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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Ely Street Bridge in Bertram Washed Away

Ely Street Brdg. Bertram
Ely Stret Bridge in Bertram

1891 Bridge near Cedar Rapids knocked into flooded Big Creek.

June of this year saw unprecedented flooding in the Midwest, as heavy rainfall saturated the ground and turned quiet creeks into violent rivers flowing out of control. This includes the areas of Linn, Jones and Johnson Counties in east central Iowa, where floodwaters and erosion caused damage to two major highway bridges northeast of Cedar Rapids, and sadly the destruction of a prized historic bridge in the small town of Bertram.

Located east of Cedar Rapids and accessible from highways 151 and 13, the town of 300 inhabitants is located on a key railroad line between Clinton and Cedar Rapids. The quiet community prides itself in having four historic bridges located within a six-mile radius, all of them located along Big Creek, one of the tributaries that eventually empties into the Cedar River.  The Ely Street Bridge, located on East Bertram Road just south of the railroad crossing is one of them.

Ely Street Bridge in Bertram
Ely Street Bridge in Bertram in Linn County. Photo taken in August 2013

Built in 1891, the two-span Pratt through truss bridge, with Town lattice portal bracings and pinned connections, is a key example of a bridge built by J.E. Jayne and Son Bridge Company in Iowa City, located 30 miles south of Cedar Rapids. Born in 1838,  John E. Jayne moved to Johnson County at the age of two where he settled down with his family on a plot of land in Graham Twp., according to county records. He started his bridge building business in Iowa City in the 1870s, with his company located on Gilbert Street. Many bridges built in Linn County were credited to his name, including three in and around Bertram. The red-colored Ely Street Bridge is the best known product built by Jayne, as the structure consists of two truss spans totalling 224 feet long and 14 feet wide. Plaques are found at the top center part of the portal bracings. The bridge is well-hidden but one will cross it right after crossing the railroad tracks.

That is, it used to…

Heavy rainfall caused Big Creek to flood its banks, resulting in trees and other debris falling into the rushing waters. One of the larger trees knocked the two-span structure into the water on June 30th, cutting the truss bridges into pieces and the street off from its main access to US 151 and IA 13.  Once standing while underwater, the truss structure is now in many pieces, and there is no word on whether the bridge will be rebuilt or scrapped in favor of a more modern structure.

Already last year, attempts were made by Iowa DOT and Linn County to encourage residents of Bertram to “upgrade” the bridges, including the Ely Street Bridge. The offer of covering a wider portion of the cost to replace them was rejected by residents for they did not want to have an increase in traffic going through the community. The decision was sensible given the quiet setting Bertram has to offer, with its narrow streets and houses that are more than 70 years old. With the Ely Street Bridge washed away, the issue of the future of the crossing will indeed be brought back onto the table of the Bertram town council, Linn County and eventually Iowa DOT.

There are three options facing the parties involved:

1. The bridge could be scrapped and replaced with a modern bridge, with the plaques being saved and showcased at either the museum or on the railings of the new bridge. There, the issue of the increase in traffic and the opposition to building a new bridge because of cost and historic significance will be discussed vehemently.

2. The second option is removing what is left of the bridge and not replacing the bridge at all. This would be a definitely inconvenience for it would cut the community in half with a crossing disappearing forever.

3. Then there is the third option, which is rebuilding the truss bridge, piece by piece, making it resemble the original crossing. While that may be expensive to undertake, judging by the state of the truss spans, most of the pieces are salvageable, with the exception of the diaginal beams and portal bracings, which can be done by a local bridge builder. This option would keep the bridge listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the honor it had received in 1998.

Even if only one of the truss spans is salvageable, one can either construct a replica of the lost span, as was done with the Motor Mill Bridge in Clayton County and the easternmost span of the Sutliff Crossing near Lisbon, both done in 2012. Both bridges had been washed away by flooding years before, and residents associated with both bridges raised funding and received help from state and federal authorities to rebuild them.  That financial support is also available if one would import a historic bridge from elsewhere to replace one of the lost spans, whether that span originates from somewhere in either Linn, Jones or Johnson Counties or a couple river miles west of the bridge. There, the Blaine’s Crossing Bridge, seen from the Hwy. 151/13 Bridge, has been out of use for many years but still has some use left, judging by the appearance after the bridge was visited by two pontists within two years of each other.

Given the many opportunities available, combined with the technical know-how available for rebuilding and restoring historic bridges, and the residents’ interest in a (preferrably restored) crossing at East Bertram Road, it will be most likely that the Ely Street Bridge will be rebuilt and the crossing will be reopen in the near future. The questions will remain though as to how to approach this problem. Will the bridge be rebuilt to its original form or (partially) replaced? How much money is needed to rebuild the crossing and where will the money come from? Will there be any campaigning for restoring the crossing, like on facebook, etc., and if so, how? And lastly, what will the rebuilt bridge look like: in its original form, in a replicated form, in an altered form, or in a completely new form?  All these questions will need to be answered in the coming weeks and months before construction of the crossing can commence. This time, those affected will have their say as to how (new) crossing should be built.

