As the month of November comes to an end, so will be the month where all kinds of crazy events that has happened, which has to do with historic bridges and ways to preserve or destroy them. Apart from the most heinous decision not to consider a bowstring arch bridge in Nebraska a historic structure- which effectively cleared the last hurdle to tear down the pedestrian bridge which has been sitting abandoned, there are some other notables that are worth putting down here in the Chronicles’ News Flyer, along with a pair of good news and some mystery bridge items which have come to light.
Without further ado, let us start off with the fishy part:
Spanning Cypress Creek in Lauderdale County, Alabama this bridge is one of the most haunted historic bridges in the country as it was the scene of four murders and several lynchings in the past, and people can still see apparitions and strange lights when crossing the structure. Yet the 1912 Pratt through truss bridge and its history is scheduled to come down soon, as vandals have used the bridge for gatherings, leaving garbage at the scene and using the bridge decking for firewood. Despite it being considered historic by the state historical society, the county commission may have the final say in this matter because of liability issues……
Enochs Knob Bridge to come down in December
Like the Ghost Bridge in Alabama, the Franklin County, Missouri structure, featuring a Parker through truss bridge and built in 1908 was the scene of two murders, but several ghostly encounters, such as green dogs, trolls, ghosts of people killing themselves and others, and other abnormalities. While the Ghost Bridge received attention because of its dire state thanks to the vandals, this bridge was the struggle of many attempts to save as a historical marker, but unfortunately to no avail. Construction commenced on its replacement this summer, and the bridge will be removed as soon as the new bridge opens next month. However, as the bridge is still available for purchase through the local contractor, according to recent correspondence, there is a chance that the truss bridge may get a new lease on life, if one is willing to handle its history. More information about this opportunity can be found through this contact detail:
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles wrote a piece on this bridge, which can be viewed here.
Des Moines Railroad Bridge coming down in pieces
In connection with the most recent article on the collapse of two bridges and the removal of one, here is some unfortunate news on one of the bridges profiled in the article, the Chicago and Great Western Bridge over the Des Moines River in Des Moines. Due to flooding issues that has plagued the capital of Iowa in recent years (including the 2008 floods), the city decided to take action to raise the dikes along the river in down town, but at the expense of the four-span through truss bridge. This is perhaps the most logical decision given the dire state the bridge was in. According to a recent visit by John Marvig, parts of the flooring was missing due to vandalism and flooding. Bridge parts rusted and corroded to a point where new parts would be needed. And even worse, the piers on the western side of the river were crumbling at an alarming rate, setting up the stage of parts of the bridge to collapse under its own weight. Since its abandonment in 2001, there had been plans to convert it into a bike trail, but was scrapped because of its condition and flooding issues. Demolition, consisting of removing the flooring and bringing down the truss spans individually using tow cables, commenced at the beginning of the month, and the removal should be completed by June 2013. Another through truss bridge, the Red Bridge, which was recently converted into a bike trail, will be raised four feet with new approaches being added. The fate of the other five bridges in the business district is unknown at the moment.
Mulberry Creek Bridge in Kansas considered historic and should be saved; county engineer and commissioners cowing over the results
The Mulberry Creek Bridge in Ford County, Kansas features two of the original six spans of pin-connected Pratt through trusses that had originally spanned the Arkansas River in Dodge City from the time of its original construction in 1906 until its relocation in 1959. It had served a private road until a broken pin was discovered in May 2012, closing the bridge indefinitely. A month later, the county voted unanimously to tear the bridge down and replace it with a culvert. Two months later, the bridge came to the Chronicles’ attention and that of Workin Bridges and the Kansas State Historical Society. Three days ago, the Kansas Historical Society considered the bridge historic and recommended that the bridge be repaired and reopened to traffic, based on historical findings and the thorough investigation by Julie Bowers and crew at Workin Bridges. A clear victory for a potential owner, Wayne Keller, who lives next to the bridge and uses it regularly. Yet the county commissioners are not backing down on their plan as they have ordered a full inspection of the bridge to determine what other issues the structure has that could justify its demise. Many have considered them to be spoiled sports, not willing to give the bridge to Keller to own. A tiny repair before changing ownership can save thousands of tax payer dollars. Yet the ability to do the math seems to be nonexistent. More information to follow.
The bridge is up for nomination for the Ammann Award for best photo. More will come soon. The Chronicles has an article on the bridge, which can be found here.
Cascade Bridge’s Future in Limbo
Located in Burlington, Iowa and built in 1896 to commemorate the state’s 50th anniversary of its statehood, the Cascade Bridge is the only bridge in Iowa that features the Baltimore deck truss span with no steel approaches- that honor goes to the Kate Shelley Bridge in Boone County. It was closed in 2008 due to structural concerns, but despite being listed on the National Register, an engineering report by a consulting firm in September revealed that the bridge is not safe and should be torn down. Yet the bidding process still continues as some parties are begging to differ, given the fact that the firm only visited the bridge once during its inspection and used photos provided by the city. The bridge’s fate now lies in the hands of the SHPO in Ames and up until now, no decision on its future has been made. A blessing or a curse?
Despite the ugly sides of the historic bridge preservation story, we do have some bright sides for a couple of bridges that are worth noting:
Gilliece Bridge on the move?
