Mystery Bridge Nr. 175: The Iron Road Bridge in Jackson County, Iowa

Photos taken by Troy Knox of Bridging the Driftless

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The next bridge in the Mystery Bridge series is the second of two installments of the bridges in Jackson County, in eastern Iowa. Yet one can look at it as two bridges, because each one has the same problem: looking for the bridge builder. And judging by the identical length these structures have, it may appear that they came from a multiple span structure that had been cut up into spans before shipping them.

After looking at the now extant Caven Bridge, we have this bridge at Iron Bridge Road. It spans the Maquoketa River on the road bearing the bridge’s name, approximately 8-10 miles NW of Spragueville. It’s at the junction of Miller Access Road. The bridge is a Pennsylvania through truss bridge with riveted connections, I-beams and M-frame portal bracings. It has a total length of 420 feet but the truss bridge’s length is 250 feet, thus making it the longest single-span Pennsylvania through truss bridge built in the state. It’s even longer than the Traer Street Bridge in Greene (in Butler County), which was replaced in 1981 after 79 years in service.

According to records in bridgehunter.com, the bridge was built by the Iowa State Highway Commission, which today is the Iowa Department of Transportation. It was established in 1904 and was one of the first highway institutions to have made firsts in the field of transportation, which included traffic signs, like the No Passing Zone sign, as well as paved highways made of tar and later concrete, and finally bridge designs. Yet despite the claims that the State Highway Commission was responsible for building the bridge, it can only be credited for making the design of the standardized truss bridges, which were introduced from 1910 on. What is missing is having the bridge builder who is in charge of constructing the bridge as well as the company that fabricated and transported the steel from the steel mills. It is a foregone conclusion that a highway agency would not have a bridge building firm with steel mills on their lots unless the agency had vast amounts of land to build the steel mills. That would have taken up half of Ames, where the highway agency is still located today.

This leads us to this question: If the highway designed the truss bridge, like the one on Iron Road, where did the steel come from, and who oversaw the construction of the bridge?

These are the two key questions not only for the Iron Bridge here but also its twin bridge, the Damon Bridge, spanning the same river but on 435th Avenue (County Hwy. Z 34), six miles north of Preston. The bridge has the exact same form as the Iron Bridge but was built six years later, in 1956. If you have any information on the two bridges and their predecessors, feel free to comment in the Chronicles directly online, but also in bridgehunter.com under their respective pages.

Your bridge matters! Best of luck in the research. 🙂

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 174: Caven Bridge in Jackson County, Iowa

All Photos Courtesy of Troy Knox of Bridging the Driftless

The next two mystery bridges will take us to Jackson County, Iowa, located in the far eastern portion of the state. There are two bridges that fellow pontist Troy Knox of Bridging the Driftless brought to the audience’s attention via his personal blog.

This is the first of them. The Caven Bridge was a single span Pratt through truss bridge that spanned the North Fork Maquoketa River on 60th Avenue north of Canton and Emeline. The bridge had a total length of 160 feet, 110 of which consisted of the truss span. Its portal bracing is A-frame but condensed vertically. Nothing is known about the date except sources had it down for 1900. Whether it was built in that year or a couple years earlier or later remain open. There is no information about the bridge builder, except bridges like this one, judging by its portals, may have been built by the Clinton Bridge and Iron Works Company. Yet there is no information as far as builder’s plaques or any inscriptions in the metal beams.

Portal bracing and tunnel view

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The reason why the information is in past tense is because the Caven Bridge no longer exists. According to information, crews tore down the bridge in November 2021, even though the bridge had been closed to traffic for some time. It is unlikely a replacement span will be built soon as the road is rarely used and the area is sparsely populated. Nevertheless, it would be a great closure to determine when exactly was the bridge built and by whom.

This is where you come in. Feel free to find and comment about this structure. After all your bridge matters. Thank you for your help and best of luck! 🙂

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Raymond and Campbell- Council Bluffs, Iowa

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Moscow Mills Bridge Photo taken by James Baughn in 2008

 

Another bridge builder worth mentioning and listing in the Bridge Builder’s Directory is a company based in Council Bluffs, Iowa named Raymond and Campbell. While only one bridge example remains which is credited to the name of the firm, multiple newspaper sources claimed that dozens of bridges were built  by this company during the last two decades of the 19th century, with more claimed to have been built by the company’s primary agent, George C. Wise, who later established his own business with his brothers. This included the bridges in Jackson County, Minnesota, one of the bridge builders’ primary customers. According to research done by the author for a bridge book on this topic, from 1883 until 1907, between 10 and 17 bridges were credited to the company’s name and to that of George C. Wise. This includes all but four crossings along the West Branch of the Des Moines river as well as those along the Little Sioux River. By 1955, all of them were replaced with current structures.

