some unique features that make it attractive. It was just too bad that the Bridgeport Bridge was not one of the historic features that should be saved. While leaving the bridge closed to traffic may serve as a temporary solution, it was indeed an out of sight and out of mind tactic, which once the bridge is eventually removed, it will remain a site where it once stood and it will remain in the minds of many in the community, that will associate Wheeling with this bridge.

PHOTOS (All were taken in August 2010 and linked through Flickr):

Inside the bridge with the roadway removed.

Dante’s jungle: The sun shining into the lower chord of the bridge

Dante’s Jungle: The abutment and the portal bracing from the banks of the Ohio River

Abutments: Note the bottom abutments (together with the center piers) came from a bridge built around 1837. The ones on top are from the 1893 bridge

Behind the bridge. Note: You can see the Ohio State Line sign hanging from the lower strut bracing just as one would get off by car when it was open to traffic. That sign, along with some other memorabilia from the bridge, are expected to be saved and displayed at the museum before the rest of the structure comes down.

Close-up of the finials at the corners of the bridge- this time at the center piers. Some of them will be preserved for display purposes.