This week’s Pic of the Week brings winter, holidays and bridgehunting together. It’s a throwback to 2010 and my trip to the States for Christmas. Together with another fellow pontist, who is also a civil engineer, we had a chance to visit several bridges in and around the Twin Cities before he had to leave to visit family members. Even though I also visited some friends in the Cities, I stopped for some photo opps along the way, like this one in Minneapolis at Boom Island Bridge. This 8-panel through truss Bridge with pinned connections and Howe lattice Portal bracings was built in 1901 by –Butler-Ryan Co.of St. Paul, Minnesota, with Charles Frederick Lowethof Cleveland, Ohio being the designer and R.B. Tweedy being the chief engineer. The bridge was most recently renovated for bike use but when this was taken, there were eight inches of snow on the ground- thick enough for even snowmobiling. The purplish-blue setting reflects on the overcast skies with the ground all covered in snow. A great scene for a picture like this, taken while in tunnel view. Sometimes the best bridge pics are taken when there’s snow on the ground and in certain angles like this one. 🙂
Enjoy the pic and have a great Holiday Season! 🙂 ❤
During a period between 1870 and 1940, the United States experienced an exponential growth in the number of not only iron and steel truss bridges, but also the number of bridge companies and steel mills. Originating from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and New York, companies were established in the 1870s but through consolidations and insider business training, the numbers expanded westward, reaching Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa by 1910.
With these expansions came the development of the schools of bridge builders. Consisting of family dynasties and strong ties among the builders, these bridge builders were established either as family businesses or businesses with closest ties- whose founders later established ventures out west as a way to compete with the giant monopolies, like the American Bridge Company. Many schools of bridge builders existed beginning in the 1880s, including ones in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Ohio, New England,
and this one in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Minneapolis School of Bridge Builders featured bridge builders having established companies in Minneapolis and points to the east. These bridge builders were either self taught, had ties with companies to the east or both, and had a close-knit network of family members and close partners who later established companies or contracted westwards in the Great Plains and western states. They included the Hewett Family (William, Seth, Arthur), Commodore P. Jones, Lawrence Johnson and Alexander Bayne. Jones and Bayne were responsible for the Minneapolis Bridge Company, which was the longest tenured bridge company in the Minneapolis School and one of the longest in the United States.
Founded in 1887 by Commodore P. Jones, the Minneapolis Bridge Company has a unique history, some of which is still being debated by historians and scholars today. What is known is the fact that the bridge company operated under different ownerships as well as different names. According to the 1985 study on Minnesota’s bridges by Robert Frame, the company operated under Minneapolis Bridge Company from 1888 to 1898 and from 1913 to 1941, the Minneapolis Bridge and Iron Company from 1898-1910 and as the Minneapolis Bridge Construction Company 1941- ca. 1944. Jones operated the company before he left in 1910 to join Seth Hewett (with whom he was partners in the bridge business some years earlier) and formed the Great Northern Bridge Company, which operated until 1922. It is unknown what happened to the company between the time span of 1910 and 1913, although some sources claim that the company was out of business by 1910 and was restarted in 1913. But more research is needed to determine whether this was the case. However, one of Jones’s disciples, Alexander Y. Bayne took over the company in 1913, and the Minneapolis Bridge Company resumed its bridge building business. Bayne was president of the company from 1913 to 1917, when his partner, Oliver Matteson took over the presidency and held it until 1926. Matteson had been an agent of the company up to 1917 as well as an agent for two other previous companies prior to the resurrection of the Minneapolis Bridge Company. Another bridge builder, Isak Helseth took over the operations in 1941 and presided over the company until it folded in 1950. Assuming the bridge company was not closed down between 1910 and 1913, the Minneapolis Bridge Company relocated twice in its life span: first to the Met Life Building from its original location at the Lumber Exchange Building in 1913 and seven years later to 3100 NE 6th Street. The company was known to have constructed dozens of bridges during its existence. The 1985 study by Frame indicated that five were built by Jones and 27 by Bayne. However upon doing a count by the writer as part of a book project completed eight years ago, 31 bridges were constructed under Commodore Jones and dozens of others by Bayne.