Yet the question we still have is what other counties and states did Raymond and Campbell do business with and how many bridges were built?  Before opening the question for forum and adding some examples to this article, let’s have a look at the history of the company and its primary agent, George C. Wise:

Little has been written about the company partly because there are only a few records of its existence.  However, the company was unique for the founders originated from the northern third of North America and migrated to Iowa to make their living there. E.W. Raymond (1842-?) originated from Lockport, NY and made his way down through Illinois, before settling in Council Bluffs in 1868. Charles Edward Henry Campbell (1850-1902) was a Canadian from Prince Edward Island, who immigrated to the US in 1867, eventually settling down in Omaha, located across the Missouri River from Council Bluffs. Together, the gentlemen founded the bridge building company in September 1874. It is unknown how long the company stayed in business, except the fact that Raymond and Campbell, during the 1880s, had employed about 50 workers and made over $200,000 worth of business.[1]  Apart from Mr. Wise, Raymond and Campbell did have an agent for a short time, who would later reach his fame in bridge building through constructing magnificent bridges and patenting his own truss bridge design. That gentleman was John Alexander Low Waddell, and much of his work still exists today. (Click on this link to see his profile)

As for the company’s primary agent,  George C. Wise, Raymond and Campbell hired him in 1875 as an agent for the upper Midwest. Born in Huntingdon County, PA in 1851, Mr. Wise served in the Army for five years, was involved in many military conflicts with Native Americans in Nebraska and Wyoming, as well as serving as an escort for the peace commissioners in brokering a truce with Sitting Bull and his Northern Sioux tribe in the Black Hills in July and August of 1875. Shortly after the peace agreement was signed, he was honourably discharged from the Army and emigrated to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he worked for Raymond and Campbell. According to the Pottawattamie County history books, Mr. Wise worked there until he established his own bridge building accounts and worked independently in 1883. He oversaw the construction of crossings in Minnesota and other places and even had his brothers join the business, some of whom continued the business after he retired from the business in 1907. George spent the rest of his life involved in public affairs in Council Bluffs until his death in 1916.

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Moscow Mills Bridge. Photo taken by James Baughn in 2016

The only known bridge that is still standing today is the Moscow Mills Bridge. Built by Raymond and Campbell in 1885, this Pratt through truss bridge with a three-layered combination of Town Lattice and X-frame portal bracings and pinned connections has a length of 214 feet (the main span is 177 feet). Closed for over a decade, the bridge is sitting idle with overgrowth covering the portal bracings and part of the top chord. Yet plans are in the making to convert this bridge into a recreational crossing in the future, as county officials would like to utilize the bridge as part of a city park. Before doing that though, the bridge will need to be rehabilitated and a new deck. This bridge is located over the Cuivre River on the east end of Moscow Mills in Lincoln County, Missouri.

 

Other examples of bridges built by Raymond and Campbell but no longer exist include the following (this is an ongoing list as more examples will be added here.)

North Bridge
North Bridge in Jackson, MN  Photo courtesy of the Jackson County Historical Society

State Street (a.k.a. North) Bridge in Jackson, MN:  Spanning the West Fork Des Moines River at State Street and Ashley Park, this bridge has had its own history which could easily be written into a booklet and sold at the County Historical Society. The bridge was unique because it was the first structure built over the river in Jackson. It was rebuilt seven times over the course of 150 years, counting the current structure. Three of which were credited to Raymond and Campbell and especially to George C. Wise, who was the county’s primary provider of bridges. The first structure was built during the winter of 1866/67,  using oak pile and hewn wood courtesy of Welch Ashley. It lasted only a couple months as it was destroyed in an ice jam. It was rebuilt later that year and lasted 12 years until a contract was awarded to Raymond and Campbell to build a new structure in 1879. The iron structure measured 194 feet and had a width of 22 feet. It survived less than two years as flooding and an ice jam took out the structure in March 1881. It was one of several bridges along the river that was destroyed that spring. The county contacted Wise again for a fourth structure, which was built later that summer. The structure only lasted 15 years and Wise was asked to build a stronger structure in 1896, which upon its completion, featured a Pratt through truss with M-frame portal bracings and pinned connections. The bridge was a permanent fix, providing access to the east and north of Jackson for 58 years. The bridge used to carry two primary highways (US 71 and 16) until it was realigned through a new crossing at the junction of Springfield Parkway and Third Street (near the now demolished St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church) in 1924. That bridge eventually was relocated to the site of the last Wise structure in 1955, after city officials revealed that the bridge was no longer able to carry traffic because of structural issues. The North Bridge was the site of many accidents and stories involving floods and ice jams, yet inspite of its checkered history, it was only one of a few rare stories of bridges built either by Raymond and Campbell, George C. Wise or both. This one clearly belongs to the third category, especially as Wise continued to have Jackson County as its primary customer until his retirement in 1907.