Author’s Note: Check out Bridgehunter.com for more pictures of the Ely Street Bridge, taken by the author and two other pontists. This includes a couple shots of the bridge after being knocked into Big Creek. 

A tour of Bertram’s bridges can be seen here.

2013 Ammann Awards Results Part II

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

 

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

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

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

And the results for the other photos:

Wiley Bridge  (Nathan Holth)                                             10

Navajo Bridge in Arizona (John Weeks III)                     7

Eads Bridge (F. Miser) and

Wheeling Suspension Bridge  (Randall Whitacre)        6

and Riverdale Bridge in Indiana  (J. Parrish)

 

Best Kept Secret Award:

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

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

Tour Guide Award:

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

Results:

Cologne and North Rhine-Westphalia           11

Lübeck (Schleswig-Holstein)                               8

Halle (Saale) and Quedlinburg                          7

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

 

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

 

USA Division:

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

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

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

Other results:

Fayette County, Iowa                                                9

Des Moines, Iowa                                                         8

Caroll County, Indiana and                                    7

FW Kent Park in Iowa City

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

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

All-Around:

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Kept Secret for Best Historic Bridge Find

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

Individual Bridge Find:

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

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

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

 

Total Count for entire Category (including Tour Guide Candidates)

Coffeville Arch Bridge in Kansas                  12

The Bridges of Cologne and NRW                11

The Bridges of Fayette County, Iowa            9

Field Bridge in Cedar County, Iowa                9

The Bridges of Des Moines                              8

The Bridges of Lübeck, Germany                   8

 

Run-off elections for Spectacular Bridge Disasters

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

 

Fazit:

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Mystery Bridge Nr. 29 Roof truss in a park complex

Photo taken in August 2011

This next mystery bridge article takes us back to Iowa again- this time to a park complex west of Iowa City. There are some unique features that make the F.W. Kent Park in Tiffin special to the region. One of them is the number of historic bridges that were brought here and preserved. They all span various tributaries, lining up along the lake they empty into, the same lake that was created and is used for fishing and swimming. Each span has a different bridge type and a history of its own, including how it was moved here and preserved.

Like the one in the picture above. This bridge is touted as a roof-top truss bridge. Located at the very north tip of the lake, this bridge is different from all the other bridges, for it was homemade, originating from the trusses that were salvaged from an important building that was demolished in Iowa City prior to the creation of the park. It’s markings are similar to a series of bowstring arch bridges that were built in Crawford County, Iowa in 1945-6 including the Nishnabotna River crossing near Manila as seen below.

Photo courtesy of HABS/HAER

The difference is the fact that the Manila Bridge is the actual truss bridge itself with the lower chord (featuring lateral and diagonal bracing) supporting the roadway, whereas the the one at F.W. Kent Park features the trusses, used as decoration (or at least it appears to be used as that) and tacked onto the actual beam bridge itself.  Furthermore, there are alternating vertical beams in the Tiffin Bridge, while the Manila Bridge has all verticals subdividing the rhombus, thus having an X-frame for each panel.

Despite the difference between the two, the roof-top truss bridge’s uniqueness is one of the reasons why it is a sin to not visit the park if you are a pontist driving through. It is even a bigger sin if one doesn’t know about its history, let alone how the park came into being in the first place. Henceforth, before explaining about the park further, the Chronicles has created a short quiz for you to answer, integrating this mystery bridge in with the questions pertaining to the park itself. So without further ado, here are the questions, created in a hybrid fashion:

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

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

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

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?

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

a. 8   b. 10   c. 11  d. 13  e. 15

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

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

7. How was the Rooftop truss bridge assembled?

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

The answers will be revealed next week at this time. They will be eye-openers for there are some facts that were claimed to be correct, but the truth begs to differ. Plus there will be some interesting facts about who created the park and how the rooftop truss bridge was built. So stay tuned, take some guesses and allow yourself to learn some new things about historic bridges and how they found a new home in FW Kent Park. Good luck with the quiz! 🙂

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……

 

The Bridge to Nowhere? The Sutliff Bridge Story

View from the tavern- a lonesome blick since 2008 Photo taken in September, 2010

Travelling through the rolling hills of southeastern Iowa with another pontist living in the region during the late summer of this year, we came up to this bridge and were taken by surprise at the artwork mother nature did to it. On the one hand, the great flood of 2008 amputated the eastern most span towards the nearby tavern, breaking the hearts of many who grew up at the bridge and saw how the raging waters of the Cedar River, slowly and in a torturous way, removed a piece of history during the morning hours of the 13th of June, 2008. The wreckage was later found over 500 feet down stream and removed from the river. On the other hand, the river, which eventually engulfed Cedar Rapids and took out another historic bridge in there, converted the bridge into a gift for Sarah Palin, as what was left of the three span truss bridge with a long wooden trestle approach,  were  only two truss spans and that was it. Apart from the eastern span, the entire western approach to the remaining truss spans was also wiped out, making the bridge look like that “Bridge to Nowhere” the former Alaska governor and 2008 Vice Presidential candidate had been touting- before killing it in an attempt to support John McCain and his campaign to eliminate “pork barrel” politics. If Ms. Palin wanted a “Bridge to Nowhere,” this would be the place to go- at least as long as it will remain like that.

