When I first met John Graham at the 2nd annual Historic Bridge Conference in Pittsburgh in 2010, my first impression of him was that he was a conservative, dressed up as white collar worker, but a man of detail and experience. It was John F. Graham who came up with a concept of augmented reality for structural analysis of bridges.
Augmented reality is a computer term that I had recently collected some general information on through a pair of presentations in an English for IT class at the Erfurt University of Applied Sciences in Germany. It basically analyses the inner portion of structures to analyze problems and find solutions. It had been introduced for medicine for identifying tissue damage in humans, making a precise diagnostic and recommendations for improving the body damage where the damage occurred. Yet could Augmented Reality work for infrastructure, such as bridges?
Apparently according to Graham, it does. In theory based on trial and error combined with experience, Mr. Graham at the conference showed that augmented reality can identify structural deficiencies inside bridge structures, through the use of special sensors, and make recommendations for fixing them. This latest technology would save money and prolong the life of the bridge, especially after the structure is rehabilitated. Evidence in praxis was shown with the Red Jacket Railroad Trestle south of Mankato, Minnesota later that year, for the Minnesota DOT was in charge of rebuilding the trestle after floodwaters undermined one of the piers, forcing officials to remove the deck plate girders while watching the stone pier collapse. In the other piers, structural weaknesses were identified to a point where the piers were reconstructed to resemble the original. The restoration ended in 2011. Other rehabilitation projects involved this type of technology which saved costs and opened the doors for reusing historic bridges.
Mr. Graham’s presentation based on this concept was one of many aspects that will make him a person who was conservative but reasonable when it came to the decision of rehabilitating bridges that were an asset to the area and replacing those that deteriorated beyond repair. He was a true Pittsburghese, having been born in the Steel City on 2 April, 1936 and studied civil engineering at Carnegie Tech (today known as Carnegie Mellon University. For most of his career, he was Director for Engineering and Construction for Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County, a position he held until 1989. During his time, he was responsible for the rehabilitation of hundreds of bridges in and around Pittsburgh, including the Sister Bridges, Sixteenth Street and the arch bridges at Fort Pitt and Fort Dusquene, just to name a few. He also had to replace some, like at Sutersville and Coraopolis, according to Todd Wilson, a civil engineer who knew him well during his days at Carnegie Mellon. Mr. Graham in 1978 pushed for and supported legislation that would allow the Federal Highway Administration to allocate the 90:10 funding ratio, whereby state and local governments would only bear 10% of the cost for rehabilitating or replacing the bridge, the former Graham championed and led to the prolongation of the lives of several of Pittsburgh’s bridges. Legislation continued this 90:10 ratio and prioritized rehabilitation until the Minneapolis Bridge collapse in 2007, which resulted in more radical measures to replace bridges. To the end, Mr. Graham continued advocating for identifying and fixing deficiencies in the structures, claiming that they were cost effective and would save on the use of materials needed for new bridges. Indirectly, it was a plus when identifying the historic significance of the bridges.
In 1989, Mr. Graham became the Director of Capital Projects for the City of Pittsburgh, where he oversaw the construction of the Pittsburgh International Airport and other related construction projects, including the Southern Beltway. He later worked for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and later taught engineering classes at Carnegie Mellon. He even operated his own civil engineering firm, where he was responsible for several projects, including the infrastructure for Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers American Football team. Much of the work in the greater Pittsburgh area has Mr. Graham’s name on it, and his unique conservative approach to bridge engineering will be remembered, even as people cross several of Pittsburgh’s restored historic bridges, of which he’s left a mark in at least half of them.
John F. Graham died peacefully on 14 March, 2019 with his daughter Wendy and her husband Marc by his side. In the last two years of his life he lived with her and her family in Philadelphia, which included her two sons. He was preceded in death by his wife, Kay. Mr. Graham was a true Pittsburghese and one who left a mark in Pittsburgh, the US and beyond, especially for his work in the field of civil engineering. Therefore, for his work, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is awarding him and his family Lifetime Legacy Post Humus with a big thanks for his contributions. Because of him, we have found many creative ways to make bridges safe and maintain its integrity instead of replacing them outright, a concept that does more than waste money. It impacts the environment negatively because of materials used that are dwindling and non-renewable.