 

 

 

Source page:

[1] Waddell, Dr. John Alexander Low and John Lyle Harrington. “The Principal Professional Papers of Dr. J.A.L. Waddell” unpublished manscript. Downloaded from Google Books Online 10 November, 2008; Keatley, John H. “The History of Pottawattamie County, Iowa.” Council Bluffs, IA, 1883, p. 50  Downloaded from Google Books Online 10 November, 2008. Stewart, James: E-mail correspondence, 10 November, 2008,  Roenfeld, Ryan of the Pottawattamie County Historical Society: E-mail correspondence 29 October, 2008.

[2] Roenfeld, Ryan of the Pottawattamie County Historical Society: E-mail correspondence 29 October, 2008; Stewart, James: E-mail correspondence, 10 November, 2008; George C. Wise obituary Pottawattamie County Genealogy. Obtained on 3 November, 2008.

 

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Historic Bridge in Jackson County for Sale: Any Takers?

L5245
Photo taken by Sam and Anna Smith

 

Last remaining historic bridge in the county up for the taking. Deadline for claims slated for September.

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JACKSON, MN- After sitting idle and out of use for almost three decades, this historic truss bridge is in need of a new home. Bridge Nr. L5245, located over Okabena Creek in Alba Township, three miles east of Brewster and a quarter of a mile south of County Highway 18, is currently up for sale by the Jackson County Public Works (JCPW), a branch of the Jackson County Highway Department.  Between now and 15 September of this year, the JCPW is offering the bridge for only $1.00 to any party wishing to buy, relocate and rehabilitate the structure, but with only one catch: The bridge must be reused as a public crossing, whether it is in a park setting or along the bike trail. The reason behind maintaining the use of the 4 Rs for this bridge is simple.

Since the mid 2000s, the bridge has been deemed eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places because of its rare bridge type. The 45-foot long structure is a three-panel Queenpost pony truss bridge with V-laced endposts and upper chords. The connections are pinned.  According to the State Historical Society, the bridge is the last of its kind in the state, even though three bridges of its type had been built between 1903 and 1910 in Jackson County.

The bridge was built at an unknown location in 1905, at the time when pin-connected truss bridges were being phased out and replaced with truss bridges with riveted connections and later, concrete bridges. A neighboring bridge, Bridge 2628, built 100 years ago, was the first concrete crossing built in the state. That structure is scheduled to be replaced soon.  L5245 was relocated to its present site in 1938 and continued to function as a vehicular crossing until its closure in 1990. Since then, it has been sitting unaltered in what is now a field. Some rehabilitation work on the bridge includes straightening out one of the bent endposts, as well as strengthening the bottom chords and lastly, new decking, in addition to the need for new abutments at the time of its relocation. All of these expenses are minor and can be offset through grants and other financial support.

If you are interested in purchasing the bridge for relocation and reuse, please contact Tim Stahl at the Jackson County Highway Department, using the following contact information below. The deadline is 15 September.

Tim Stahl, PE

Jackson County Public Works,

53053 780th Street, Jackson, MN 56143

Email: tim.stahl@co.jackson.mn.us

This is the last bridge of its kind in Jackson County, since the demolition of Bridge 597 along Okabena Creek in 2009 and the Kilen Woods Bridge in 2004. The need to keep a piece of history in the county is high. This bridge would be the perfect fit for any bike trail. If interested in the structure and are willing to reuse it for public purposes, the bridge is yours.

 

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C.W. Gove of Windom, Minnesota

Petersburg Village Bridge
Petersburg Village Bridge in Petersburg (Jackson County), MN Photo taken by MnDOT in 1963

This article is in connection with the creation of the database for the Bridge Builder’s Directory in the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ wordpress page, which you can click here to view. More information is needed on this gentleman, who contributed a great deal in engineering southwestern Minnesota, including Jackson, Cottonwood and Murray Counties. If you have information that will help, the contact details are at the end of the article.

