DES MOINES, IOWA (USA)/ GLAUCHAU (SAXONY), GERMANY- It has been almost six years since the closure of the Fifth Avenue Bridge, spanning the Raccoon River at the confluence with the Des Moines River at Iowa’s state capital. It has been five years since the creation of the social network platform devoted to saving the three-span Pratt through truss bridge, nicknamed as the Green Bridge, which was built by local, but well-known bridge builder, George E. King in 1898. And lastly, it has been three years since the reopening of this historic bridge and with that, two years since the introduction of new lighting. Quite an achievement for one bridge which has received the support of over 1300 people since its launch.
Now the facebook page Save the Fifth Avenue Pedestrian Bridge (Green Bridge) has reached the crossroads and we need your help. There are some bridges in and around Des Moines that are being targeted for replacement, some them have already been approved. At the same time, articles, postcards and other photos on these structures have been found and posted on multiple websites and facebook pages. The Lost Des Moines facebook page is getting bigger and bigger, with more and more relicts of the past having been met with the wrecking ball.
And with that, the bridges as well. After all, they are just as important to the history and heritage to Des Moines as the historic buildings themselves. Therefore, the Chronicles would like some input regarding the Green Bridge page. There are ……. Options. You should decide what to do there.
Option 1: Do nothing. The Green Bridge page would remain as is, and photos and info on the bridge would be added from time to time.
Option 2: Change the page and focus on the Bridges of Des Moines: Past and Present. Here, everyone could add photos, newspaper articles, postcards, stories and even news events that deal with bridges in Des Moines
Option 3: Change the page and focus on the historic bridges in Iowa, past and present.Based on the Lost Places in Iowa facebook page, this one would focus on historic bridges in the state, past and present and would welcome the items mentioned in Option 2.
Option 4: The same as in Option 4, but it would focus on the Bridges along the Des Moines Riverfrom its starting point in southwestern Minnesota until its confluence with the Mississippi.
Option 5: Other ideas. Here you need to be specific and write down your ideas in the comment page
Option 6: Shut it down and archive it. This would be the last resort.
What do you think? Click on the ballot below and spread the word. The voting will close on 1 April with a decision to follow afterwards.
Social networking has played a key role in preserving many historic bridges in the US and beyond, as it has served as a platform for ideas and debate. It is hoped that the Green Bridge facebook site continues operating as it has been, but perhaps under a different name and format. The question is how? And this is where you come in.
City Council Approves Plan to Restore Vintage Bridge and Key Des Moines Landmark
DES MOINES, IOWA- It was only two years ago that the Fifth Avenue Bridge, an 1896 product of local bridge builder George E. King, was fenced off to all cyclists and pedestrians, and the Des Moines City Council was seriously considering tearing the entire structure down, which is a National Register Landmark.
At about this time next year, this bridge will be reopened, and connections between downtown and the southern part of the city will be reconnected again. 🙂
The Des Moines City Council yesterday approved the proposal to restore the bridge, which will consist of narrowing the bridge deck to 14 feet, adding observation decks and providing LED lighting. It will include some work on the superstructure, which includes strengthening truss points and repainting the entire bridge, while removing debris from previous flooding.
The cost will range between $1.75m and $3.5m, according to information by the Des Moines Register, yet $2.3m has been raised privately through fundraising efforts by Friends of the Green Bridge, with donations from the City Council, the Polk County Board of Supervisors and a grant by the Iowa State Recreational Trails. The Meredith Corporation hired a contractor to inspect the bridge and provide a report, while raising $200,000 for the bridge as well. A list of other key contributors can be found here.
Contract will be let out in the next week with the project expected to begin next Spring. Should all run as plan, the bridge will be open by the Fall, thus reintegrating it with a well-knit Meredith Bike Trail network, which snakes through Des Moines along the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers, while providing direct access to the parks in the north, the State Capitol Building and the suburbs to the south and west, just to name a few. With the Iowa Cubs Baseball Stadium located at the confluence of the two rivers, it may provide people with an incentive to bike to the baseball game instead of driving the car there.
