Chimney Rock Bridge Given New Life

Chimney Rock Bridge
Chimney Rock Bridge in Winneshiek County, Iowa. Photo taken in 2009

 

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111-year old product of a Chicago bridge builder to be rehabilitated and reopened to traffic after being closed since last year.

DECORAH, IOWA- Winneshiek County has made headlines in the past couple years due to its problems with functionally obsolete bridges, many of them being over 80 years old and in need of extensive repairs in order to keep them open longer. With a lack of funding, the county is having problems with making the necessary repairs and replacements, while at the same time, enforce the laws involving weight limits. The collapse of the Gilliece Bridge last month by an overweight and oversized truck stressed the importance of laws to protect bridges, especially this bowstring arch bridge, as it is still listed on the National Register of Historic Places but its future is rather bleak at the moment. The driver of the rig has since been formally charged for reckless driving, damage to property and disobeying traffic laws.

But there is a silver lining behind one of the county’s few remaining historic bridges in the Chimney Rock Bridge. Built in 1906 by the Continental Bridge Company at an unknown location, the 162-foot long bridge has spanned the Upper Iowa River at its current location since 1952. The pin-connected Parker through truss bridge with Town Lattice portal and heel bracings has been closed since flooding devastated the region late last summer. Now it will be given new life as supervisors of Winneshiek County have recommended repairing the bridge instead of tearing it down. According to county engineer, Lee Bjerke in an interview with Decorah News, the cost for totally replacing the historic bridge would be at least $780,000, whereas making repairs to the bridge would cost $400,000 less. Furthermore, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency chipping in for most of the expenses, the county would only have to pay $57,000 for the work.

For many, this is a win-win situation not only for its preservation of a key crossing that has been in service for over a century- 65 years of which has been at this site. For county supervisor Dean Thompson, this might be the best shot at preserving a historic bridge in Winneshiek County.  The county has lost several bridges since 2005, which includes the demolition of the beloved Fifth Avenue Bridge in Decorah in 2005, the last-minute decision to tear down the Turkey River Bowstring Arch Bridge in 2009, salvaging only the Queenpost portion of the Upper Bluffton Bridge in 2012, and lastly the most recent destruction of the Gilliece Bowstring Arch Bridge last month. The truss bridge at the Diversion Canal west of Decorah is slated for replacement very soon, while the Ft. Atkinson and Henry Bridge‘s futures are questionable, the former having been closed since 2013. With Eureka, Ten Mile Creek and Freeport preserved as historic sites, the county may have to think ahead about preserving the remaining bridges before they are met with the wrecking ball. With F.W. Kent Park up and running, followed by another one set to open in Winterset in the near future, having a historic bridge park similar to the one in Michigan may be the most viable option left on the table together with a bike trail connecting Decorah and points along the Upper Iowa or to the southwest.

Whether residents are of the same opinion and are willing to chip in their money and manpower has yet to be seen. Yet, saving the Chimney Rock Bridge is taking a step forward in the right direction. If anything, it provides access to the park and campground again and will be a recreational treat for hikers and fishers alike.

Click here to read an essay the author wrote 12-years ago about the Chimney Rock Bridge and the Continental Bridge Company. You can also find it on the wordpress version of the Chronicles. Enjoy the pics by clicking on the links above in the article.  The Chronicles will keep you informed on the latest on the bridges in the county.

 

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 62: Paoli’s Bowstring Arch Bridges

Gospel Street Pedestrian Bridge. Photo taken by Tony Dillon in 2010

Paoli, Indiana has a few notable historic bridges, both past and present, each of which have a unique story. Apart from the now destroyed by two careless driving women carrying tons of water Gospel Street Bridge, built in 1880 by the Cleveland Bridge and Iron Company, the town had one of the longest wooden trestle railroad bridges, which was later replaced by a steel structure. Then it has these two bowstring arch bridges, both spanning Lick Creek.  Each one has welded and riveted connections with the top chord being a T-beam. Each one has a main span of 40 feet with approach spans of 30 feet each. While not confirmed, sources pinpoint the date of construction to the 1930s, although it is not clear who built the bridge and how. Given the fact that light steel was used for both crossings, it is possible that they were built using recycled steel that had been used for a historic building or bridge. This concept was used in Iowa during the 1940s in Crawford County (when many crossings that were wiped out were replaced by these bowstring arch spans) and in the 1980s when two trusses from an old building were assembled to create a crossing at F.W. Kent Park near Iowa City.