Charles Wallace Gove is a little known figure in the engineering business as his primary focus was building bridges, roads and ditches in southern Minnesota, in and around Cottonwood County  (where Windom is located). Little is known about the bridges he built except records  indicated he built two bridges in Jackson County (which are profiled at the end of this info  sheet) and an unknown number in his county. On the political level, he was a dedicated  farmer and political journalist who left his mark at the State Capitol with his plan that is still  being used today for commercial farming.

Born in 1863 in De Witt, Iowa, he and his brother Wade settled in Jackson County, Minnesota in 1886, where he farmed and taught in nearby Lakefield until his move to Cottonwood County in 1895, where he established his farmstead in Great Bend Twp. northwest of Windom.  From that time on until his death in 1936, Mr. Gove busied himself with the transportation sector, first as a surveyor until 1912 and then afterwards, as a county engineer. During his tenure as surveyor, he led the efforts in constructing ditches in Cottonwood, Nobles and Murray Counties and later on in parts of Jackson County, as flooding was rampant during that time, and farmers needed them to provide runoff for the excess waterflow.

It was also during that time that he led the bridge building effort in parts of Jackson County, as county officials were turning to local builders who were willing to construct bridges at an affordable price. While the bridges he built were not spectacular in design, his most worthy structures were the bridge near Rost as well as the second crossing at Petersburg, built in 1912 and 1915, respectively.  When he was not building bridges and maintaining the roads in Cottonwood County, he wrote various articles and essays for local and regional newspapers, including his most famous one, the Minnesota Plan. There, he advocated simpler farming techniques, which included constructing  deeper and systematic plowing before planting and ditches to provide water run-off.  His writings dealt with philosophical thoughts mixed with a bit of wit and humor that made the readers enjoy every paragraph. He was recognized by the state for his work at the time of his death. Charles Gove died on 29 August, 1936.

Rost Bridge
Rost Bridge. Photo take by MnDOT in 1948

The Bridges built by C.W. Gove:

Rost Bridge

Location:  Little Sioux River at 390th Avenue, 0.1 mile south of Interstate 90 in Rost Twp.

Type:  Steel stringer with steel railings (altered in the 1970s)

Dimensions: 32.3 feet long; 16.4 feet wide

Built in 1912, replaced in 2002

This bridge used to carry a key road to the unincorporated village of Rost, located 2 miles north of the bridge. The village had a couple trading businesses and a church, the latter of which still exists today. The contract was given to C.W. Gove to build this bridge on 8 July, 1912, which was completed by the end of that year. The road was cut off by the Interstate in 1973 and after 90 years in service, this bridge was replaced by a pair of culverts in 2002.

 

Petersburg Village Bridge

Location: West Fork Des Moines River on a local road in Petersburg

Type: Two-span Pratt pony truss with pinned connections and steel cylindrical piers

Dimensions: 171 feet long (2x 81-foot truss spans); 16 feet wide

Built in 1915 replacing an earlier structure; destroyed in the 1965 flooding during the construction of its replacement upstream. Replacement bridge opened in 1965

The Village Bridge was the longest bridge known to have been built by C.W. Gove. He was awarded a contract to build the structure for $3050 to replace the bridge built 30 years earlier, just after it was founded. The bridge was in service until the Flood of 1965, which destroyed the structure. It was also at that time that a construction worker at the new bridge, located one mile west of the old one, fell into the icy river and drowned. His body was recovered in June 1965, three months after the replacement bridge opened to traffic

 

Do you know of other bridges built by C.W. Gove or have some more knowledge about the Minnesota plan or his written work? Let’s hear about it. Contact Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com and feel free to provide some additional information for this fact sheet about this unknown engineer who left a mark on the local level. The info will be added and/or modified  based on what comes in.

 

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Photos of the Rost and Petersburg Village Bridges are courtesy of MnDOT

 

BB Comer Bridge to become History

Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer
Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer

SCOTTSBORO, AL (USA)-  As a general rule, democracy works when the majority of the population favor a project that is for the benefit of the community; even if it means putting it to a vote. The campaign to save the BB Comer Bridge garnered massive amount of support from people within Jackson County, as well as many throughout Alabama and parts of the US. It was hoped that the Jackson County Commissioners would put the issue up to a vote, to assume responsibility over a historic bridge with over 80 years of history.