In the face of the upcoming demolition of the BB Comer Bridge in Alabama and flood damage to the recently restored Riverside Bridge in Missouri, the Green Bridge success story is bucking the trend, providing hope for other bridge preservationists to save their bridges. This includes the Green Bridge in Waverly, located 140 miles NE of Des Moines, where residents are fighting to have the bridge fixed and reopen to traffic. The success story in Des Moines will perhaps provide more leverage for the cause.
More information will follow on the restoration of the Green Bridge with a story on the Waverly crossing and Riverside Bridge to come soon.
DES MOINES, IOWA- March 2013: The Green Bridge, officially known as the 5th Avenue or Jackson Street Bridge, was closed to all traffic- cyclists and pedestrians alike. The reason: Structural deterioration, especially among the pinned connections combined with concerns involving the restoration efforts that occurred 20 years ago, after the 1898 structure was converted to recreational traffic. There were worries that the work of art, courtesy of George E. King, who had his bridge building business in Des Moines at around the turn of the century, would end up like the YMCA Riverfront Building and the Methodist Hospital- a pile of rubble!
October 2015- two years later: After two years of efforts and contributions by people of all aspects, the Green Bridge will be rebuilt, thanks to a total of $2.3 million that was raised by the Save the Green Bridge organization through businesses, residents, cyclists, historians, and even bridge-lovers. Even the local bridge company, Jensen Construction contributed in the cause with the bridge inspection which revealed that it could be rehabilitated and reused for less money than the cost for demolition and replacement.
As part of the accomplished goal, Confluence Brewery, located in Des Moines’ southside near the bridge, is producing and selling the Bridge Builder’s Ale, a special beer that is scheduled to be on sale today. A special event will take place this evening at the Brewery, with proceeds going to the new lighting on the bridge. With the money raised and then some, plans are in the work to reconstruct the bridge by building a new deck with some observation points, strengthening the piers, and repairing the steel parts of the bridge. This will be underway come next year with the bridge being reopened by 2017. The Chronicles will feature an interview to provide more information on the fund-raising efforts and the plans to revitalize the bridge after being closed for two years. This will be featured very soon.
To sum up the efforts to save the Green Bridge, Des Moines has lost some great architectural works during the years the structure was closed off to all traffic. Apart from the CGW Railroad Bridge being removed in 2014 and the historic riverside retaining wall near the Martin Luther King Bridge being replaced, 2015 brought forth the loss of the Younkers Building because of fire a year earlier, the historic Methodist Hospital and the YMCA Riverside Building to implosion. And while Younkers was a loss that was out of the hands of the City, the loss of the Y and Methodist Hospital could have been avoided. Yet its sequential implosions in both buildings provided a good tune to the song by ELO entitled “Don’t Let Me Down.” And while the demolition contractor may be a big fan of the 70s rock group, he will be disappointed to know that the song has a true meaning for a landmark that the majority of Des Moines have fought hard to save- a rarity that does not deserve to be brought down; a rarity that will reopen soon. That means the song will go on, and the demo contractor will have to perfect his ELO song elsewhere. 😉
DES MOINES- While work will eventually be underway to replace the Grand Avenue Bridge over the Des Moines River in Iowa’s state capital, with a faux pas arch bridge design that is presenting a controversy among the city’s population, work on preserving the Green Bridge over the Raccoon River at 5th Avenue near the junction of the major river is ongoing and very tirelessly. Already decided, apart from renovating the three-span Pratt through truss bridge built by George E. King, is to narrow the roadway and include observation decks on the bridge, fundraising for the bridge is already underway with a pair of options to choose from:
The Des Moines Parks and Recreation Department, together with the Des Moines Register newspaper and Bike World Bike Store in Des Moines are sponsoring the 28th annual Mayor’s Bike and Run this Saturday, April 18th beginning at 8:00am. The race will start and end at City Hall and will go along the trails through downtown Des Moines. To participate in the competition, it is $5 for children ages 5-18 and $25 for adults. You can pre-register before April 17th. Otherwise at the gate, it is $35 per person. A raffle drawing will be included in the race. All proceeds will go towards the restoration of the bridge. For more information and to register, please click here.
The Des Moines Community Foundation is also collecting money for the project. If you are interested in donating for the project, you can send money to the following address:
Des Moines Community Foundation, 1915 Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50309.