Located over the Upper Iowa River on Cattle Creek Road in Winneshiek County, Iowa, the Gilliece Bridge (which also goes by the names of Murtha and Daley) is one of only two bowstring through arches left in the county, and one of only three left that was constructed by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company, if one counts the queenpost portion of the Upper Bluffton Bridge that was spared demolition earlier this year. This is despite the fact that Wrought Iron Bridge constructed over two dozen bridges in the county between 1870 and 1890. The 1874 bridge sustained damage to its overhead bracing over the years, yet despite the plans to replace the bridge next year, it seems that this bridge is destined for a golf course in Mitchell County. If all repairs are made and the agreement is made, it will be placed over water at Sunny Brae in the next year or so, to be made available for golfers and visitors alike. More information will follow. The Chronicles is working on a piece on Winneshiek County’s bridges and will have it available very soon.
Waterford Iron Bridge gets a check-up; restoration on the horizon
A contract was let to Workin Bridges to look at options for restoring the bridge. Built in 1909 by the Hennepin Bridge Company in Minneapolis, this 140 foot long Camelback through truss bridge is scheduled to be restored and incorporated into a bike trail network along the Canon River, with work expected to start next year. The question that is on the minds of many involved is how to restore it. New foundations, removal of pack rust, fixing truss beams and repainting are needed, but the total cost is unclear. The investigation has started and more will be revealed once the check-up is finished. The fortunate part is the Waterford Bridge is coming off two victories in the funding part, winning the American Express Prize and the Bronze Medal (and $95,000) in the Partner’s for Preservation Award last year, in connection with additional support from public and private sectors, something that is rare in the world of historic bridge preservation. But once the restoration is completed, it will be worth more in its own value than money can ever offer.
More information on the bridge can be found here. Please note, the photos taken by the author can be found here. The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest.
And lastly, we have some news out on a pair of mystery bridges that are worth noting:
Pearson and US 101 Bridges related?
As mentioned earlier this year in many bridge articles, Harrison County, Iowa is one of a few counties in the state that imported many bridges from outside the state, including some high quality aesthetic bridges, such as the (now extant) Orr Bridge, the US 101 Bridges from California, and the Pearson Bridge, all of which can be seen here:
Some information about two of the mystery bridges came to light thanks to information from one of the locals. The Pearson Bridge, which spanned Soldier River on 170th Trail near Loess Hills, was originally constructed at the site of the East Kelley Lane Bridge near Mondamin, according to Craig Guttau. The Pearson Bridge was relocated to the present site in the 1950s, when one of the spans of the US 101 Bridge replaced it for reasons of structural soundness, especially when heavier farm equipment needed to cross the bridge. Even more interesting is the fact that a weight limit was imposed on the East Kelley Lane Bridge right from the beginning due to a missing beam from the US 101 span, which was replaced with a makeshift beam that was not as durable as the original one. The East Kelley Lane Bridge is set to be replaced next year, unless the fiscal cliff issue in Washington delays the project indefinitely. The Pearson Bridge has long since been removed after a heavy vehicle tried crossing the bridge, and fell through the deck. While it has been a few years since the mishap, the county and state made haste in condemning the structure and tearing it down, while at the same time, posted even stricter sanctions on the rest of the bridges to ensure that the mishap never repeats itself. Hence the phrase “Obey the weight limit or this bridge will be closed!”
This leads to the request for more information on the origin of the Pearson Bridge- whether it was built in Harrison County or imported from outside even earlier than 1950. The other question is when and how did the accident on the bridge happened, which led to the bridge’s unfortunate downfall…..
The Harrison County bridges are being considered for the Ammann Awards in the category of Mystery Bridge, although it is unknown whether they will be nominated individually or as a group of bridges.
Horn’s Ferry Bridge revealed (at least partially):
In the last few months, some readers and locals have been contributing information and photos pertaining to the Horn’s Ferry Bridge in Marion County, Iowa and its unfortunate collapse 20 years ago. Here are some points to consider: The bridge was built twice: First time in 1881 and when erosion was undermining the east end of the bridge, two additional spans were built in 1929. Both by local contractors based in Des Moines. The original 1881 spans were built on stone piers supported by walnut pilings. According to many residents, the walnut pilings rotted away, causing the stone piers to crack and spall, contributing to the bridge’s closing in 1982 and its eventual collapse in 1991. The Camelback main span resembles a span that was located upstream, west of Red Rock Dam. Yet that bridge was removed when the Red Rock Dam was built in the 1960s. Here is a pic that Daryl Van Zee sent to the Chronicles a few months ago, taken by an unknown photographer and depicting the bridge as it was before its collapse.
1. Voting will begin for the Ammann Awards beginning 3 December. A number of entries have come in within the last few days. If you still want to submit, you have until 3 December to do so.
2. There will be some catching up with regards to the Book of the Month in December, as three books will be profiled, two for the months of October and November and one for December. Stay tuned.
Imagine you have a vintage 1890s historic truss bridge that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places but is in danger of being demolished in favor of a new bridge. The local government knows that the functional life of the structure for automobiles has reached its end and a new bridge is needed to accomodate the increasing need of traffic on the road. Yet the bridge’s aesthetic value makes it worth being saved. The government does not have the funding resources available to renovate it, let alone relocate it to a park. Who do you turn to for help?
This is a one of those text book examples where unless the municipality has a group of people with enough resources, the historic bridge becomes a pile of scrap metal. While two thirds of the historic bridges in the United States have been wiped out over the past three decades, three out of four have been because of a lack of support and resources needed. This includes not only lacking financial resources but also the expertise needed to restore them to their pristine condition. Yet in the past decade we are starting to see a trend toward preserving as many of the remaining third of the historic bridges as possible. This includes the increase in welding and sandblasting the bridge parts and other techniques needed to restore the bridges. It also includes something that Julie Bowers of Workin’ Bridges is doing- marketing and selling historic bridges.