Sadly, County Officials not only rejected the proposition for a vote or even a referendum, but they rejected calls for any measures involving the cantilever span, once and for all. The notion at the council meeting on 9 November effectively closed the last doors to any opportunity to convert the bridge into a recreational area. The contract was signed yesterday to remove the bridge as soon as the new span opened to traffic next spring.

According to a statement by the BB Comer Foundation released yesterday: “It’s sad to see a piece of history destroyed for lack of positive vision.  The hurdles could have been met and crossed if people put their minds to it.  Without doing anything to the bridge it would stand for generations. We are just about to throw a 12 million dollar resource in the trash because efforts to figure out absurd ownership requirements from ALDOT did just what they were supposed to do, stop the preservation of this bridge.”

County officials were concerned about the liability it would have to undertake to preserve the bridge, which includes its maintenance. In addition, some officials questioned the credibility of having a third owner take over the bridge, especially with regards to requirements presented earlier by the Alabama DOT. For cost reasons alone as the official reason, they decided that the effort was not worth it, despite the benefits of using the 1930 bridge that was built by the Kansas City Bridge Company.

“Saving your bridge required the establishment of a governmental entity to assume ownership of the bridge,” stated officials at the bridge foundation. “It would have required no funds from the county or city.  The Comer Bridge Foundation, in concert with the authority, that we were asking them to form could have carried out fundraising activities and, as a government entity, been eligible for grants and other funding mechanisms.  The Bridge could have been used by movie companies for filming at a rate of up to five  thousand dollars a day.  There are many other revenue producing items that would have been available to the Tourism Authority. We were never able to convince the city or the county, despite all efforts, to create the necessary government entity to work with ALDOT on the rest of the conditions.”   Several examples of bridges that became part of a joint cooperation with a private and public sector exist in the United States, including the Sutliff Bridge in Johnson County (Iowa), especially after the bridge was rebuilt in 2012 after sustaining substantial damage in the 2008 flood. This 1896 three-span Parker through truss bridge was one of several examples of historic bridges in Johnson County alone that were saved and reused thanks to efforts by both the private and public sectors. Other examples can be found at FW Kent Park west of Iowa City.

Still, it is unclear how county officials had a change of heart, and how members of the foundation plus other proponents for the preservation of the historic bridge were given the cold shoulder and their pleas were quashed. But apparently the culture of fear factor, combined with behind-the-door politics may have played a key role in sentencing the bridge to death, without any chance to put the proposal up for a vote. A show trial where the defendant is pre-programmed to die is the motto for the bridge.

And with that, time is short; get your photos of the bridge between now and the time the new bridge opens in March- and the historic iconic bridge becomes a memory.

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To show solidarity towards the French and Lenabese and the families who were killed in a series of terrorist attacks on 13 November, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, together with sister column The Flensburg Files, will present a special logo to show support in these dark times. These logos will be used for the rest of 2015. While the photo shows the Bridge of Friendship at the German-Danish border in Flensburg, Germany, the lettering represents the colors of the French national flag.

BB Comer Bridge: Decision Day

Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer
Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer

Voting on the allocation of funds to restoring the bridge to take place on November 9th.

SCOTTSBORO, ALABAMA-  At their Monday working session, the Jackson County Commission agreed to place the proposal to work with Comer Bridge Foundation and NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges on the agenda for a vote on Monday, November 9. The proposal agreed to put 1 million dollars into a county account to start the fund for eventual removal of the 1930 B.B. Comer Bridge, if necessary, and to start the process of design and planning bridge preservation.

Marie Bostick of the Land Trust of North Alabama wrote today, “I just feel so helpless. I know you and so many others have fought hard to save this bridge and it is so obviously the right thing to do.  Unfortunately, if it is demolished, we will regret it. And one day, we’ll be looking for the money to build a new bridge across the river for peds and bikers.  You can just see it coming!” The Economic Impact Study showed that the trail makes economic sense for the region, with a quarter of the impacts directly attributed to the trail crossing over the Tennessee River at Scottsboro.

At this time there are no plans for the Scottsboro City council to take this matter up. However, Scottsboro City Councilman, Brent Miller stated in a response to Comer Bridge Foundation (CBF) outreach, “I’ll be glad to discuss efforts to save the bridge and request that it be added to the next work session so the council can possibly discuss adding it to the agenda. I’ll make a conscious decision based on what I believe is in the best interest of Scottsboro. I’ll be glad to discuss this issue with anyone who would like to express their opinion.” Miller’s office is located at 121 North Broad Street, one block north of Willow Street. He will be out on city business at the end of this week, but if the sign says open, he will be there. We urge citizens to talk to all of their elected officials about how to build Scottsboro using the bridge as an asset and a resource, rather than an old bridge that needs paint. Comer Bridge Foundation board Chairman, Arnold Wheeler stated, “Let’s just hope these political leaders, who have refused to get involved, will now come forward and help us, all of us, save our bridge.”