Have you found something that was small and unnoticeable from the outside but you find high historic value in that you want to document on it? It could be a ghost town, abandoned church, a historic bridge that is closed or even a historic site that is open but doesn’t receive enough attention to get any notice? How would you document it: in print form, video, online, or a combination of the mentioned items? History is an underrated commodity where even the most popular places are sometimes ignored and hidden jewels that have high historic value are forgotten- buried under a pile of dirt representing time, until someone discovers it and want to talk about it.
Someone like Satolli Glassmeyer, the creator of History in Your Backyard (HYB). Launched in 2014, HYB is an online portal where videos on artefacts of the past can be found, be it abandoned school houses and churches, memorials commemorating history or in this case, historic bridges, which are disappearing in vast numbers every year. Much of the coverage has been between Chicago and Cleveland, for Mr. Glassmeyer originates from Cincinnati, Ohio and spent much of his childhood visiting many spots in the vicinity (and later beyond).
But how was HYB conceived and how successful has it been since its launch? The Chronicles did an interview with Mr. Glassmeyer and found out some interesting details about HYB and the direction it’s going in the future. Here’s what I found out about him and HYB’s successes. Please note that some video examples from HYB are included for you to watch.
I wanted to start off by asking you what motivated you to starting this video program?
This is kind of a long story but here we go….When I was a teenager back in the mid 1970s I had zero interest in history such as the War of 1812 or the Magna Carta. However I was a huge bicycle enthusiast riding my bike at least 10 miles a day and then typically doing 75-100 mile bike rides on a Saturday or Sunday. My longer weekend trips would take me through small towns where I began to fall in love with the buildings and bridges constructed in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I was fascinated with what was built back then and with what little they had to work with compared to the modern construction equipment that we have today.
When I was 18 I bought my first car, a 1970 AMX which was also another passion of mine. About a year later I formed an AMX club in the greater Cincinnati area which eventually included 20-25 owners of these unique automobiles. We would get together once a month and have events for the club. Some of the “older guys” in their 30s and 40s taught us younger guys how to do “road rallies” which is basically a scavenger hunt using an automobile. Once again I fell in love with the road rally concept and did quite a few for the club as a hobby until I turned it into a business in the late 1990s called Scenic Road Rallies. With the rallies, I found that I was able to take my passion for fast automobiles and combine it with my passion for historic structures. In the direction packets that I handed out for each road rally event I included a few short lines about each historic building the teams would pass or each bridge they would cross over.
The teams enjoyed the short history lessons but asked for more information on these sites. Information that they could use on their own time without having to do a road rally event. So in 2011 I began producing driving booklets that I sold which were basically guided road tours spelling out in detail (With pictures) all of the historic buildings and bridges along the route. I put myself on a strict schedule of producing one driving tour booklet a month until after 2 years I had accumulated a small 24 volume library of tour guides.
Unfortunately the booklets didn’t sell as expected. A couple of friends pointed out that people don’t read much anymore and videos now seem to be the way most people get their information. I gave it some thought, then when out and bought a cheap video camera, named my new company History In Your Own Backyard and went off to document the forgotten historic structures in the region. That’s basically how we arrived at this point in time.
How are your historic places selected? Based on personal visit, personal request or both?
Since this is a business, I typically don’t choose the site, the client makes the selection be it a church, a bridge or a cemetery. If I have time after the clients shoot, I will go out and film other obscure sites such as bridges that I’m sure no client will pay for yet needs to be documented for future generations.
What is all involved in the filming process?
It’s a fairly involved process to film a site. I have a check list of 29 points that need to be addressed to get a video from start to finish. Beginning with discussing the potential project with the sponsor to contacting the local newspaper after the video is released so that they can write a story about the video project.
How do you collect the information on your historic artifact?