While many state departments of transportation have different policies towards marketing historic bridges that are on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) but are scheduled for replacement- and the success rate among them vary from state to state from above average to poor- Ms. Bowers has been spearheading the efforts to involve parties in the private and public sector and have the historic bridges relocated to other places where they are needed, not only through marketing and selling them, but also having them restored to their usual form before today’s automobiles started wearing them down again.
I had a chance to meet Ms. Bowers while at the Historic Bridge Conference in St. Louis in August and found that she was an optimistic person and a great supporter of historic bridge preservation. But there was an underlying reason of why she is into the business she is right now (and will be in the future)- and this falls on one of the bridges in Poweshiek County, Iowa- her place of origin- which was wiped out during the Floods of March 2010 and is one of the primary targets to have it restored to its usual form. I had a chance to conduct an online interview with the 2011 Ammann Legacy Award runner-up and after some editing work for content, I decided to post the dialogue here, so that the reader can learn more about her work and get involved in the effort to save a historic bridge in his/her own area, let alone assist in the work of Ms. Bowers and her organization, Workin’ Bridges. Here is what she has to say:
How did you become interested in historic bridges (and preservation)?
Sunday afternoons in the fall would often find my family and friends at an old iron bridge. I remember being three and falling in the river from the deadfall – trees that would fall across the river to form a bridge were the most fun. In the background and always crossed – was the old arch bridge. I didn’t know it was historic, it was old, certainly. I was never afraid to drive over it. In 1989 they closed the road, but I was able to ask the Conservation Board for a key, because I felt our family should be grandfathered in to access to that area. Today Millgrove Access Wildlife Area is nearly 1200 acres of prairie, oak-hickory savannah, river birch and boggy area.
Then I moved to California and fell in love with the Golden Gate, Richmond-San Rafael, Bay Bridge. When I moved back to Iowa with Laran (my daughter) in 2001, shortly after 9/11, we started the Sunday ritual at the river again, and introduced a lot more people to that bridge. It has served as a place for weddings and senior pictures, anniversaries and many parties. Magical place.
How are you connected with the McIntyre Bridge? Was it the source of inspiration for you to preserve and market historic bridges?
The McIntyre Bridge is how my career in historic bridges evolved. I was the one that got the call on October 4, 2009 from Larry Bryan who had just been at morning coffee. Now, morning coffee, exists everywhere, that is where you find out the news. Larry asked when I called him back, “They are going to tear down your bridge, what are you going to do about it? “ I cried for three days, then decided that the bridge needed me. There was no other family member to step up and take charge. I was the one who put on the annual party. It was up to me. I was the only one that cared and it was just because my family spent Sundays there when I was a kid.
I started researching bridges and discovered restoration and preservation then, and I haven’t stopped yet. The Supervisors of Poweshiek County allowed us time to see what we could do about saving the bridge and we formed a friends group and then we formed a non profit. And then we lost our bridge, I think without that I wouldn’t be so stubborn about helping others. Knowing that I was one step behind has made all the difference in the world, but it is not easy, and if funds don’t come int, like with the Pepsi Challenge (a long shot for sure) or private donations. We just try to work for our money for restoration in these economic times. We adhere to the standards for restoration and that is how we market our bridges. Historic Antiques – Formerly on the List of recognized historical objects.
Funny story, my daughter and I shared a phone plan, and I got a call one day in early December, “MOM, what have you done to the phone, we are 700 dollars over our limit?” We fixed that by unlimited minutes but I had called nearly every construction and engineering firm in Iowa and no one could help me. Peterson Construction, Inc was the only construction company with cranes who said they would help. Research nationally brought Vern Mesler, Nathan Holth, Kitty Henderson, Eric Delony, Alan King Sloan. Vern and Nathan came to Iowa and told us that we could save the bridge, even if it fell in the river. It was leaning a lot and we didn’t know what to do. It took us a couple of months to become a non-profit – The N. Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSRGA). Unfortunately, we lacked one signature for lifting the bridge at the end of February and by the 1stweek of March we had lost our window of opportunity to spring flooding for lifting the bridge off it’s piers..
We struggled with legal issues for 5 more months and finally found that two agreements needed to be made, a lease on the land, and the purchase of the bridge for $1. The agreement gives the bridge back when it is fixed. The County did not sign the agreements until after the bridge had been swept off it’s piers in early August 2010. Our organization insisted that we would take care of the bridge and see what we could do about salvaging and seeing if it could be fixed, the piers were still standing in the same place.
That was the day I called Vern to tell him that the bridge was gone. A couple days later he called back with a phone number that I wrote down on the back of an envelope, with a name Nels Raynor. It took a couple of weeks for me to call him, we didn’t know what to do. Nels came to Iowa and told us he was the one that could salvage and fix the bridge. He quoted us a very low price for the removal of the spans all all iron from the river that was way low, saying he knew we didn’t have money for this and he wanted to help us.” We were able to also help whim with a tax write-off for the rest of his time and energy, as the job took a little longer than he thought it might. That bridge went down fighting, about 150 feet downstream.
Workin’ Bridges started from that meeting. I had done a lot of research and grant writing on the bowstring and found www.bridgehunter.com and historicbridges.org. Started doing some research, found a little King bridge in Texas that needed some help, and Nels and I made the trip to do the Scope of Work and Estimate for the restoration of the bridge. TxDOT won that project, but today I sit in Texas, waiting to start documenting the restoration of the Piano Bridge, with the team from Michigan, Nels and BACH Steel, and Scott Miller of Davis Construction Inc, of Lansing (DCI of Decatur, TX), who won the bid at my urging in early August. This little Piano Bridge has a lot of story for everyone to learn something, that old iron can be welded, that it is not intrinsically tired, and that pin connections can be trusted. I’ve learned a lot.
