Historic Bridge in Jackson County for Sale: Any Takers?

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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Chambers Ford Bridge for Sale. Any Takers?

1890 Clinton Bridge Company span. Photos taken by Quinn Phelan

Belle Plaine, Iowa-  Tama County: one of many Iowa counties that has more than two dozen pre-1945 bridges left in the state. This includes the steel truss Black Bridge spanning the Iowa River and the Lincoln Highway Bridge near Toledo, whose railings bear the highway’s name and which was replicated in the form of a butter sculpture seen at the Iowa State Fair last year. Yet it is one of many counties with many structurally deficient bridges, many of them being closed to traffic in the past three years.
The Chambers Ford Bridge is one of them. Located over the Iowa River at 380th Avenue, 3 miles west of Belle Plaine, this two-span bridge features steel Pratt through trusses, but each of them are different because of the their portal bracings, as well as the date of construction.

The older and longer of the spans was one of the first ones built by the Clinton Bridge and Iron Company in Clinton. It was constructed in 1890 and had a span of 155 feet with wooden trestle approaches. 13 years later, with the wooden approaches deteriorating beyond repair, the county hired another Iowa bridge builder, George E. King to construct a replacement approach span in a form of a Pratt through truss bridge, totaling 140 feet long and costing $3,987. The total length of the bridge is 345 feet long.

1903 George E. King portion of the bridge

Since 2007 the bridge has been closed to traffic and has been the target of vandalism, as parts of the wooden decking was set ablaze by arsonists, causing damage to the bridge, albeit not as severe as the incident at Bunker Mill Bridge near Kalona, last August.  Missing bolts and other bridge parts have also been reported. Yet times are changing, and the county engineer plans to replace this bridge with a pre-cast concrete bridge. However, as the truss bridge is a national historic landmark- having been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1998- the Tama County Engineer is offering the bridge to any takers willing to relocate it for reuse, regardless of whether it is only one of the two truss spans or both. The reason for this is to garner interest from parties interested in finding a new home for the structure.

At the same time, the bridge’s history will be documented, thanks in part to an agreement made between the county, the cultural resources office of the Iowa Department of Transportation in Ames, and Wapsi Valley Archeology, Inc. in Anamosa, where all stories, photos and postcards are being collected and will be used in a booklet to be published for libraries in Tama County and beyond, as well as IaDOT.

If you are interested in purchasing the bridge, please contact the Tama County Engineer, using the contact details here. If you wish to contribute to the booklet, the contact details for Wapsi Valley Archeology and Kristy Medanic (who is in charge of this project) is found here. The preservation and relocation of the Chambers Ford Bridge will make up for losing a pair of key historic bridges in 2007 at Toledo and Chelsea as well as another last year at Traer, yet it could also serve as a motive to preserving the remaining bridges of their kind in the county, for there are plenty of them- closed to traffic because of age and deficiencies- to go around and enough interest from other groups to take them for reuse. The Chronicles will follow-up on the developments of the bridge project set to begin soon.