This is basically the sponsors responsibility. However if I am doing a video on a site of my choosing, the research process can entail online searches, books, personal interviews, etc. Each project is different when it comes to an information source and history is always muddy. No matter how much research you do, once the video is produced, someone will say “you’re wrong”. So you just have to do your best and keep an open mind that not everything you read or see is accurate.
Many videos on bridges are between a half hour and an hour. Yours are between 3-5 minutes on average, with some being only 10 minutes. Why so short?
Good question! My video style is much different from traditional videos.
Everyday around the world we lose historic buildings and bridges to fire, flood, storms, neglect, progress, civil unrest, war, earthquakes, etc. Nothing lasts forever and it’s important to me to document these structures as quickly as possible before they are lost forever. My goal is to produce 10,000 documentaries before I die. Right now I have about 420 documentaries completed which means even if I produce a documentary every day from here on out, I still have over 26 years of work ahead of me. I’m 62 now so I’m basically running out of time here.
I produce short documentaries for a couple of reasons:
One is that statistically speaking most people who watch a video on YouTube (Where all of my videos are featured) only watch about 4 minutes of a video before they click off and move on to the next selection. If you produce a relatively short video you have a better chance of having the video completely viewed to the end and a better chance of having the viewer share that video with their friends and family. Longer videos are rarely watched completely and it’s even rarer for them to be shared. The whole idea behind my project is to get as many eyes on these videos as possible so that people will sit up and take notice of these structures and possibly save them for future generations. My videos are not designed to be entertainment but rather peak peoples interest so that they get in their car and go out to look at the site.
Video production isn’t cheap and is very time consuming. When it comes to my videos, for every one minute of video you see, it takes about 1 hour of research, shooting video and editing to complete the job. So a 5 minute video may take about 5 hours while a 30 minute video could take 30 hours or more.
Secondly, I’m trying to do this project as cheaply as possible so that anyone who wants a video can afford it. I produce these videos at about 1/3 the going rate of a typical video production company. Mainly because I have very little overhead, a small crew and I’m pretty damn good at keeping costs down. I charge between $399.00 and $1899.00 to produce a video depending on the site, location and needs of the client.
A 50 minute long documentary you might see on PBS can take years to produce using an army of people and hundreds of thousands of dollars. I know someone that produced a documentary for PBS using just grants. The documentary turned out great but took 5 years to make and over $120,000.00. I personally don’t have the time to mess around for 3, 4 or 5 years to produce one indepth video.
I know of a tourism bureau who had a local TV station produce a 60 second video on the sights and sounds of their town. The project cost them $6,000.00 ($100.00 per second) and all they received was a DVD of the project. It was never shown on TV. It was for their own personal use. Not many of my clients have $6,000.00 to spend on a 60 second video so that’s where I come into play with a decent quality video at a very reasonable price which will be viewed by thousands of people.
Aside from Youtube, how are your videos published?
Yes, my videos can be found on YouTube under the History In Your Own Backyard channel. All of those videos are linked to my website database where the videos are broken down by State/County/Town and also include a map to show the location of the site. (By clicking onto the two highlighted links, you will be redirected to their respective sites) All of the schools in the county where the video was shot and all of the schools in the surrounding counties are sent a link to the video so that the history teachers can share it with their students. All of the mayors and council members in the county where the video was shot and all of the council members in the surrounding counties are sent a link to the video so that they can share it with their residents. The video is placed on a Google Maps page where you can click on any of the 420+ pinpoints to see a video in that exact location. Eventually all of the videos will be archived in the state libraries where they were shot so that future generations can look back to see what existed in 2019. I did contact the Library of Congress regarding these videos being archived but that was very early on in the project. I was asked to contact the department later after I had a substantial number of videos produced. When I hit the 500 mark next year, I’ll reach back out to them.
How many people are on your staff?
My direct staff is just me and the two cats. However I do have a couple of interviewers that work for me directly on the videos shoots. So in a nutshell, I do just about everything, sales, research, shooting video, editing video and the archiving process.
Give me your top three favorite historic bridges that you’ve filmed?