What types of bridges do you market and preserve?
I take a lot of guidance from the bridgehunter nation as to which bridges should be saved and why. The Upper Bluffton Bridge in Winneshiek County, Iowa is one example of bridges that we got the contractor to save rather than scrap. Long Shoals Bridge in (Bourbon County) Kansas is an early 1900’s modified Parker that showed up on the TRUSS award from last year, I called the county commissioners and they listened and are now working on the permission to move that bridge to the city of Fort Scott.
My original research was on King Bowstrings, which branched out to King Bridges, which came back to other bowstrings. My work centers on the bridges built from the late 1860s to 1900. 1916 is the cutoff for most of my interest, that is when American Steel, JP Morgan, the auto industry changed the bridge industry. Now I like all the bridges and determine their historic and local uses. As as artist I like how they frame a view, you don’t get that with the concrete or train-car style of bridge. We look for different qualities for preservation, mostly if there is a use for the bridge.
Our non-profit was fortunate to have some major donor’s working to help us with the bowstring but funding is tight. That is another reason we started Workin’ Bridges, so that I could take the research, grant writing and bridge information I had learned over the last year and share it with others that needed help. The consulting fees help support our administrative budget, which isn’t covered by most grants. Our hope is to get in on some big projects that will ultimately fund our own bridge restoration, which is always a primary goal in my world. To that end we try to educate engineers and construction companies, county and city officials, DNR and County Conservation Boards, and regular folks like me, who just happen to own a bridge.
What is the role of BACH Steel?
If only I had heard about Nels Raynor and BACH Steel when I first heard of Vern Mesler. In July of 2010, after Vern had come to Iowa to put on a metals workshop, I read the book that the core group of bridge lovers had written which had a section on Nels. “A Community Guide to Historic Bridge Preservation” by Mike Mort from MSU. Anyway, coming from a construction background, Nels had the answers and the estimates that I needed. I didn’t need some historic preservationist, I needed a contractor that worked with historic structures. We started collaborating together when I was in Michigan, getting an inventory and photographic details of bridge parts together for the bowstring’s Technical Advisor to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in Iowa .
BACH has, to date, only worked as a consultant to Workin’ Bridges on the site visits in Texas, Kansas, Arkansas but we hope to visit more bridges next year. The business model provides a way for the non-profit to work with the locals or purchase a bridge and work with it to find funding and a local group to support it. If the job goes to bid, BACH has the rights to bid it and hopefully the non-profit makes a finder’s fee. If Workin’ Bridges acts as the contractor , as in the bridges we own, then BACH works as the sub. It gets confusing but we have just started working with Davis Construction Inc. from Lansing, MI that Nels had worked with previously. Hopefully, we can continue to work collaboratively to find more bridges to restore, and get them into a pipeline for scheduling so that we consistently have work.
The Long Shoals Bridge – awareness, grant writing, permission requested from NPS keeper of the National Register of Historic Places to move the bridge to Fort Scott. If the permission is granted, a grant has been written for $90,000 to help with the move and disassemble. Further grants and fundraising will have to take place for the restoration and reset.
Springfield Bridge – Faulkner County is pursuing funding for the restoration of the bridge in its original setting as a park. The bridge planking is in bad shape, and some irregular fixes happeed. Another King this is from 1873 and the differences in engineering will require some creativity on the part of the engineer. For the McIntyre Bowstring – Spicer Engineering of Saginaw, Michigan engineered the decking to become part of the lateral strength of the bridge. The Springfield does not have riveted lattice bracing on the verticals, that strengthening showed up in the late 1870s. The eyebars and floor beams are also different in the early bridge so it will be interesting to see how the engineers come up with loading.
McIntyre Bridge – Spicer Engineering has signed and sealed the plans for the restoration of the bowstring. BACH Steel has come up with a way to make the vertical posts and will fix the bridge once funding has been secured. That is the hardest part, we are out in the country with little support for this place.
Enochs Knob Road Bridge – Workin’ Bridges supplied Molly Hoffman with an estimate and Scope of Work for the bridge in Franklin County, Missouri. This bridge has been slated for replacement but our findings showed that another look at the engineering might make a difference in keeping it, although the approaches had been worked for a replacement structure. This would also be a great pedestrian/equestrian bridge but the local population doesn’t want the party contingent there. These bridges are magnets and it is up to us to educate those that hang out their on how to maintain and care for the bridges. Enochs Knob has a lot of ghost stories and history so it will be interesting to see where that project goes.
The Piano Bridge – Workin’ Bridges was given the rights to document the full restoration of this bridge. During my time talking about bridges, I have often had to defend the engineering without being an engineer. The engineers from TxDOT will talk about their reasons for restoring these bridges – low daily traffic and an alternate route are two of the criteria they look at when evaluating keeping bridges in their system. Texas will be doing a lot of restorations in the next two years from funds already allocated by legislature. The documentary / reality construction content will be utilized in a variety of ways, formats and hopefully find distribution to a wide audience, educating them about saving our historic resources.
What difficulties have you dealt with and how have you overcome them?
Most of preservation nation is made up of experts and consultants who consistently get the grant monies.
Bridges are not at the top of the list when it comes to granting or giving donor money.