The difference  between the two crossings- at Gospel Street and at Cherry Street is the truss type. While Gospel Street has a Howe lattice truss type, the one at Cherry Street has a Warren truss type. But even that difference is overshadowed by the fact that there is not much information on the history of the two crossings otherwise- neither the exact date nor the bridge builder.

Or is there? If so, please feel free to comment or contact the Chronicles, using the contact info in the page About the BHC. Any leads will help contribute to knowing more about the bridges and why they are used as pedestrian crossings, let alone preserve what is left of Paoli’s bridge history. With two major HBs down, it is the responsibility of the city to save what is left of the town’s history, and this by knowing more about the crossings that still exist.

Cherry Street Bowstring Arch Bridge. Photo taken by Tony Dillon on 2012

 

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Answers to the Park Complex Questions

Photo taken in August 2011

After a brief absence due to other column items to cover and to allow people to be curious about the park, here are the answers to the Quiz provided in a post a couple weeks ago on the FW Kent Park in Tiffin (west of Iowa City) and the rooftop truss bridge. Before mentioning about the bridges and F.W. Kent Park in the quiz, some interesting facts you need to know include the fact that the park was named after two well-known people. The first was Frederick Kent, a photographer who took pictures of life on and off the campus of the University of Iowa, located in Iowa City, for over 4 decades, including his role as the college’s professional photographer between 1915 and his retirement in 1962. He was an avid birdwatcher and published a book on this topic in 1975. Plus he was a walking encyclopedia on Johnson County, which earned him many local and state accolades. He died in 1984 at the age of 90.  The other person was Ron Dunlap, who was a member of the Johnson County Conservation Board from 1970 until his unexpected death in 2010, and spearheaded efforts to restore the bridge brought into FW Kent Park during the 1980s and 90s, with the last bridge being imported in 2003. The Dunlap trail, which crosses all seven restored historic bridges, was named in his honor.

Keeping these facts in mind, here are the answers to the bridge quiz, however, there are many questions that are left open which will be answered through interviews with people who worked with these two gentlemen and posted later in the Chronicles. But in the meantime, here are some facts that will make you curious to know more about the park and the bridges….. 🙂

 

1. The FW Kent Park is younger than the Historic Bridge Park near Kalmazoo, Michigan. True or False? 

False. The FW Kent Park has been in existence since the 1960s with the name being carried since 1967, honoring Frederick Kent, who was a locally renowned photographer for the Iowa City region. The bridges did not come until the 1990s, with the last one being installed in 2003. The bridges at the park in Michigan were in place between 1996 and 2006, with more scheduled to be imported. Note: The Historic Bridge Park in Michigan is located just southwest of Battle Creek, home of the Kellogg’s cereal company.

2. Which of the following truss bridge types can NOT be found at FW Kent Park?

a. Pratt        b. Warren        c. Whipple     d. Queenpost

Whipple truss bridges are nowhere to be seen at the park.

3. The origin of the Rooftop truss bridge was a building that was demolished in Iowa City. Can you name the building and when it existed?

The trusses came from a car dealership in Iowa City that had existed from the 1930s until the building was dismantled. Yet the name of the dealership is unknown.

4. How many bridges can be found at FW Kent Park?

a. 8   b. 10   c. 11  d. 13  e. 15

Eight bridges can be found in the park. Of which, seven are historic bridges that were restored, while the eighth one, a Warren pony truss, is a new bridge built of wood, connected with steel plates. In terms of truss designs, apart from the new Warren pony truss span, the park features two Pratts (one through and one half-hip pony), one V-shaped Pratt pony truss, two Queenpost pony trusses, one bowstring arch and the rooftop truss span.