Tough question Jason! In no particular order:
The Triple Whipple Bridge near Aurora, Indiana is high on my list. As someone else said, she’s the Queen Mary of all bridges! Beautiful, tall, restored and the only one of it’s kind still standing. The bridge is only about 15 miles from my home so I get to see her fairly often.
Film on the bridge:
The Dresden Suspension Bridge in Dresden, Ohio is a favorite that we just covered this year with the Ohio Historic Bridge Association. A beautiful bridge that is easily viewed.
Film on the bridge:
Finally the Crosley Bridge in Jennings County, Indiana. A private steel truss bridge built by Powel Crosley, the bridge is extremely narrow and hidden deep in the woods via a dirt road.
Film on the bridge:
What historic bridge do you regret seeing demolished?
Definitely it was the Cedar Grove Bridge in Cedar Grove, Indiana. Long story short, I was part of a group who tried to save this bridge from demolition. The State of Indiana offered to give our group the money they would pay for the demolition if we could find a local government entity who would take ownership of the bridge for 30 seconds while signing the bridge over to us where it would be refurbished and turned into a park for the locals. Unfortunately the town council in Cedar Grove and the Franklin County Commissioners had zero interest in seeing the bridge survive. After a 2+ year fight to save the bridge, when it became apparent that all of the government entities and the locals themselves had zero interest in the structure, we abandoned our cause and the bridge was demolished via the State of Indiana on February 17, 2016.
Film on the bridge’s demise:
Complete this sentence: A historic bridge in your opinion……..
A historic bridge in my opinion is a mix of style, engineering and quality from an era that we will never see again. It was a different breed of men that built bridges in the 1800s and early 1900s.
What is important for keeping the historic bridge “historic” instead of neglecting it to a point of demolition?
Once these bridges are gone, they are gone forever. Bridges are probably the most used structure no matter where they were built. Some bridges only see 5 or 10 crossing per day while others literally see tens of thousands of crossings if not more. It’s hard to think of another item produced by man that gets this much usage and can last for 100 or more years. Holding on to these structures for future generations is important not only for educational purposes but for general enjoyment as well.
What are your future plans for HYB? What bridges are on your agenda?
Right now as I think I mentioned earlier, I have over 420 videos produced and hope to add at least 100 more documentary videos in 2020. I have about 20 bridge videos that have been shot and are awaiting the editing process. They are scattered throughout Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia & West Virginia. Hopefully I can get those finished over the Winter.
If a person has a historic bridge that needs to be filmed, like for example Kern Bridge in Minnesota or the Bridgeport Bridge in Michigan, who to contact?
It’s simple, just give me (Satolli Glassmeyer) a call at 812-623-5727 between 8:00 am and 9:00 pm. If I don’t answer, leave a message. Or if you like, send an email to Info@HistoryInYourOwnBackyard.com. We can discuss your needs and wants for the video project while I guide you to the best option to preserve that bridge on video now and in the future.
A closing thought……Statistically speaking, over the next 100 years we will lose 50% of the historic bridges currently standing due to fire, flood, storms, neglect, progress, civil unrest, war, earthquakes, etc. 99% of those historic bridges will disappear over the next 200 years for the same reasons and eventually all will disappear. Nothing lasts forever. At some point down the road, we’ll no longer need bridges and this project will at least preserve the memory of when we used these engineering marvels to cross vast expanses of water or terrain
Thank you for your time and interview at the Chronicles and wishing you all the best in your career.
Just recently, HYB got its 1 millionth view on YouTube on its page. It currently has over 3900 viewers with just as many (if not more) visitors daily, which makes it one of the most popular short-film documentaries in the US. A video on that can be found here:
HYB provides people with a short glimpse of some of the historic artefacts that people can see while they are in the area, let alone should see before they are gone. Sometimes less means more- the most basic means the more interest in seeing the places in person. So as Satolli would say: Travel Slowly, Stop Often. 🙂
Author’s Note: Some of HYB’s bridges will also appear on this page from time to time, to encourage people to watch them and eventually visit them.