The Jackson County Commissioners can be reached at 256 – 574 -9280.
Governor Bentley can be reached on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GovernorRobertBentley, or by calling 334-242-7100 or Faxing 334-353-0004. He can also be reached on Twitter under the name @GovernorBentley.  Ask for his input in working with ALDOT to accept the counter offer to his requirement of $5 million dollars in a fund somewhere for something.

The B.B.Comer Bridge, completed in 1930, is the last of the 15 memorial toll bridges enacted by legislation in 1927 that were built by the Kansas City Bridge Company but contracted through the Alabama State Bridge Corporation. Selected for the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in October 2013, the B.B. Comer Bridge was  also included in the 2015 Places in Peril list from the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation.

Contact Charles Holderfield  with any questions: (256) 486-1940 or Comer Bridge Foundation Media at media@comerbridge.org.

For more information about the CBF and efforts to save the bridge, visit the CBF website at http://www.comerbridge.org and consider liking CBF’s Friends of B.B. Comer Bridge at https://www.facebook.com/comerbridgefoundation.

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BB Comer Bridge Update: Economic Impact of Tourism Study Arrives.

BB Comer Bridge in Jackson County, AL.  Photo taken by David Kennamer and submitted by Julie Bowers
BB Comer Bridge in Jackson County, AL. Photo taken by David Kennamer and submitted by Julie Bowers

SCOTSBORO, ALABAMA- While the fire that destroyed the Full Throttle Saloon complex near Sturgis, South Dakota made headlines, espcially because of the magnitude of the blaze and the damage it inflicted on the complex’s two restored historic bridges, another headline quietly made the scene at the same time and is being posted here, despite its tardiness. This is a press release provided by the BB Comer Bridge Foundation on the Economic Impact Study on the Preservation of the BB Comer Bridge (info on the bridge here).

The study, written by Anthony Dixon, Ph.D. was funded in part by a grant from the
National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) in March, 2015. The 37 page study
was delivered to Comer Bridge Foundation and NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges on
Frday, September 4, 2015. “The study was requested because, although, inherently
the our groups know that retaining the bridge will sustain itself through hospitality,
retail and events, we didn’t know how it will effect Scottsboro and Jackson County
revenues and we are delighted to read the results,” stated Charles Holderfield,
President of Comer Bridge Foundation. “We still have to finish paying for the
report and feel that will be easier when everyone can read what it has to say about
the potential to Save Our Bridge.”
“We read report to say the best outcome is a public / private partnership that can
conduct the events throughout the years and if that is followed benefits from 1 to 3
million dollars in new money to the area is possible. The study looked only at the
impact of tourism events and “new” visitors to the area. The numbers were figured
using conservative, moderate and very conservative estimates. The highlight of the
report was the real boost that a trail that was able to use the Comer Bridge would
bring to the area, and that surprised us. Given that the study will be very important
to the Land Trust of Northern Alabama and to adjacent counties looking at those
same benefits.”
This study will be presented as a whole to the City of Scottsboro and Jackson
County in their working sessions later in September, but in the interest of time, the group
wants everyone to have as much access to the document. We are seeking input
input through social media and the website and any questions will be answered to
the best of our abilities.
“The removal of the bridge is being planned, I had a call from HRI the contractor
just the other week – they are hoping to avoid blowing it up which is a great thing.
The Tourism Authority is one way to stop the planned demolition and to start the
process of rejuvenation of the area because we don’t have a place for this bridge to
be moved. Sure a span or two could go elsewhere but this bridge is one of
Alabama’s Treasures, it was placed on the 2015 Places in Peril. This report didn’t go
into conclusions of what should be done, just what might be achieved if people
were to understand that it is a resource and not beyond it’s time, stated Julie
Bowers, Executive Director of NSRGA. “We are doing work in many states and
this report is quite exciting to our other bridge friends who want to rebuild to retain
our rural heritage.”

The copy of the final report can be accessed via link below. Questions can be referred to Charles Holderfield at 256.486.0442 charles@comerbridge.org or Julie Bowers at 641.260.1262.