5. At least one bridge was airlifted to the Park. True or False?

True. One bridge, a through truss span, was airlifted by helicopter to the park in 2003 and placed on new abutments, but not before retrofitting the bridge’s width.

Pratt through truss bridge after being retrofitted. Photo taken in August 2013

6. All of the bridges brought in were the ones that served traffic in Johnson County.  True or False?

True. All seven historic bridges were crossings over small creeks, including Old Man’s, Deer, Dirty Face and Eagle. Sadly no bridges came from the Iowa River, which slices the county into two, let alone the Cedar River, where the Sutliff Bridge east of Solon is located.

7. How was the Rooftop truss bridge assembled?

After finding the trusses in a road ditch outside Iowa City, workers tried successfully to refit the trusses so that they support the roadway as railings. Additional exterior truss bracings were added to keep the bridge intact. In other words, the roadway is a bridge supported by trusses.

8. What activities can you do at the park, apart from photographing bridges?

a. swimming   b. hiking   c. fishing   d. biking   e. all of the above

In addition, you can do some bird and insect watching as many species of birds as well as butterflies and dragonflies can be found in the park. Also one can find some turtles and other wild animals at the park, but beware! Hunting is not allowed.

Watching dragonflies is one of many things you can do at the park. Photo taken in August 2011

Here is the guide to the bridges you can see at the park (click onto the names to go to the website)

Maier Road Bridge (Through Truss Bridge)

Rooftop Truss Bridge

Otter Creek Queenpost

1920 Queenpost

Bowstring arch bridge

Bayertown Road V-shape Bridge

Buck Creek Pratt Half-hip bridge

Wooden Warren Truss Bridge

Don’t forget to read more about F.W. Kent and the park’s history to understand how the park came into being. You can click here for more details.

Something Old and Something New at the Historic Bridge Weekend

Cascade Bridge in Burlington, Iowa. One of many bridges visited on the tour.

Open-air presentations, reunion with old friends and colleagues, incredible bridge finds
There is a first time in everything. This old saying can be applied to this year’s Historic Bridge Weekend, which took place August 9-12 in eastern Iowa. While we had a total of 23 participants from all over the US and Germany at the four-day event, which in the face of the Iowa State Fair and the Knoxville Nationals that took place at the same time, was a sizable turnout, we did have some firsts that made the four-day event memorable for everyone. We had the youngest presenter talking about bridges- aged 15. We had the youngest participant, who was four years old and was also pictured in an article produced by the Iowa City Press Citizen crossing the Sutliff Bridge. We had our first open-air presentations on the night we dedicated to a special pontist who worked to save many bridges in Iowa. The bridgehunting tour featured a bridge-smorgasbord, meaning people can visit the bridges they wanted to go to- and got some great pics in addition to that. This first time event is despite the fact that we had a guided tour. And even though the four-day event was also a first (for the Weekend usually takes place Friday to Sunday), the fourth day featured a tour through the life of a girl who saved many lives from a train wreck, which downed one bridge, but not before having to cross a long bridge on her hands and knees in the face of a fierce storm with torrential flooding. While some points from the 2013 Weekend will be detailed in future articles and photos of the Weekend can be found on the Chronicles’ facebook site (click here to get to the site), here are some highlights of the events that made the fifth annual Weekend an interesting success story.

Stone City General Store and Restaurant: site of the open-air dedication ceremony on Friday

Open-air presentation:
In the fresh air with only the Wapsi-secadas chirping along the Wapsipinicon River, singing in the background, the Friday night dedication dinner honoring the late James Hippen took place at the Stone City General Store and Restaurant located three miles west of Anamosa. Elaine Hippen, widow of the late history professor at Luther College who died in February 2010, and Bill Moellering, former engineer for Fayette County who was close friends with Mr. Hippen, spoke at the event. Due to the missing conference room and lots of noise, the presentations took place on the front terrace of the restaurant where the secadas dominated the background noise mainly. This makeshift concept was well-received and gave some people an idea of how to have an open-air evening of the Weekend in the future, yet such an event would require a venue that is quiet and cut off from the usual crowd, which at the General Store was very noisy and full of Bachelors.