Bridges were added to the National Register of Historic Places in the 90s from a grant from the National Parks Service,
Being listed on the National Register affords no protections from tearing down, it might slow the process but it has no authority to dictate saving a project.
Local SHPOs don’t know much about historic bridges.
Section 106 is only of use when there is federal money involved and most projects that I look at are small county projects where there is no money. The counties have figures out if they don’t use the Federal money that regulations are different.
It has been very frustrating for our group for many reasons, not being in any town or city and being on the county line are drawbacks for resources.
How does Workin’ Bridges differ from other preservation groups?
We differ at Workin’ Bridges because we are a non-profit, we can do the construction and estimating of a project. People need to know what a project is likely to cost before they can decide to move forward or to write a grant. Most grants don’t allow you to do any work on a project before the grant is approved. Workin’ Bridges can step in to bridge that gap so that the project has a solid basis and can move forward with good decisions. We can also do the work from start to finish with our expert contractors. Sometimes a project has enough money right at the beginning to get something done, so waiting to go through bureaucratic hoops just costs money. Again, if we had been able to use the $50,000 to fix our bowstring in place we would have been way ahead of the game now. And we aren’t out here to make a fortune, although it’s not that we don’t charge fair prices. And we turn any profits we make into the next project, so it is a win-win for bridges.
Nels’ expertise is what I needed when I was trying to save our bowstring, so that is what I am trying to do for the community, get him out there saving more bridges. He is just so knowledgeable and passionate about these bridges, and he is willing to work with me as I find more people that need help. As Nels put it after our visit to Arkansas and Kansas, “We do better work together” It’s good that I can use my background in architecture, design and data management and keep him in the field workin’ bridges.. We are making progress and 2012 has a lot of potential. We hope to be part of the work that goes on at the Cedar (Avenue) Bridge in Bloomington, Minnesota and hoping to start negotiations on the Kern Bowstring (near Mankato, Minnesota), We also put in an option to be part of the Gilliece Bowstring restoration when it comes up for removal.
Workin’ Bridges also has bridges for a sale. Currently a bowstring, a King Post Pony and Pratt from Upper Bluffton, Iowa and several other pony trusses that are at BACH Steel in Michigan.
Winter is a great time for us to go out and do site visits and estimates, spring is the time for grant writing, late summer, fall and early winter a good time to get the work done. I hope Workin’ Bridges will be around for a long time,
I have utilized bridgehunter.com for finding projects from a variety of sources. Nathan Holth of historicbridges.com does a great job of culling information from around the country and letting the rest of us know about different projects all around the country on their forum on on his own website.
The TRUSS awards last year on bridgehunter.com were the bridges we went after, and quickly I started asking questions on the forum. ., With the success of the Piano Bridge trip, where we had just delivered a product that was utilized to negotiate a better deal, I contacted Judge Scroggin in Faulkner County on the way back from Texas and he requested a site visit from us, which we executed in early April. I also contacted the local commissioners in Bourbon County, Kansas and went to visit them in January, 2011. I had been to many county level meetings during the bowstring ownership negotiations so I knew some of their concerns. I was blown away when they each said they were surprised that they could do anything with an NRHP historic bridge, having been told by previous members they could not touch it. When I suggested that they would be responsible when it fell into the river they were shocked and yet understood. Now ten months later they have a plan for the very historic Long Shoals to be the centerpiece of their river park, The Fort Scott /Bourbon County Riverfront Authority (FSBCRA) also had us estimate a King 1910 RR Bridge and Military (Marmaton) Bridge – a 3 King bowstring, both sited over the Marmaton River in Fort Scott and to be utilized for the trail system. The FSBCRA has already been granted over $1.5 for developing the roads and trails, and a bridge had already been specified for crossing in the master plan. Their willingness, even at many times the cost of the concrete pedestrian bridge specified for $100,000, is to be commended, Their executive team and county moved very quickly, realizing that they had a resource they had never considered before. They also see the economic value of a unique structure, one that is also a part of their history, that will add to the overall historic climate of the fort and downtown.
Can you specify with some examples?
Vern’s Mesler’s mission is to train people about metals and how to work with them. That includes bridges and he has been on the forefront of getting that message out,. There is more work to do because many engineers still believe you can’t weld old iron and of course, no one hot rivets anymore and you can’t save that old bridge. We do! Or at least the team I work with does and we support all that takes the Historic Metals Workshop at Lansing Community College. It is worth the trip.
Historic Bridge Foundation
Located in Texas, this foundation brings together information to help in projects that utilize federal funding. Their board of directors is comprised of pontists whom I have mentioned previously. What I have found is that many counties don’t have that funding and are looking at other ways, like selling bridges to private organizations.
National Trust for Historic Preservation
Funds expert consultants, but if you don’t know what you need it is hard to write for the grant. Now I know the experts in engineering and with Workin’ Bridges Scope of Work – a grant can be effectively written for the expert planning required to begin, architectural or engineered plans.
The Keeper – Nels and I had a phone meeting with the Keeper of the Register, Carol Shull, and her deputies Paul Loether and Barbara Wyatt. They had many suggestions but were still adamant that site is very important to bridges and they would not allow permission for the Upper Bluffton Bridge to remain on the NRHP which would allow it to be eligible for grants. They were aware that Long Shoals was coming up but it had time to go through the process and more will be revealed. If permission isn’t granted, I don’t know that the Long Shoals bridge will still be a candidate for use in the river park. They also suggested working with the local EPAs to add a section where every property should be addressed historically, whether utilizing federal funds or not. Just a second look, in my opinion, would be great.