Several historic bridges remaining in the country were built by Minneapolis Bridge Company, almost all of which were under the operations by Bayne, even though he had another business in Canada. Examples of bridges built by the company that are still standing include the following:
Meeting on Bridge Project scheduled for 29 October at River East in Minneapolis.
The St. Anthony Parkway Bridge, spanning the railroad yard in the Minneapolis suburb of Columbia Heights, has been a focus of concern for transportation officials, historians and locals alike, for although the bridge is historically significant, rust and corrosion was revealed on the bridge, prompting measures to ensure that the bridge is replaced as soon as possible.
Over five months after the article was written (see link here), the project appears to have moved forward. Plans have been approved to replace the five-span Warren through truss bridge, built in 1925 and features a set of skewed portal bracings, with a crossing featuring a through truss span and girder spans. The original trusses are being offered for sale by the City to be used for several purposes. The lone exception is one of the spans will be salvaged and used as an interpretive memorial located on the western end of the bridge. That means four spans are available for grabs to be reused on a local road or bike trail.
If interested, there is an informational meeting on Monday 29 October, 2013 from 6:00- 8:00pm at the River Village East, Community Room, located at 2919 Randolph St NE in Monneapolis. There, the public can discuss about the project and express their interest in the purchase of the old bridge. There will be more meetings to come between now and the time construction actually starts, which is next fall. The new bridge is expected to be open to traffic by the end of 2015. More information about the project can be found here. This includes the contact details in case of any questions.
The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest involving the St. Anthony Parkway Bridge, but in case you know someone who wants a historic bridge for a bike trail, park or road, there are four spans available for you to get while they are still there…
Author’s note: There are a lot of unique features that make the Twin Cities in Minnesota worth visiting. One of those has to do with the bridges. Regardless of type, hundreds of them can be seen while travelling through the area by car, boat or even by walking, dating as far back as 1884 with the Stone Arch Bridge, the Merriam Street Bridge built at the Broadway Avenue crossing site in 1887 before saving and relocating one of the spans to its present, or even the arch bridges that have been spanning the Mississippi River for over 80 years. This year’s Society for Industrial Archeology Conference took place in Minneapolis and St. Paul. And as the author could not make it because of time commitments, another colleague and fellow pontist Amy Squitieri, who works at Mead & Hunt located in Minneapolis, Madison (WI) and Austin (TX), was there and was happy to provide you as the reader with the highlights of the three-day event that took place May 30- June 2. Here are the highlights and photos, all of which speak for themselves. Enjoy!
From Amy Squitieri:
Bridge enthusiasts came in force to the SIA Annual Conference in St. Paul. Friday’s sold-out bridge tour, Mighty Mississippi: A Twin Cities Riverboat Cruise with the Expert, was organized by Bob Frame of Mead & Hunt, which co-sponsored the tour in partnership with the Historic Bridge Foundation. Tour guides included historians with expertise in bridges and the Mississippi River, bridge engineers, and the Dispatcher with Upper River Services, a barge operating service.
Our first stop during the brief land-based portion of the tour was the Seventh Street Improvement Arches (1884) in St. Paul, one of the few helicoidal stone arches in the United States. As participants gathered to take pictures (see photo), State Bridge Engineer Nancy Daubenberger welcomed us to the bridge tour and to this ASCE National Historic Engineering Landmark, one of only three in Minnesota.
Arriving at St. Anthony Falls, we left the bus and walked across the deck of the 1883 Stone Arch Railroad Bridge, the second ASCE National Historic Engineering Landmark and now a major trail crossing (photo of participants gathered mid-span for an introduction to the Mighty Mississippi). The 2,100-foot, 23-arch bridge includes a six-degree curve (photo as seen from the deck of our Mississippi riverboat, the Magnolia Blossom).