 

Ely Stret Bridge in Bertram

Saturday Morning Bridge Tour:

While this year’s bridgehunting tour featured a smorgasbord, which meant that participants can pick and choose which bridges to visit, several people took advantage of the Saturday morning bridge tour, which was given by Quinn Phelan and started at the Anamosa Bridge before going to a restored covered bridge, the Upper Paris Bridge, and three other bridges in and around the Bertram area, located east of Cedar Rapids. After ending the tour at the Ely Street Bridge, we went to the F.W. Kent Park west of Iowa City to look at several truss bridges that were relocated from parts of Johnson County to be used on the bike trail. The park features several miles of trails, a lake with swimming possibilities and some playgrounds. As for the bridges, here’s the Chronicles’ Guessing Quiz for you to ponder and answer:

How many truss bridges are located at F.W. Kent Park?

When was the park first conceived?

The answer will come when the article on this park is posted as part of the series on Iowa’s bridges and the Historic Bridge Weekend.

Sutliff Bridge near Mt. Vernon. Photo taken by Birgit Smith

 

Paying Homage to an Iowa Icon:

After allowing some time to see other bridges in the afternoon, Saturday night’s presentation and dinner took place at Baxa’s Sutliff Restaurant and Tavern, located across the road from the three-span Sutliff Bridge. Built in 1898 over the Cedar River, the bridge served traffic until being converted to a pedestrian crossing in the 1980s and had remained intact until floodwaters amputated the easternmost span and its west approaches on 13 June, 2008. Four years and a couple million dollars later, the bridge reopened with a replica span in place. Randy Owl, who owns the Restaurant and is Vice President of the Sutliff Bridge Authority took 30 minutes to talk about the bridge to approx. 21 people who attended the event. Nathan Holth and John Marvig also took some time to talk about their work. Mr. Holth’s Historic Bridges,org is celebrating its 10-year anniversary, while Mr. Marvig talked about railroad bridges in Iowa, focusing on the crossings in the Quad Cities and Dubuque areas.

A Tour Back into Time:

After a presentation on the bridges of Marion County and the Silent Auction on Sunday in Pella, the four-day event concluded with a trip back into time to honor a young girl who saved many lives. A dozen people took part in the tour of Kate Shelley and the bridges which bear her name in history and her honor. The tour, conducted by Pamela Schwarz, started at the Boone County Historical Museum in Boone and took us to the Kate Shelley Viaduct, the Wagon Wheel Bridge located north of the viaduct, the remains of the Honey Creek Bridge, the site of where the bridge collapsed in a storm on the night of July 6th, 1881. Ms. Shelley’s farm was located nearby and she heard the bridge collapse that night. And finally the tour ended at Moingona, the site of the train station where Kate informed the tenant of the accident and approaching train. Behind the station was the remants of the Des Moines River bridge where Kate crawled across the bridge to get help.  Misty McNally created a pop quiz on Kate Shelley and her heroic deeds and it will be posted in the next article.

Reunion with old friends and colleagues:

For one person, the Historic Bridge Weekend provided a special treat as it a chance to reunite with some old friends. Bill Moellering was the county engineer for Fayette County from 1964 until his retirement in 2001 and collaborated closely with James Hippen on saving the bridges in his county- namely by bypassing them and leaving them in place- as it was the most cost-effective measure at that time. An article on the bridges in the county is in the works and will come out soon. It also included some help from the Iowa DOT in identifying the most significant bridges and determining which ones should be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While meeting new people at the Weekend, he reunited with Jim’s widow Elaine at the Friday night event and shared some memories of his days working together with the historian. Judy McDonald, who was historian at the Iowa DOT before retiring in 2009, also had an opportunity to visit with him for the first time in many years, while on the Kate Shelley tour.  Despite all the travels he and his son Jack went through on the Weekend tour to visit some of the finest bridges in the state, Bill was the star of the show as he shared some interesting stories with others, many of which were unforgettable. It also garnered some media attention at home in West Union, as the county recently turned to him for some guidance on how to reuse the bridges that have been serving as objects for tourists and pontists to see. More on the latest developments can be found here.