Everyone has their role to play, the photographers and bridge experts at bridgehunter adding to the mix daily, the historian at historicbridges.org analyzing each feature of everytype of bridge, but we look at these projects from a viewpoint of construction. These are big projects and most people don’t know where to start, so that is where we differ from Indiana or Pennsylvania, they have the product but it’s not easy to see it to completion. We can go all the way to landscaping if that is necessary, and we work with proven engineers experienced in truss bridges. As stated before preservation seems to add zero’s to a job, when that isn’t necessary. I think Workin’ Bridges fills a niche, we’ll see.
What will the Future Hold for Workin’ Bridges?
NSRGA was started with one goal, to preserve the bowstring bridge and the greenbelt around it. I didn’t know it was a King and I didn’t know it had a name, we call it the Skunk River Bridge. I, quite frankly, thought all bowstrings were Hales, after I saw footage of the Jones County bowstring lift by the national guard. Our bridge is too big for the helicopters to lift so they couldn’t help me, but their may come a time when I too shall see another bowstring fly.
Some find it quite ironic that I am out here trying to save other bridges when the McIntyre bowstring bridge lays in the backyard at BACH Steel. That delay, failure to find funds, forced the board to think outside the box. We want to restore our bridge and we were able to start and make Workin’ Bridges effective because we are a non – profit, and they trusted that I had the skills and education to make it work. We’ve been at it almost a year.
Our model is similar to Habitat for Humanity or more closely to Dry Stone Conservancy. The Dry Stone Conservancy teaches masonry skills and offers competitions and a list of contractors. I called them for information on contractors for some of the stone piers we are working with like Long Shoals where we will preserve as many original as possible.
I would like to develop contacts in every state. We know that BACH and Davis Construction can’t handle all of the jobs, and many state grants want their dollars to stay with experts in state. so our mission to is find projects of any size and scope, and give the clients the best estimate and quality workmanship they can get. Davis Construction has also been certified in more states, including Iowa, so we are able to look at all kinds of projects, including some with Federal and Historic Monies. So we are either training or consulting in many states and also, when the jobs finally come up, we can go through the construction process. Davis at last word was estimating the Sutliff Bridge at Workin’ Bridges request and we are holding out that the Cedar Bridge Project in Bloomington will become a reality.
This results ultimately in restored iron bridges that can ultimately serve a population for several more generations. There are not that many iron experts, I know, I tried to find them. It is one of our missions to train the next generation of craftsmen while working on our own projects. In the meantime, we educate the elected officials that have the issue of “truss bridges” on their plates. We educate engineers and bridge lovers. We do that by showing the team working a complete restoration (at the Piano Bridge) in Dubina, Texas, explaining the process in detail, This documentation should result in more people saving more bridges. Distribution will be key. Funding is necessary. Anyone still has time to get in on the funding of this documentary as the big bridge lift happens the first of December or thereabouts.
Since the interview, a pair of important points to pass along to the reader:
1. The Piano Bridge was dismantled during the first week of December of this year. The general plan is to sandblast and prime the truss parts and the pin-connections will be either repaired or replaced. It will then be reassembled on site and reopen to traffic sometime in the next year or so. It is touted as a success story for Workin’ Bridges although there are many bridges that are have been pursued and are close to being preserved.
2. The Upper Bluffton Bridge appears to have found a home with a local snowmobile club, even though it is unclear where it would be relocated. The last time there was something mentioned about the bridge, it is still on a piece of land away from its original site. The future of the bridge remains unclear from this point on. However, the Gilliecie Bridge will be replaced as soon as the funding is available even though the bridge will be up for the taking. Should a party take on the bridge, it will need to be dismantled and completely restored, especially because of the damage to the upper chord of the bridge.
3. The Long Shoals Bridge will be relocated to Fort Scott as soon as the funding for the relocation is available. It will be used along with some other historic bridges as a pedestrian bridge. At the moment, almost $1.7 million has been awarded to the Riverfront Authority and another $3.3 million is needed to complete the project, including $90,000 for relocating the Long Shoals Bridge to the park.
4. For more information on how you can help with the projects that Workin’ Bridges is carrying out, use this link to contact Julie Bowers: http://skunkriverbridge.org/ The author would also like to thank Ms. Bowers for the use of some of her photos of the bridges that are either the target of her next projects or are currently undergoing renovation and/or relocation.
After having the first two historic bridge conferences in Pittsburgh in 2009 and 2010, the third annual conference took place in Missouri during the weekend of 12-14 August. Missouri, like its East Coast counterpart is dealing with a dwindling number of historic bridges, as the number of these artifacts have dropped by as many as 60% within the past 10 years with more scheduled to come down in the coming two years, especially those spanning the Missouri River between St. Louis and Kansas City. However, unlike Pennsylvania, there is a glimmer of hope for some of the structures that are slated for replacement as the private and public sectors (the latter in particular with the Missouri Department of Transportation) are working together to find new ways of using them for recreational purposes as they cannot handle the increasing number, size and weight of today’s traffic anymore. The question is since the involvement of the public sector in these efforts is very recent, whether the help will come too little too late….
As many as 60 people attended the three-day event, hosted by James Baughn of the Historic Bridges of the US website based in Cape Girardeau (MO) with assistance from Todd Wilson of Bridgemapper.com out of Pittsburgh (PA), Kris Dyer of the Save the Riverside Bridge Initiative located in Ozark (MO) and Jason D. Smith of the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles based in Erfurt, Germany (part of areavoices.com), as the event went across the state starting with Friday’s events in St. Louis. A highlight of the weekend events are below:
12 August: The event started with a gathering of bridge enthusiasts and many guests at the Gateway Arch, located next to the Eads Bridge. Named after the engineer who designed it James Eads, the structure is unique because the metal deck arch bridge, built in 1874, was the first all steel bridge to be constructed in the United States . The bridge was recently renovated in 2003 in a way that the upper deck now serves local traffic and the lower deck carries metro lines.