When submitting a check for the amount, please place in the subject line: “Friends of the Jackson Street Bridge” (That’s the original name of the Green Bridge). All donations are tax deductable and all the money collected will go towards the project.
The Ray Gun Site is also chipping in on the donation by selling the Jackson Street Bridge t-shirts. They are $21 per shirt and are available in various sizes. To order, please click here. The design of the shirt is similar to some of the photos submitted to the Green Bridge’s facebook website.
At the present time, $2.5 million is needed for the restoration efforts, and every cent matters, no matter where it comes from (within the US or even outside the country). There are many other options open as to raise money for preserving the bridge. If you have an idea worth sharing, please post it on the Save the Jackson Street- Fifth Street Pedestrian Bridge’s facebook website or contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles using the contact form below. The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will continue to keep you posted on the developments involving the Green Bridge and results of the fundraising that is going on even as the article is posted.
text Author’s Note: This is Part II of the series on the two Skunk River Bridges in Jasper County, Iowa that are threatened with their own demise after being abandoned for some time. Part I dealt with the Red Bridge and can be seen here. This parts looks at the bridge’s southern neighbor, the Monroe Bridge at the county border.
After being turned away at the Red Bridge, our next stop was the Monroe Bridge, located downstream at 126th Avenue at the county borders of Jasper and Marion Counties. Here, we got lucky and not so lucky with this bridge, built in 1899 by the local contractors, Burchinal and Hertzog. Lucky because the bridge was noticeable in view and we could park near the structure. Unlucky because we could not cross it. After being closed to traffic in 2012, workers made sure that no one crossed the bridge by digging a hole 30 feet long and 15 feet deep behind the abutments, exposing the wooden wingwalls to the extremities. Unless you are an experienced pontist, like Nathan Holth, you don’t want to attempt to jump from the ledge to the bridge in order to photograph it.
That it unless you have a reliable camera, like the Pentax 300, where you can get some long-distance photos, like I took during our stop there. The bridge features a 150-foot long steel through truss bridge with Howe Lattice portal bracings, I-beam strut bracings with 45° heel supports, and pinned connections. With the wooden approach spans the total length is 230 feet and the width, 17 feet. Yet looking at the portal bracings more closely, there are ornamental designs in the center of the bracings, where the two diagonal portions meet forming an X.
This is common among bridges built by George E. King, son of Zenas King who ran the King Bridge Company in Cleveland, Ohio. King established his bridge building business in Des Moines in the 1890s and was responsible for bridges throughout Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas, built between 1890 and 1910. This includes the Green Bridge in Des Moines and the Straight River crossing at Clinton Falls, north of Owatonna in Minnesota. It is possible that the Monroe Bridge consisted of a bridge previously located somewhere else, but the local contractors brought it here to be erected at its current site. Yet judging by the design pattern on the portal bracing of the Monroe Bridge, it is possible that the local contractors may have ordered the bridge fabricated by the steel companies in the Rust Belt region, and the ornament was at their discretion. More information would be needed to support one claim or another.
The situation looks grim for the Monroe Bridge. Already a replacement bridge located 300 feet south of the structure is in the works, and it is unknown whether the bridge will be torn down after the new bridge is opened or left in its place. As mentioned in the previous article on the Red Bridge, ideally would be to restore the bridge as a bike trail crossing connecting that with neighboring Red Bridge as well as the communities of Colfax, Monroe and Pella. The other option would be to relocate it to a park in one of the nearby communities within 100 miles of the crossing. This includes the Red Rock Lake area, where some historic bridges are residing, including the Wabash, Harvey and Horn’s Ferry Bridges. The third option is to give it to the nearby landowners, where they could use it as a private path. As this concept is well received in Iowa, this could be an option to take to compensate for the land lost to the new bridge and road alignment. In either case, as aesthetically beautiful and historically significant as the Monroe Bridge is, it would be a shame to watch the bridge be reduced to a pile of rubble, when there is a chance to find out more about its history, let alone save it. Since last year, The Friends of the Red Bridge group has been looking at some ideas as to what to do with the neighbor to the north. Perhaps they have some space for the Monroe Bridge as well. Saving both may take hard work and lots of resources, yet in the end, it will save money and a piece of history for others to enjoy. And that is something Jasper County could take pride in.