ComerBridge_Report_Final

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BB Comer Bridge Update: Impartial Economic Survey to be Undertaken

Overview of the slough, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer

SCOTSBORO, ALABAMA- The clock is ticking as far as the future of the BB Comer Bridge is concerned. The replacement span is close to completion, and there are still some issues to settle as far as the future of the 1930 steel cantilever truss bridge is concerned. Apart from the ownership and liability, some further studies on the impact of keeping the historic bridge- among them economic, are being considered. As you can see in the most recent press release by the Comer Bridge Foundation, a grant is being sought so that an independent entity is hired to conduct an impartial economic survey, which will in turn persuade county officials to hand over ownership to the CBF once the new bridge is open to traffic. The date of the completion as well as the eventual demolition has not yet been set, however parties will have to act quickly but thoroughly to ensure that once the new bridge is open, the decision on the future of the old bridge will be made to benefit all the parties involved. More information on the progress of the bridge is in the press release below:

SCOTTSBORO, AL, January 30, 2015 — After the January 26, 2015, meeting of the Scottsboro City Council, the Comer Bridge Foundation (CBF) is now identifying and hiring an independent entity to prepare an economic impact study. The B.B. Comer Bridge crosses the Tennessee River near Scottsboro, Alabama. An application for grant funding to assist with procuring the study will be submitted to the National Trust for Historic Preservation to comply with the Trust’s deadline (February 2, 2015).

“We have determined that such a study is essential for CBF to show local citizens and governmental bodies how much the bridge can bring to the area, which in turn will help CBF gain eventual ownership of the bridge and prevent the bridge’s demolition. The timeline for demolition is not as tight as we anticipated, and we have time to explore how to lessen risks while growing the rewards of keeping the bridge intact,” explained CBF President Charles Holderfield.

“The study will solidify CBF’s commitment to saving, preserving and repurposing the bridge at an upcoming meeting of the Jackson County Commission,” said Holderfield.

In March 2014, CBF entered into a collaborative agreement with The N. Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSRGA), another bridge-preservation group. Local attorneys Bill Tally and Justin Lackey represent CBF and NSRGA, respectively.

“The study will provide real numbers that support our plans to provide jobs, training and education in areas from hospitality, event management, security and maintenance,” shared Julie Bowers, executive director of Workin’ Bridges, the consulting arm of NSRGA. “The bridge can become a place to go for wellness and serenity, and a place where wildlife and human life are celebrated. Food, fun, music and historic preservation go hand-in-hand.”

The board of directors for CBF and NSRGA submitted a formal purchase plan to the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), which currently owns the bridge. In September 2014, however, ALDOT informed the two organizations that the bridge could be sold only to a governmental entity. With support from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Land Trust of North Alabama, Justin Lackey went before the Scottsboro City Council in mid-January 2015 to request that a tourism development authority be formed by the City to take ownership of the bridge. In addition to owning, leasing and developing land, improving and managing real estate and owning equipment, the authority could also employ personnel, execute documents, and accept and receive gifts from the public or private funds. It would also be able to apply for and receive federal grants.

The City Council members asked for additional time to study the request prior to its next regular meeting on January 26, at which time Lackey requested that the Council vote on the creation of the tourism development authority. The City deferred voting on the authority, with the majority of the Council members agreeing that the City could approve such an authority only in partnership with the County Commission. CBF will provide the economic impact study to the County Commission for review prior to formally requesting that the Commission consider partnering with the City Council to create the tourism development authority.

Comer Bridge, completed in 1930, is the last of the 15 memorial toll bridges enacted by legislation in 1927 that were built by the Kansas City Bridge Company but contracted through the Alabama State Bridge Corporation. Selected for the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in October 2013, the historic bridge will now be submitted for national recognition by the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

Certificate from the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.

More updates on the BB Comer Bridge will be posted in the Chronicles as the story unfolds. In the meantime, you follow the events in real time, just by visiting  the CBF website at www.comerbridge.org and considering  liking CBF’s Friends of B.B. Comer Bridge at https://www.facebook.com/comerbridgefoundation. There you can find out more about how you can help save the bridge.

2014 Ammann Awards: The Long-Awaited Results

Green Bridge in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo taken by Mitch Nicholson

Before announcing the winners, the author would like to apologize for the delay of the announcement of the winners. The reasons were twofold: 1. While returning home to Germany after spending Christmas with family in the US, he and his family were sick thanks to the flu bug that swept through many parts of the country. Many voters also requested a grace period for that reason plus more time needed to decide on their candidates.  2. In many categories, we had at least three ties for first place resulting in the need to extend the deadline. For that, the extension served as a blessing for many.