GEORGETOWN, KENTUCKY (USA)- The best historic bridges are the ones that are the most hidden, the most unrecognizable and in this case, the most heavily traveled bridge. The Royal Springs Bridge is located in Georgetown. It spans the creek bearing its name carrying Main Street and US Hwy. 460 near the university. Although the bridge was built in 1800, records indicated that it was constructed in 1789, the same year George Washington was elected the first president of the US. The engineer was Elijah Craig.This makes it the oldest bridge in the state.
Yet there are some more interesting points about this bridge. Here are some more in a documentary produced by History in Your Own Backyard:
Further information about its history can be found here via bridgehunter.com.
This bridge is a classic example of a bridge that is a forgotten one unless you make a stop with the camera and get a few shots. Especially if the structure is listed as a technical heritage site. 🙂
Author’s Note: For the first time in four years, a literary review is being introduced in the Chronicles. Previously, we had a Book of the Week that had existed from 2013-14, but due to time constraints, it was discontinued. This time we have the Book of the Month, where each bridge piece will be introduced for people to have a look at. You will find this and future pieces on the Chronicles. A page is being created where all the bridge literary pieces will be added, past and present. So without further ado……
Book of the Month: January 2019
The first ever book of the month takes us to the German state of Saxony, and to the community of Schwarzenberg. Located 10 kilometers east of Aue, deep in the Ore Mountains, the community of 23,300 prides itself on its traditional culture and its history for several historic landmarks are located in the old town, which features a castle and church overlooking the deep valley where the rivers Schwarzwasser and Mittweida meet. The town was one of the key hubs for railroads that met from areas high in the mountains. Today only one line exists from Johanngeorgenstadt to Zwickau, passing through this community. And while the mining industry almost no longer exists, other industries have taken over, thus making the city rather attractive.
While many cities in Saxony, such as Dresden, Leipzig and Plauen have prided themselves on their historic bridges because of popularity, no one has ever thought about the fact that a community, such as Schwarzenberg, would have an interesting set of their own.
Enter the Senior Citizens Club Haus Schlossblick in Schwarzenberg and their prized work, Schwarzenberg’s Bridges. The booklet was released in December 2018, with many copies having been sold during the Christmas markets and beyond. Even though the target language in this 53-page booklet is German, the booklet is laden with pictures of Schwarzenberg’s 44 bridges- both past and present- combined with years of research and photo collections all put together and presented in a form of a tour guide. The photos with the bare essential information is enough for people to read up before finding the bridges, especially as they are listed in the order going downstream for every river mentioned, minus the railroad crossings.
The booklet is different to another bridge booklet written in 2014 on the city of Aue. (For more, please click here to view the tour guide). While current pics of the city’s bridges were included, there was mainly text on the history of each of the bridges in the city of 16,000, located at the confluence between the Zwickau Mulde and the Schwarzwasser, as well as along the Flyover, connecting the city with the Autobahn 72. More pics on the previous structures, plus a better selection of information would have perhaps helped.
Going back to the bridges in Schwarzenberg, there are some interesting facts that are presented in the book, some of which will get the reader to visit them while in Germany. Here are the top five:
The Steynerne Bridge (pictured above) is the oldest bridge stilll existing in Schwarzenberg. It is also the narrowest vehicular crossing in the Ore Mountains.
The Topp-Müller-Arch Bridge was the oldest stone arch bridge ever built in Schwarzenberg, dating back to 1539.
Two railroad bridges used to carry a railline through the steep hills underneath the old town. It was bypassed in 1952.
The old railroad arch bridge east of the train station is one of the best examples of a restored historic bridge of its kind.
Each bridge has a medaillon on the railing, signaling the build and replacement dates, plus some of the symbols of the city.
Interesting is the fact that the author included the Markersbach Viaduct in the booklet. While that bridge is only a few kilometers away, it was included in the Chronicles’ tour guide (shown here). Still, the authors believe that it belongs to the Schwarzenberg ensemble, which is considered far fetched but ok. Also included is the Hammerbrücke, a covered bridge located in Lauter, which is three kilometers away.