 

What’s next?

Despite a successful turnout overall, combined with a successful silent auction in the face of a few participants at Bos Landen on Sunday, and lots of memories while on the bridgehunting tour, some lessons for the next Historic Bridge Weekend can and will be taken with for the next coordinators to organize. While it is highly unlikely that we will have a four-day event like this again (or if so, it’ll be a Thursday through Sunday ordeal), the next Historic Bridge Weekend in 2014, which appears to be going to Michigan will be more local as many regions have numerous bridges within a 150-mile radius. Less is more when it comes to travelling to see the historic bridges, especially because of gas prices but also one has a chance to see more and visit more. This will be key when planning for future Weekends, as some areas in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana will be targets for bridge enthusiasts to visit and photograph. Also interesting is to find out how to include children in the Historic Bridge Weekend, for as we see in this year’s event, the interest in historic bridges has increased with each generation. The question is how to make the event more interesting for children without having to bore them with travelling long distances just to see a bridge. As mentioned many times, a bridge is just an ordinary bridge unless it has historic and aesthetic value and/or unique design for people to see. It is more of a question of marketing this so that people can understand better how bridges play a role in the country’s infrastructure and America’s history, which seems to evolve around making things better for everyone to use and learn.

Author’s note: Some of the bridges highlighted on the tour will be featured in separate articles, including the Cascade Bridge in Burlington, the Bridges of Marion, Winneshiek and Fayette Counties and Bunker Mill Bridge near Kalona- the last of which has its future hanging in the balance because of a fire that destroyed the bridge’s flooring on the morning of the 12th. Stay tuned for more articles to come.

But first……

 

5th Annual Historic Bridge Weekend Coming to Iowa

Hale Bridge near Anamosa in Jones County. Photo taken in 2010

Each year since 2009, the Historic Bridge Weekend  Conference has  taken place in August or September, and each year, it has drawn in more people who are  experts in historic bridges, preservation or history, as well as those who are either bridge enthusiasts or have a keen interest in how these vintage structures were built and how they played a role in American History.
This year’s Historic Bridge Weekend is coming to America’s heartland, the state of Iowa, where the history of transportation and infrastructure and the development of America as a whole go together like bread and butter.  The Lincoln and Jefferson Highways meet in the state. Iowa was the first state to introduce the No Passing Zone signs. Kate Shelley made her heroic deed by stopping a passenger train from falling through a bridge washed away by flood waters.
And the bridges?  Iowa takes pride in its bridge building. The first bridge designs, like the Marsh arch, the aluminum girder and the Thacher truss originated from Iowa.  Numerous bowstring arches were built throughout the state. Many big-name bridge builders from Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania made their mark in Iowa, while the state had its own bridge building companies located in Clinton, Ottumwa and Des Moines, which dominated the American landscape during the first half of the 20th Century.
This year’s Historic Bridge Weekend will take place August 9th through the 12th and will focus on the eastern half of Iowa, where many historic bridges dating as far back as 1870 still exist today. Please refer to the detailed agenda at the end of this message for more information.

Contact:
For those who are interested in participating in the dinner and presentations, please RSPV Jason D. Smith at the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles at:
flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com or JDSmith77@gmx.net by no later than 15 July.  Information on the bridge tours and the dinner and presentations will be provided through e-mail.  Lodging and camping possibilities are available upon request.

Upper Paris Bridge in Linn County. Photo taken in August 2011

Agenda:
Day 1 – 9th August, 2013
The journey starts on 9th of August at the Old Barn Resort in Preston, Minnesota beginning at 10:00am, and after touring Fillmore County, we’ll focus on the northeast corner of Iowa, which includes the bridges in Winneshiek, Fayette, Dubuque and Jones Counties and features the bowstring arch bridges in the region as well as the Black Hawk Bridge, the Red Bridge, and the remaining spans of the original Dubuque bridge, built in 1868 over the Mississippi and is one of the last remaining historic bridges made of cast iron in the country.