The author has some more photos taken of the Monroe Bridge, to be seen in the Historic Bridges of the US website, available by clicking here.
Belle Plaine, Iowa- Tama County: one of many Iowa counties that has more than two dozen pre-1945 bridges left in the state. This includes the steel truss Black Bridge spanning the Iowa River and the Lincoln Highway Bridge near Toledo, whose railings bear the highway’s name and which was replicated in the form of a butter sculpture seen at the Iowa State Fair last year. Yet it is one of many counties with many structurally deficient bridges, many of them being closed to traffic in the past three years.
The Chambers Ford Bridge is one of them. Located over the Iowa River at 380th Avenue, 3 miles west of Belle Plaine, this two-span bridge features steel Pratt through trusses, but each of them are different because of the their portal bracings, as well as the date of construction.
The older and longer of the spans was one of the first ones built by the Clinton Bridge and Iron Company in Clinton. It was constructed in 1890 and had a span of 155 feet with wooden trestle approaches. 13 years later, with the wooden approaches deteriorating beyond repair, the county hired another Iowa bridge builder, George E. King to construct a replacement approach span in a form of a Pratt through truss bridge, totaling 140 feet long and costing $3,987. The total length of the bridge is 345 feet long.
Since 2007 the bridge has been closed to traffic and has been the target of vandalism, as parts of the wooden decking was set ablaze by arsonists, causing damage to the bridge, albeit not as severe as the incident at Bunker Mill Bridge near Kalona, last August. Missing bolts and other bridge parts have also been reported. Yet times are changing, and the county engineer plans to replace this bridge with a pre-cast concrete bridge. However, as the truss bridge is a national historic landmark- having been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1998- the Tama County Engineer is offering the bridge to any takers willing to relocate it for reuse, regardless of whether it is only one of the two truss spans or both. The reason for this is to garner interest from parties interested in finding a new home for the structure.
At the same time, the bridge’s history will be documented, thanks in part to an agreement made between the county, the cultural resources office of the Iowa Department of Transportation in Ames, and Wapsi Valley Archeology, Inc. in Anamosa, where all stories, photos and postcards are being collected and will be used in a booklet to be published for libraries in Tama County and beyond, as well as IaDOT.
If you are interested in purchasing the bridge, please contact the Tama County Engineer, using the contact details here. If you wish to contribute to the booklet, the contact details for Wapsi Valley Archeology and Kristy Medanic (who is in charge of this project) is found here. The preservation and relocation of the Chambers Ford Bridge will make up for losing a pair of key historic bridges in 2007 at Toledo and Chelsea as well as another last year at Traer, yet it could also serve as a motive to preserving the remaining bridges of their kind in the county, for there are plenty of them- closed to traffic because of age and deficiencies- to go around and enough interest from other groups to take them for reuse. The Chronicles will follow-up on the developments of the bridge project set to begin soon.
There are more bridge types that make Des Moines one of the most populous bridges in the Midwest. As we will see in this part, truss bridges were just as popular of a bridge design as the arch bridges that were built by James Marsh and company. As many as 30 truss bridges were reported to had been built during the time span between 1870 and 1930 along the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers as well as other tributaries, including those mentioned in the first two parts of the series. The majority of them featured two or more spans. And while more than half of them were Pratt designs, there were many exceptions to the rule. Already mentioned in part II there was the Post through truss design that had existed at Court Avenue before its replacement in 1917. But like this bridge, the majority of the structures lack the information regarding its history, including the date of construction and the bridge builder. This was in part because of the fact that they were gone prior to the urban renewal period in the 1960s and after 1993. This is not good for many of these structures, like the 18th Avenue Bridge featured some decorative designs on the portal bracings, which were common during the period of bridge construction prior to 1920, when bridge builders could afford to leave their marks with ornaments and builders plaques. After 1920, with the standardization of truss bridges and the letter-shaped portal bracings (A, M and X-frames), these were seldomly used and can rarely be found today when travelling on Iowa’s highways.
Today, eight bridges are known to exist in Des Moines that have a truss design, at least two thirds of the number that had existed prior to 1970. This does not include the CGW Railroad Bridge, which was demolished in its entirety last month. While some of the structures have already been mentioned earlier, the tour of Des Moines’ truss bridges will feature the ones not mentioned. Each one will feature a location, when they were built (and replaced), what they looked like and if there is no concrete information on the bridge builder, some assumptions will be made. As they will mentioned in the Iowa Truss Bridge Book project that is being compiled by the author, any information on the bridges will be useful.