Now for the moment of truth. For the first time, the Chronicles, in connection with Forum Communications in Fargo, used the Poll Daddy voting scheme, which turned out to be the most effective way to vote. Thanks to Kari Lucin for her help, it will be used again for the 2015 Awards, which will take place in December. More information under the Ammann Awards page.

The votes were tallied with the top three being announced here. However, a link with the complete list of candidates for the 2014 Awards can be found here.

Without further ado, the winners:

Best Photo:

USA

Located over the Raccoon River in Des Moines, the Green Bridge has been in the news for over a year because of a public-private project to remodel the structure. It has been mentioned for many awards and grants. This photo by Mitch Nicholson, who is the author of Abandoned Iowa (website can be found here), will add to the accolades the bridge has already received, with the hope of garnering more support and funding for restoring the bridge by 2017. The Green Bridge won the award by collecting 31 votes (or 41%), beating out the Split Rock Bridge in Pipestone County (15 votes or 20%) and a drone photo of the BB Comer Bridge in Alabama (7 votes or 9%)

FINAL RESULTS.

1. Green Bridge in Des Moines, Iowa (by Mitch Nicholson)  31 votes (41%)

2. Split Rock Bridge near Pipestone, Minnesota (by Sebastian Renfield)  15 votes (20%)

3. BB Comer Bridge in Jackson County, Alabama (by David Kammerer)  7 votes (9%)

Forth Railroad Bridge in Scotland. Photo taken by Mark Watson

International

Mark Watson, an engineer based in Scotland, is an expert in bridges in his region and found some unique angles of two of the bridges for this awards- the Firth of Forth Railroad Bridge and the Forth Roadway Bridge. The former is slated to become a UNESCO World Hertiage Site this year, while the latter turned 50 last year. Both bridges won gold and silver respectively, with the latter sharing the silver metal with a photo of another unique bridge in neighboring England, the Clifton Suspension Bridge (taken by Laura Hilton). Here are the final results:

1. Firth of Forth Railway Bridge- 6 votes (33%)

T2. Forth Suspension Bridge and Clifton Suspension Bridge- 4 votes (22%)

T3. Monks Bridge at Isle of Man (Liz Boakes) and Millau Viaduct in France (Jet Lowe)-               2 votes (11%)

 

Lifetime Achievement:

This year’s category features five candidates as well as three post humus, the latter of which will be featured in separate articles coming out in the Chronicles. Two of the candidates come from Generation X (born between 1970- 1985) but have vast experience with developing their database on historic bridges in the United States- namely, James Baughn of Bridgehunter.com and Nathan Holth of HistoricBridges.org. Yet experience always trumps youth, as seen with the winner of this award, Jet Lowe. For over 30 years, Mr. Lowe has been the eye of bridge photography for the National Park Service (and more so with the Historic American Engineering Record), photographing bridges big and small. Because of his expertise, this year’s Lifetime Achievement goes to him. The Chronciles has contacted him for a 1 to 1 interview and will post the results soon, once it is finished.

FINAL RESULTS:

1. Jet Lowe   10

2. James Baughn 6

3. Nathan Holth  5

4. Nels Raynor  3

 

Mystery Bridge:

This category had perhaps the highest number of entries but the lowest number of votes. Nevertheless, the winners were found in both the USA and International subcategories. For the USA, the Fink Truss Bridge in San Antonio, the work of a German local, barely got the prize, beating out the Saylorville Bridges in Iowa and the Silent Shade Bridge in Mississippi by only one vote, as well as an abandoned truss bridge in Minnesota by two. In the International part, Theoderich the Great received his Lifetime Legacy Award post humus, albeit 1500 years late, as his Rome aqueducts shared first place with a bowstring arch bridge in Japan, whereas the Ravenna aqueducts finished second. Despite the plea for more information on the age of the structure, the Drew Bridge, originally from Brazil but now residing in Florida, finished third.

FINAL RESULTS:

USA

1. Fink Truss Bridge in Texas (40%)

T2. Saylorville Lake Bridges (20%)

Silent Shade Bridge

3. Queenpost Bridge in Jackson Co., MN (17%)

INTERNATIONAL

T 1. Aqueducts of Rome and  Bowstring Arch Bridge in Japan  (38%)

2. Ravenna Aqueduct (15%)

3. Drew Bridge (8%)

 

More results to follow in part II……..