Using the bridge as the starting point, the tour continued with the visit to all of the bridges along the Mississippi River in downtown St. Louis, which included the Merchant’s, McKinley, and Chain of Rocks Bridges. The third bridge, together with the one spanning the Canal west of the mighty river were once part of the old US Hwy. 66 (a.k.a. the Mother Road or Main Street USA), which ran from Chicago through St. Louis enroute to Los Angeles. Rain and thunderstorms shortened the bridgehunting tour with many bridge enthusiasts taking cover underneath the Chain of Rocks Canal Bridge. While it dampened the tour, the rain was much-needed for much of the region was extremely dry for two months straight after a extremely wet spring which saw the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers flood its banks in the region, wreaking havoc in the low lying areas, much of which is still under water at the time of this entry.
The event ended with a dinner at the Veritas Cafe and Wine Bar in Chesterfield, located in the western part of St.Louis, which featured various goodies, a assortment of wine, a raffle drawing for bridge-related prizes, and a little show and tell by the presenters of the evening. Among those presenting were Ed Darringer of Rush Co., Indiana, who talked about the Moscow Covered Bridge and its successful reconstruction efforts, which he photographed and documented in a book published this year. The 345 foot long covered bridge was destroyed by a tornado on 3 June, 2008, and it took two years to salvage parts of the structure and rebuild it to exactly match it to the one originally built in 1886. The efforts received some much-needed support by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who vowed not to use taxpayer’s dollars on this project which had personally affected him.
The second presenter was Julie Bowers of Workin’ Bridges, an organization based out of Grinnell, Iowa that focuses on saving and relocating historic bridges. It was established as the Skunk River Greenbelt Association and was in connection with the collapse of the McIntyre Bridge, an 1883 bowstring arch bridge built by the King Bridge Company in Cleveland, OH that fell into the water during the flood of 2010. A section of the bridge was presented by Ms. Bowers prior to the presentation, and the main goal is to salvage and rebuild that bridge at its original location while at the same time, relocate another bridge, the Upper Bluffton Bridge in Winneshiek County to a wildlife refuge area for reuse. An article about the Upper Bluffton Bridge can be found here:
The third and final presenter was Jason D. Smith of the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, whose topic was on the Public Perception of Preserving Places of Historic Interest between Germany and the US, using the preservation laws in Thuringia and Schleswig-Holstein and historic bridges as case studies. A detailed version of this topic will be posted in a later article.
13 August: The second day of the conference started off with a grand tour of the historic bridges along the Mother Road, first stopping off at the Meramec Crossing and the state park which uses the riveted Warren deck truss structure as the centerpiece. The bridge was completed in 1931, five years after the US Highway System was introduced and Route 66 was designated. It served traffic until 1951 when the highway’s successor, I-44 was built and the bridge was used to serve westbound traffic until the new eastbound bridge was built in 1968 and the structure was reverted to local traffic. It was completely closed to traffic in 2009 due to structural concerns. Efforts are now being made to market the bridge to a private owner, who will have the responsibility of rehabilitating it for recreational purposes, with MoDOT being the lead agent. This is the first time the governmental agency has been involved in this process, since it had been known for closing and condemning historic bridges, according to various sources closest to the historic bridge community. After the presentation, the tour was directed at bridges like the Devil’s Elbow Bridges in Pulaski County, Bird’s Nest (Crawford Co.) and Boeuf Creek (Frankin Co.) Bridges (just to name a few of the dozen bridges that were visited by the bridge enthusiasts). Optional trips included the one to Enochs Knob Bridge in Franklin County, a 1908 pin-connected steel Parker through truss bridge with a history of ghost stories and tragedies and one which is a target for replacement with a concrete slab bridge even though the road is rarely used. Molly Hill is leading the effort to preserve the structure in its place, even though it has been barricaded recently and it now takes 10 minutes (or 1/4 mile) to walk to the bridge.
The other side trip was to the bridges in Christian County south of the city of Springfield, where a tour took place beginning at the Riverside Bridge in Ozark. That bridge is the focal point of efforts being undertaken to reuse the bridge as a bike trail. Despite damage to the flooring and lots of debris caused by the flooding this past spring, the structure remains in fairly good condition. Other bridges included on the tour were the McCracken/Ozark Mill and Bridge, Green/Symra Road Bridge and the Red Bridge. The tour attracted many people from the region and reunited two friends who hadn’t seen each other since their days in college, a span of 13 years. That evening, a benefit for the Riverside Bridge took place at the Ozark Community Center, which included a silent auction and four presentations. Jason D. Smith of the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles emceed the event. As many as 40 people attended the event, including Ozark’s mayor and Christian County commissioner Lou Lapaglia, who donated money to the coordinator of the event, Kris Dyer, who also is director of the Save the Riverside Bridge organization. She was the first to present the plans of how to incorporate the bridge into the city’s bike trail system. It was then followed by Bill Hart of the Missouri Preservation organization, who talked about the objective and successes of this important actor in preserving historic bridges in the state. James Baughn followed with his presentation on his website and the state of historic bridges in Missouri, with Todd Wilson closing out the evening with providing hope to the preservation of truss bridges in the US, using the Riverside Bridge as a case study. The benefit itself was a smashing success as it raised over $1600 (without the costs relating to the benefit, it totaled over $2000) for the project. There’s still time to help support the project, as you can see in the link below.