Dinner and presentations will take place at the Stone City General Store in Stone City (near Anamosa) at 6:30pm. This event will be dedicated to James Hippen, who spearheaded efforts to save historic bridges in Iowa for over 40 years until his unexpected passing in 2010. People who worked with Mr. Hippen will speak at this event in his honor.

Day 2 – 10th August, 2013
August 10th will feature a tour of the historic bridges in the east-central portion of the state. This will include a guided tour of the bridges of Linn and Johnson Counties by Quinn Phelan, which starts at 8:30am at Palisades-Kepler State Park at Mt. Vernon and last throughout the morning. This includes a trip to F.W. Kent Park near Tifflin (west of Iowa City), where one can see nine fully-restored historic bridges, including a roof-top bowstring arch bridge, built using steel trusses from a building that was demolished in the 1980s.

Afternoon tours include visiting bridges along the Lincoln Highway, as well as the Quad Cities and can be done individually or in groups, pending on preferences.
Saturday evening’s dinner and presentations will take place at 7:00pm at Baxa’s Tavern and Grill, located at Sutliff Bridge, south of Mt. Vernon. Sutliff Bridge features two original Parker through truss spans and a replica of the easternmost span that was destroyed in the flooding in 2008. Members of the Sutliff Bridge Authority will talk about the restoration of the bridge and answer any questions the people have about the project. In addition, a pair of presentations by two important figures in historic bridges and preservation will also be provided.
Day 3 – 11th August, 2013

Morning:
Tour of the bridges in the southeastern part of Iowa including the bridges in and around Burlington, Fort Madison and Keokuk, as well as the bridges along the Des Moines River between Keokuk and Des Moines.
Afternoon:
Meeting to talk about the Horn’s Ferry Bridge at the Red Rock Informational Center located near the site beginning at 2:30pm, followed a tour of Marion County‘s bridges and finally the last of the presentations and dinner at Bos Landen Golf Course south of Pella at 5:30pm. A silent auction will accompany the evening event.  The Weekend will conclude with a night tour of the bridges of Des Moines.
Day 4 – 12th August, 2013
For those wanting to see the Kate Shelley Viaduct, there will be a tour of Kate Shelley, her life and the bridge named in her honor beginning at 10:00am at the Boone County Historical Center in Boone. The 2-3 hour tour will include a tour of the Kate Shelley exhibit, a trip to the train depot at Moingona and the remains of the bridge that was washed away by flooding (the same bridge which Kate Shelley crossed before informing the tenant of a nearby bridge being washed out), and a tour of the bridges, including the two viaducts (the 1912 steel viaduct and the 2008 replacement viaduct), the (freshly remodeled) Wagon Wheel Bridge north of the viaducts (which is opened to pedestrians), the Bass Creek Viaduct, and the Madrid Viaduct.

Oblique overview of the Sutliff Bridge. Photo taken by Quinn Phelan

One More Note:
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is also accepting donations for the following projects:
The restoration of the McIntyre Bowstring Arch Bridge in Poweshiek County
The restoration of the Sutliff Bridge in Johnson County.
A donation box will be made available on each of the evening dinner events for you to make a contribution.
Note: We will have a silent auction on Sunday 11 August at Bos Landen Golf Course near Pella at 5:30pm, the same time as the dinner and presentations. All proceeds will go to the two aforementioned projects.

Donations of Info and Photos for Bridge Book also being taken:
In addition, donations in the form of pictures, postcards, information, money for research, etc. are currently being accepted for the book project “The History of Truss Bridges in Iowa” which is being written by the author of the Chronicles. An information box will be available during the Historic Bridge Weekend, but you can also contact Jason Smith in person at the event or via e-mail of you have any information about any of Iowa’s bridges that is worth entering in the book.