Without further ado, here are the bridges worth mentioning on the tour:
Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Bridge at Hartford Avenue: This bridge can be seen from Hartford Avenue on the southeast end of Des Moines. The three-span subdivided Warren through truss bridge with X-frame portal bracings is the fourth bridge to be located at this crossing, for the earliest crossing was dated 1871. It was rebuilt in 1890 and again in 1915 with a four-span through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings and pinned connections. While it can be assumed that the reconstruction in 1890 and 1915 may have to do with either flooding that damaged the spans or the increase in rail traffic, the current span was built in 1920 by the American Bridge Company and it most probably had to do with the destruction of the 1915 bridge, albeit more research and information is needed to confirm that claim. The bridge is 469 feet long and is owned by Union Pacific Railroad. However, it was part of the Rock Island Railroad with had a line connecting Indianola and Kansas City to the south, going through Des Moines enroute north to Albert Lea and Minneapolis. When the railroad company was liquidated in 1981, the line was acquired by Chicago and Northwestern, which in turn was bought by Union Pacific in 1995. 20 trains a day use this bridge.
18th Street Bridge:As seen in the picture at the very top of the article, this bridge crossed the Raccoon River at what is now Fleur Drive, southeast of the Central Academy. Before its demolition in 1936, the bridge featured four Camelback truss spans and was one of the most ornate bridges in Des Moines, let alone along the Des Moines River. More information is needed as to when the bridge was built (and by who) and why it was demolished. It is known that today’s Fleur Drive Bridge serves four-lane traffic and serves as a key link to Martin Luther King Drive and all points south of downtown Des Moines.
Inter-Urban Trail Bridge: Built in 1902, this bridge spans the Des Moines River south of the Euclid Avenue Bridge. The structure features four spans of Pratt with pinned connections, yet three of the spans feature lattice portal bracings with curved heel bracings, while the fourth and easternmost span features V-laced portal bracings with a 45° angle heel bracing- quite possibly a span that was either brought in or built on-site to replace an earlier span destroyed. This bridge used to serve the Inter-Urban Rail Line, one of eight in Iowa accomodated commuters through the 1950s. This route connected Des Moines with Colfax in Poweshiek County, a length of 23 miles. Service continued until 1949, when the freight railroads took over and people resorted to the car or bus. 33 years later, the railroad line and bridge was abandoned, but the City bought both of them to be converted into a bike trail, which was opened in 1998. With the exception of the replacement of the approach spans in 2012, the bridge today retains its integrity and still serves bike traffic, while providing access to the Neal Smith Bike Trail, which combs the Des Moines River.
Commerce Bridge:Spanning the Raccoon River, this bridge featured four truss spans which included three Camelbacks with Howe Lattice portal bracings with subdivided heels and a Pratt through truss with M-frame portal bracings. The latter was built at a later time, whereas the three Camelbacks were reportedly to had been built by the Clinton Bridge and Iron Works Company, one of many Iowa bridge builders that existed during the period between 1890 and 1930. It is unknown when they were built, let alone rebuilt, but records had it that the bridge was destroyed during the Flood of 1965. The bridge was later removed, and Commerce Street was rerouted to run along the Raccoon. All that remains are the abutments and the rapids where the bridge once stood. They can be seen as 105th Street southwest curves to the south.
Iowa Interstate Railroad Bridge: Spanning the Des Moines River south of the Red Bridge and once part of the Rock Island Railroad, the Iowa Interstate Railroad Bridge was built in 1901 by the American Bridge Company and featured eight spans of pony girders totalling 625 feet. While it used to be a double-tracked bridge, the eastbound track was abandoned and fenced off in the 1980s and today, only one track is used. It replaced a four-span lattice through truss bridge, which had served one-lane of rail traffic and was built 30 years earlier. The future of this bridge is in doubt due to its sparse use, combined with the city’s plans to raise the dikes. Already the Red Bridge was raised four feet and the CGW Railroad Bridge were removed as part of the city flood planning. It would not be surprising that the bridge’s owner, Iowa Interstate Railroad would abandon the bridge altogether, making it the target for scrap metal. But it is unknown if and when that would happen.