Yes, the bridge that got indirectly received the name “Bridge to Nowhere” is the Sutliff Bridge, located in northeastern Johnson County in eastern Iowa. Going beyond the name, the three-span Parker through truss bridge with a 3-rhombus Lattice portal bracings (with subdivided 45° heel bracings) and a long trestle approach on the western end, has received a lot of national (and now international) attention, as despite the arguments being presented intensively on both sides, the dream of rebuilding the bridge has now come true. To break down this story, the article will describe the history of the bridge beginning with when it was built, how the community of Sutliff joined forces to save the bridge twice and what the plan is now for rebuilding the 825 foot long structure.

First and foremost, the name Sutliff Bridge is derived not only from the village of Sutliff, which was a ferry town at the time of its construction, but it was named after the founder of the village, Allen Sutliff. Mr. Sutliff had established a ferry service in 1838 but after almost 60 years, sandbars formed after years of transporting people and horses across the wide Cedar River making the function of this service obsolete. Henceforth, the citizens of Sutliff successfully petitioned to the Johnson County supervisors for a permanent structure across the river, which was granted in December 1896. The contract was awarded to J.R. Sheely and Co. of Des Moines and a local engineer G.W. Wynn of Iowa City for $12,000 to construct the collosial structure. When it was completed in April 1898, the bridge, whose Parker through truss spans were 214 feet each, was the longest of its kind in the state of Iowa.  86 years later, citizens rallied behind the bridge by creating the Sutliff Bridge Authority and buying the bridge from Johnson County, which had planned to demolish the truss structure as soon as its replacement bridge was open to traffic. The bridge was converted to pedestrian use and was an icon to the small village, let alone to the region. Weddings were performed on the bridge, cookouts and other events brought families and friends to this unique structure. This was until that tragic day on 13 June 2008.

Now the community, Johnson County, the state historical society and people associated with the Sutliff Bridge are coming together once again to relive the experience of walking across this unique collosial structure- by rebuilding the bridge and opening it to pedestrian traffic again. Already, despite the opposition by many who claimed that the bridge was lost and spending the money to rebuild “the Bridge to Nowhere” would be a waste compared to Palin’s campaign to build that bridge to the airport on the island during her tenure as Alaska governor, two major hurdles were made. First the engineering surveys done on the two structures standing revealed that they were structurally sound for reuse. Secondly, the majority of voters as well as the county commissioners in April 2010 voted to spend approximately $2 million to rebuild the bridge. The reconstruction plan consist of rebuilding the eastern span exactly the way it looked like before it ended up in the Cedar, except pin-connections will be replaced with riveted connections using gusset plates. Furthermore, the trestle approach and the flooring system on the two standing structures will also be reconstructed. Construction is set to begin in the spring of 2011 and is expected to be completed in 2013.  The contractor responsible for the job is another Iowa City company, VJ Construction, which has been working with other agencies in reconstructing and repairing infrastructures and buildings affected by the 2008 Flood.

At the same time, fund raising drives and events will still continue as it has garnered support from over the country. There are many ways to donate to the Sutliff Bridge Authority to help with the rebuilding and maintenance of the bridge. First and foremost merchandise on the bridge can be bought at the Sutliff Bridge (Baxa’s) Tavern, which is located just east of the bridge. One can also purchase a plank for the bridge with your name on it, if you donate more than $60. One can also give to an endowment with the Community Foundation of Johnson County, which has been working together with the Bridge Authority regarding finding financial resources to realize the reconstruction plan. Other ways to donate can be done through contacting the Sutliff Bridge Authority directly. The link is enclosed.

After photographing the bridge, we decided to grab some food at the tavern and I found yet another alternative to donating: decorating the ceiling with a dollar bill to help with the cause. Realizing I was short-changed in terms of cash in possession, I added my mark in hopes that the tiniest contribution will help the cause. However, this donation was for my little daughter as I hope someday when the bridge is rebuilt and reopened to pedestrians that we can walk across it together and perhaps have a picnic on one of the spans, overlooking the Cedar River and the village of Sutliff, and under a blue sky with a cool breeze. This would be my unique father-daughter gathering. But others probably have the same idea as I do and are waiting just as anxiously as I am for the bridge to open so that we can do it. It’s just a question of taking out our wallets and making a difference for the right cause. I know this will not be my last time visiting the bridge and to those at the Sutliff Authority, it will not be the last time you receive my support for the project, as you made all this happen because we want it to happen. And we plan to contribute further so that the reopening of the bridge will be realized soon.

Photos of the Sutliff Bridge can be seen by clicking here.

Useful links:

http://communityfoundationofjohnsoncounty.org/pages/give-to-the-endowment.php

http://www.sutliffbridge.com/

Photos of the Sutliff Bridge collapse can be found here:

http://www.kcrg.com/younews/19980049.html?img=1&mg=t

Information on the bridge and more pictures by Jason D. Smith can be found here:

http://www.bridgehunter.com/ia/johnson/sutliff/