A map with the location of the bridges in Schwarzenberg can be found below. I did a bike tour in the region on three different occasions and have therefore included photos in all but a couple of the city’s bridges. The rest of the information is from the booklet.
The book on Schwarzenberg’s bridges, which can be bought at the tourist information center upon personal visit for only six Euros, does bring up a question with regards to writing a book on bridges in such a community. While the book with sufficient information and photos on the bridges, like in Schwarzenberg, would be appropriate especially for readers who just want to know a bit on the bridges, the question is whether this book would fit for another community.
Which town would benefit from such a “picture book” with sufficient information?
Feel free to make your top five cities you would like to see a bridge book written on, either by choosing from the Chronicles’ tour guide page or adding some of your own.
My top five cities that deserve such a bridge booklet include: Glauchau, Zwickau, Dresden, Minneapolis and Des Moines. What about yours? Add your thoughts in the comment section.
Author’s update: Funeral Arrangements are being planned for historic bridge preservationist Eric Delony, who died on October 23rd. According to Information from Christopher Marston, it is being scheduled for January 2019. When and where has yet to be determined, but the Chronicles will inform you in due time as soon as everything is finalized.
Mr. Marston, who worked with Eric for many years, write a much-detailed version of the obituary, honoring him for his three decades-plus work in documenting and saving historic bridges, much more than what the Chronicles covered when having honored him with the Ammann Awards for Lifetime Achievement. This was done in 2016. With his permission, the detail of his life and work are written below. More Information on him and the stories behind his historic bridge preservation will follow. For now, enjoy reading about Mr. Delony from Christopher’s point of view:
Eric N. DeLony, who served as Chief of the National Park Service’s Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) from 1987 to 2003, died on October 23, 2018, after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. Over his career, Eric became known as a pioneer in historic bridge documentation and preservation and one of the nation’s leading experts in historic bridges. In recognition of his achievements, Eric was the recipient of the 2000 General Tools Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Society for Industrial Archeology.
Early Years at HAER
After graduating from the Ohio State University in 1968, Eric was first hired as a summer architect on the New England Textile Mills Survey, a joint project of the Smithsonian (under the leadership of Robert Vogel) and the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). The following year he became a member of the Mohawk-Hudson Area Survey, HAER’s very first field team. This ambitious project documented several industrial sites and bridges in the Albany area, and team members were challenged to devise new recording techniques for manufacturing and engineering structures. His detailed drawing of the Troy Gasholder remains the logo of the Society for Industrial Archeology to this day. Once he completed his Master’s in Historic Preservation at Columbia University under James Marston Fitch (where he first met his lifelong friend and colleague, preservation educator Chester Liebs), Eric was hired as HAER’s first full-time employee in 1971. HAER began recording a variety of bridges and other industrial structure types as part of state inventories and themed surveys. These included surveys of the Baltimore & Ohio and Erie railroads, Paterson and Lowell mill towns, and later mining, steel, power, and maritime-related sites, among others. Eric also helped initiate “SWAT teams” to record endangered structures prior to demolition. By 1987, Eric DeLony had been promoted to Chief of HAER.
HAER Historic Bridge Program
In collaboration with Emory Kemp of West Virginia University, Eric began developing the HAER Historic Bridge Program in 1973, which would become the first comprehensive national program to identify and protect historic bridges. Through Eric’s efforts, HAER developed partnerships with the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP), the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), and state historic preservation offices (SHPOs). The first goal of the program was to promote comprehensive historic bridge inventories in each state. When inventories were required by law in 1987, Eric’s initiative became a catalyst in making highway bridges the first class of historic structures to be nationally evaluated.