14 August: The third and final day of the conference took the enthusiasts to Kansas City and places to the north and west, although a pair of stops at the Papinville (Bates Co.), Young’s Ford (Vernon Co.) and Caplinger Mill (Cedar Co.) Bridges were included in the itinerary. Some of the bridges that were seen in Kansas City included the Intercity Viaduct, a double decker Warren deck truss bridge, whose lower deck is now a bike trail while the upper deck still serves traffic today. There is also the Christopher Bond Bridge, which carries I-29 and 35 as well as US Hwy. 71. Both span the Missouri River. The Twelfth Street Viaduct, which spans the railroad year is the only concrete viaduct, whose main span features a concrete arch. Then there is the ASB Bridge, the only bridge in the world whose lower deck can be raised to accommodate boat traffic. That deck is still being used by the BNSF Railways today, while the upper deck, which used to serve local traffic has long since been removed thanks to the opening of the Heart of America Bridge in 1985. This unique contraption was the work of J.A.L. Waddell, a world renowned civil engineer from Ontario, Canada, who was a harsh critic of other truss designs during his day but invented his own truss style with the Waddell A-frame truss bridge. There is only two Waddell through truss bridges left in the US, one of which can be seen at the English Landing Park in Parkville. Unfortunately, due to recent flooding along the Missouri River, the park is still completely closed off to all tourists as parts of the area are still under water at the time of this entry.
The flooding, which was caused by excessive rains and a late spring thaw in the Rocky Mountains (where the Missouri River starts its journey) delayed construction of many bridge replacements along and in the vicinity of the Missouri River. This included the Amelia Earhart Bridge in Atchinson, Kansas, a continuous through truss bridge built in 1937 and was scheduled to be taken down once the new structure was completed this fall. This seems to be unlikely as many roads are still under water. It also includes the Rulo Bridge in Rulo, Nebraska, which was completed in 1936 and has a design similar to its counterpart downstream. While much of the town is high and dry, parts of the low lying area are underwater, and the Missouri side represents the Red Sea, which not even Moses can divide up. Much of the flooding has affected the areas east of the Missouri in parts of Missouri and Iowa cutting small towns off from the outside world and shutting down I-29 between Omaha and Kansas City, rerouting the whole stretch starting at I-80 east to Des Moines and then south on I-35, which also leads to Kansas City. While flooding will result in billions of dollars worth of lost revenue, it did delay the inevitable for the two aforementioned bridges as they will most likely remain up until at least the middle part of next year.
Overall, the historic bridge conference was indeed a success, even more so than last year’s event in Pittsburgh in a way that for the first time, it drew interest from the public sector for they are interested in ways historic bridges can be preserved. While most of the presentations given at the 2010 conference consisted of proposals in joint cooperation between the public and private sectors, ways of converting a saved bridge into recreational use and ways of detecting and fixing problems on bridges per se, this year’s conference presented some practical experiences that have been made or are being made. Given the fact that there are many ways to initiate projects through cooperation plus there are examples of historic bridges that have been saved for reuse for recreation, this year’s conference has increased the interest from the public in general in preserving these artifacts for future use in a way that the resources, the contact people with experience in preserving bridges and the interest in historic bridges and ways to preserve them are there. It is more of a question of putting aside the differences and excuses and moving forward and saving the relicts of the past so that the next generation can take advantage of what is there and learn a bit about historic bridges, how they are associated with the community and how they are connected with American history not only with regard to the Industrial Revolution but also the social aspect and how the people constructed them to accomodate traffic and transport people and goods from A to B. While Kris Dyer is making waves throughout the county with the efforts to save the Riverside Bridge in her community and Molly Hill is starting her campaign to save the Enochs Knob Bridge ignoring her own opposition from those who want the structure and its ghosts buried, others who may not have heard about historic bridges until this year’s conference will most likely jump on the bandwagon with their own bridges that are targeted for demolition and replacement, for as Todd Wilson mentioned in his presentation: “Any bridge that is not saved will disappear in a short time.” To add to his comment, the public will regret this action in the long term as they will only read about it in the history books at the local library, which is becoming less common in the face of the internet.
Note: The 2012 Historic Bridge Conference has not been planned yet, but speculation is that either Iowa or Indiana will be the next venue. Indiana has had a history of successful preservation of historic bridges, including the Tripple Whipple Bridge over Laughery Creek in Dearbown County, the only truss bridge in the country that has such a unique design. It also has the Wabash and Erie Canal bike trail where historic bridges can be found on this route, including one of only two Stearns Truss Bridge in the country (the Gilmore Bridge). However in Iowa, there is the historic bridge park at Tiffin near Iowa City (an article will precede this one), bowstring arch bridges throughout the state including Crawford and Winneshiek Counties, and the Kate Shelley Viaduct near Boone, which will turn 100 years old next year. Furthermore, barring any unforeseen circumstances, the Sutliff Bridge in Johnson County may be rebuilt in time for its reopening next summer. The three span Parker through truss bridge lost one of its spans during the 2008 Flood and is currently being rebuilt thanks to support from the county and the Sutliff Bridge Authority. The plan is to have one of the states host the event in 2012 and the other in 2013. If you have a preference for where the 2012 Historic Bridge Conference should be hosted, please contact Jason Smith of the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles at JDSmith77@gmx.net.