SW 63rd Street Bridge:Located over the Raccoon River between Brown’s Woods and Water Works Parks on 63rd Street in West Des Moines, this three-span truss bridge featured two pin-connected Pratt through truss bridges with portal bracings similar to the 5th Street Pedestrian Bridge, located downstream. It is possible that either George E. King or Clinton Bridge and Iron Works (because of the plaque on the portal bracing) had built the original span. Its northernmost span featured a Pratt through truss bridge with riveted connections and A-frame portal bracing. That bridge was most likely brought in to replace one of the original spans that was destroyed either through flooding or an accident. Little information was gathered about the bridge prior to its demolition and replacement in 1964, due to lack of interest in the history of the structure. Had the historic preservation movement started 10-15 years earlier, it would most likely have been one of the first bridges eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The National Historic Preservation Law was passed in 1966, one year after the replacement of this bridge was open to traffic.
Waterworks Park Bridge: Built in 1922, this Raccoon River crossing is one of the key attractions of Waterworks Park on the south end of Des Moines, as well as the city’s bike trail network. The crossing is 320 feet long and features two 98 foot riveted Pratt pony trusses that used to carry vehicular traffic until its closure in the 1990s. In 1999, the City converted the crossing into a bike trail bridge and has remained in that fashion ever since.
SW Ninth Street Bridge: This Raccoon River crossing is perhaps one of two bridges on this tour that has the least amount of information on its history, despite the fact that it was replaced with the current bridge in 1967. The structure featured three spans of pin-connected Pratt through trusses with Howe lattice portal bracings. Yet that is about it as far as further information is concerned…..
Old Highway 46 Bridge: This is the second of the two bridges that is missing information (including dimensions) and even more detailed photos than what is shown in the link. No information was found in the historic bridge survey conducted in the early 1990s. Located southeast of Des Moines, this multiple-span polygonal through truss bridge was built in 1938 and was removed 60 years later when the Hwy. 65 freeway opened. Other than that, there was no information as to whether a previous structure had existed before that, let alone who the bridge builder was that built the 1938 structure. It is known though that the removal of the bridge came despite protests from farmers, who wanted the bridge open so that they can haul farm equipment across it. Yet because the valley where the bridge was located was flood prone, safety precautions were taken and the bridge was removed. Today, portions of the highway exist on its original path from Avon to the river and from there to Des Moines, terminating at Hwy. 163. Interestingly enough, a railroad bridge located adjacent to the bridge was removed in 1968 after the railroad decided to reroute the line through Indianola enroute to Knoxville. A section of the railroad line exists but makes a dead-end at the power plant located on the north side of the river.
Ashworth Park Truss Bridge:This is one of three bridges that straddle Walnut Creek carrying Iowa Interstate Railroad through Des Moines (the other two are Pratt pony trusses). The 1897 Warren through truss bridge with Howe lattice portal bracings and riveted connections used to serve dual track rail traffic until the 1990s when it was reduced to only one track. The bridge still serves traffic and can be seen up close from the bike trail while passing through Waterworks Park.
This sums up the tour through Des Moines. The truss bridge portion of the tour is rather the most interesting, but the most challenging if one wants to find information and photos of the structure. As some of the structures will be included in the Iowa Truss Bridge Book project, if you have any information that is useful for the project, or for other people who are interested in bridges in general, you can leave a comment here, or you can contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at email@example.com. Aside from that, it is hoped that people will have an opportunity to visit the bridges while in Des Moines and listen (or read) the stories involved with each of them, for the bridges span a total of 160 years and three periods, both in terms of materials (wood-iron/steel- concrete) as well as the period of bridge building (trusses-arch-modern bridges). Through the interest in history, you are doing more than just collect stories, you are sharing them with others as well, for there is no such thing as no interest in history. Without history, we are ignorant and a group of people with no identity, no pride and no soul. We take pride in history to ensure we know who we are and bridges are an integral part of our history.
Author’s Note:More info can be obtained by clicking on the links marked in the heading and text. Special thanks to John Marvig for photographing the bridges and allowing usage in this article.