After the preliminary state bridge inventories were completed, HAER partnered with state departments of transportation (DOTs) to undertake HAER summer documentation projects that would more intensively document representative bridges, with the first taking place in Ohio in 1986. Using funding from a variety of partners like the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOTs, and historic groups, HAER recording teams collaborated with national and local experts to produce large-format photographs, histories, and drawings of hundreds of historic bridges in Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington, from 1987-2001. Eric also worked with engineering professors such as Dario Gasparini at Case Western, Stephen Buonopane at Bucknell, and Ben Schafer at Johns Hopkins to hire students to compile detailed engineering analyses of a variety of historic bridge types, going beyond traditional architectural history reports. In appreciation of Eric’s initiatives, the White House and ACHP presented HAER’s Historic Bridge Program with a National Historic Preservation Award in 1992.
In addition to the nation’s highway bridges, the historic roads and bridges in the National Park system were also deteriorating from neglect and overuse. HAER developed a pilot project in the National Capital Region of the National Park Service (NPS) in 1988 to survey the historic and significant transportation-related structures and designed landscapes at various NPS units. With support from FHWA and NPS, this program expanded in 1989 and continued until 2002 to document the roads and bridges of large western national parks, national battlefields, and eastern parkways. HAER also partnered with New York and Connecticut to record several historic local parkways. The drawings of these projects are compiled in America’s National Park Roads and Parkways: Drawings from the Historic American Engineering Record (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 2004).
Eric DeLony was also influential in HAER’s involvement with a third major initiative involving FHWA and historic bridges. Realizing that covered bridges were a beloved but endangered resource, Vermont Senator James Jeffords proposed legislation to save them. The resulting National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation (NHCBP) Program was established by FHWA in 1998 as part of the TEA-21 transportation bill. HAER received research funding beginning in 2002 to document the nation’s most significant covered bridges, as well as developing other educational initiatives including engineering studies, a traveling exhibition, national conferences, and National Historic Landmark nominations. With the benefit of continued FHWA support, HAER Project Leader Christopher Marston has continued Eric’s vision and is in the process of finalizing several research projects. These include the 2015 publication Covered Bridges and the Birth of American Engineering, co-edited with Justine Christianson, and dedicated to Eric DeLony. Rehabilitation Guidelines for Historic Covered Bridges will be published later in 2018.
Eric was a longtime member of the Society for Industrial Archeology (SIA) and developed the SIA Historic Bridge Symposium beginning in the early 1980s to allow experts to share research and preservation experiences. Eric attended his last one in 2011; the 25th was held in 2016 in cooperation with the Historic Bridge Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri. He was also an active participant with the Transportation Research Board (TRB)’s Committee on Historic Preservation and Archaeology in Transportation (ADC50) beginning in the 1990s, which was comprised of professionals from state DOTs, SHPOs, and consultants involved in preservation issues on federally funded transportation projects. Research and best practices on preserving and maintaining historic bridges was always a major focus of the committee. As a subcontractor to Parsons Brinckerhoff, Eric DeLony co-authored A Context for Common Historic Bridge Types with Robert Jackson, for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCPRP Project 25-25, Task 15) in 2005.
Not satisfied to just record historic bridges, Eric was also determined to see as many bridges as possible saved and preserved. Some of the projects that Eric championed included: the 1828 Blaine S-Bridge and the 1868 Zoarville Station Bridge in Ohio; the 1869 Henszey’s Bridge in Pennsylvania; and the 1858 Aldrich Change Bridge in New York. As Ohio DOT’s Tom Barrett reflected, “Through Eric’s encouragement, I feel that the historic bridge inventory in Ohio has stabilized and improved in many ways. We strive to explore all plausible alternatives to demolition and find ways to educate everyone on proper rehabilitation and design solutions. Hard-fought successes here and nationwide in bridge preservation will always be a part of Eric’s legacy.”
Eric’s advocacy extended beyond bridges to roads as well. As Preserving the Historic Road conference founder Paul Daniel Marriott stated, “Eric appreciated that roads and bridges were intertwined. He was one of the first people to acknowledge that historic research and advocacy [were needed] for historic roads. Eric DeLony was instrumental in establishing the historic roads movement.”
Eric studied at Ironbridge with Sir Neil Cossons in 1971-72 as a Fulbright Scholar, and this experience led him to encourage collaboration between HAER and industrial archeologists and preservationists in Europe and other countries. Eric consistently hired International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) foreign exchange students for his summer field teams beginning in 1984.
He represented the United States at several meetings of the International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage (TICCIH). He also worked with several prominent European scholars, such as Barrie Trinder at Ironbridge and Louis Bergeron at Le Creusot, on various publications, exhibitions, and conferences. Another issue that Eric championed has finally shown dividends; after several decades, the U.S. delegation finally nominated the Brooklyn Bridge as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017.
After retiring to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2003, Eric became a bridge preservation consultant. Maintaining “The Pontists” email list, he advocated for various bridge preservation causes and initiatives, and continued to write and teach.
An avid collector of rare books, technical reports, and images of historic bridges, Eric donated his collection to two prestigious archives. The “Eric DeLony Collection of the History of Bridges and Bridge Construction” was established in 2010 at The Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. In 2013, the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Missouri received the “Eric N. DeLony Engineering & Bridge Collection.”
After health issues removed him from public life, Eric continued to receive various honors acknowledging his legacy. Beginning in 2014, David Wright of the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges established the Eric DeLony Scholarship, an annual prize awarded to a college student interested in historic preservation. Eric was also a recipient of the 2016 Othmar H. Amman Award for Lifetime Achievement from The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.
Eric DeLony was truly a pioneer in the world of historic bridge documentation, preservation, and advocacy. The 3,000+ bridges in the HAER Collection at the Library of Congress, and hundreds of examples of preserved historic bridges across the country are all a testament to his lifelong determination and passion for saving historic bridges.
2018 has presented itself with many surprises in all aspects. In particular with bridgehunting and bridge photography, where readers, followers and enthusiasts have been awed by many historic bridges abandoned for many years until discovered most recently, communities where historic bridges that are little mentioned are getting recognition, and historic bridges that are the spotlight for photographers and preservationists who worked successfully to breathe new life into them.
And with that, the 2018 Othmar H. Ammann is now open to business. Between now and December 3rd, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is now accepting entries of (historic) bridges and people who have worked to save them for reuse. Named after the Swiss bridge engineer who left his mark in bridge building in New York and the surrounding area, the Award is given out, both on the national and international levels in te following categories:
Best Bridge Photo
Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge
Lifetime Achievement (including post mortem)
Tour Guide- Communities, Counties, Districts with a high number of historic and fancy modern bridges
Best Kept Secret- Individual Bridge
Mystery Bridge and
Bridge of the Year.
More details can be found here. You can also find the results of the previous winners of the awards so that you have an idea which bridges, photos, etc. deserve to be entered.
Do you have a bridge, set of bridges, bridge photo(s) or even person(s) who has devoted time and effort to historic bridges that deserve recognition on the national and international levels? Send them here via form or e-mail:
You have until December 3rd to submit your entries. For bridge photos, please submit them using JPEG and keep it under 1MB, if possible. If you have any questions, please contact Jason Smith using the abovementioned form or e-mail address. Voting will proceed afterwards, ending on 8th January, 2019, with the winners being announced on the 12th. We will use the same scheme as before with polldaddy yet we may experiment with other options when we vote. More will come when the entries end and the voting begins. The contest is open globally. Anyone can enter. 🙂 If you have a bridge worth mentioning or a photo worth showing, let’s see it! 🙂
Back in January 2018, I posted a guest column on the bridges of Venice, Italy, taken by a travel blogger, who discovered the many hidden sites of Venice that are worth seeing, as a person visits the bridges along the Grand Canal and other waterways that make the city famous. A video was posted recently on the same subject, yet the focus was on the bridges themselves, filmed from all angles including the surroundings.
To give you a better idea of what to expect from the bridges of Venice, here’s the nine-minute video which will give you more than enough reasons to go to Venice. Enjoy! 🙂
Australian Traveller that loves to "Roam" our globe, creator of ENDLESSROAMING.COM sharing the experience through word and photography. Currently residing in my home of Newtown Sydney but hope to be back on the road late 2020. Feedback / questions are more than welcome, happy travels