The riverboat tour began at the top of the lock chamber and proceeded down river on a cruise for the remainder of the day, ending in downtown St. Paul. We observed historic bridges of the Twin Cities from the riverboat deck, cruising from the waterpower center of the Historic Minneapolis Mill District at the Falls of St. Anthony to the traditional head of navigation at St. Paul. A full tour description is here (http://www.siahq.org/conference/twincities/fridaytour1.html)
Highlights of the tour included the Cappelen Memorial (Franklin Ave.) features a 400-ft. main span—setting the world record for a concrete-arch span when the bridge was completed in 1923 (see photo). This bridge is among an important group of large reinforced-concrete arch bridges that were built in the Twin Cities, particularly over the Mississippi, in the 1920s.
As we passed by the Omaha Railroad Swing Bridge (1915), the operator opened it for us (see photos of bridge opening). One participant noted that “operation of the swing bridge was a WAY COOL high point.” Near the end in St. Paul, we saw the beautiful rainbow arch Robert Street Bridge (1924-25).
The program for Saturday featured the 23rd Historic Bridge Symposium with 13 speakers from as close as the Twin Cities and as far as Vermont and Texas. Represented were cultural resource professionals at State DOTs, consultants, reps of Army National Guard and National Park Service, advocates and enthusiasts. The audience ranged from about 25 to max of 50 during the day-long symposium.
The Historic Bridge Foundation sponsored the symposium and director Kitty Henderson served as moderator. Speakers and topics, with quick highlights, were as follows: Session 3A
Michael Krakower, “Restoration of the Oaklawn Concrete Bridge” – Early reinforced arch and only bridge by renowned architects Greene & Greene
Deborah Baldwin Van Steen, “History vs. Technology: Emergency Repairs to the Route 33 Bridge, Hightstown, New Jersey” – Bridge washed out in flood and was restored with modified railings to meet current safety guidelines
Christopher H. Marston, “Salvation, Documentation, and Reconstruction of the Moose Brook Bridge Howe Truss” – A wood bridge burned and was carefully rebuilt with lessons about timber strength and craftsmanship Session 3B
Scott Newman, “Historic Bridge Projects: A Preservation Reality Check” – Shared several recent VT rehab projects including the famous Checkered House Bridge, a widened truss.
Katherine Haun, “Bridge Engineering from the Bottom Up: Substructure Matters on the Red River of the North” – A fascinating look at how the abutments and bearings were designed to accommodate sinking soils
Raina Regan, “The Bailey Bridge: Misconceptions in Identification, Significance, and Preservation” – Her detailed research has shown that extant US “Bailey Bridges” post-date World War II Session 3C
Rebecca Burrow, “How to Date a Bridge: Case Studies on Steel Truss Design”
Nathan Holth, “Creative Bridge Building in Early 20th Century Chicago”
Mark M. Brown, “Bridges of the Recent Past: Three Texas Case Studies” – Entertaining! Session 3D
Gary W. Houston, “Two Lessons for Historic Urban Bridge Protection Offered by San Antonio’s Hays Street Bridge” – Lesson 1: Public art shouldn’t be forced onto a historic bridge; Lesson 2: Public bridges are for public users, not private concessionaires
Amy Squitieri and Kristen Zschomler, “Minnesota’s Bridges: Lessons Learned and Current Best Practices” – We shared recent rehab projects with a focus on common challenges of railings, rivets, stone/concrete repair techniques, adequate width and capacity
Justin M. Spivey, “Crowd-Sourcing Historic Bridge Research” – You can find out a lot on the web, some good and other info is more suspect
On a personal note, it was a great pleasure to see my colleague at Mead & Hunt, Bob Frame, receive SIA’s most prestigious honor, the General Tools Award, for his lifetime contributions to industrial archeology. As one of the leading historic bridge experts in the country, Bob conducts research, completes evaluations and documentation, and leads historic bridge assessments. He has contributed to eight statewide historic bridge surveys. Details about Bob’s accomplishment are included in a blog post (http://www.meadhunt.com/insights/historic-preservation/frame/)
Bridge fans should make plans to attend next year’s SIA conference in Portland, Maine, and the 24th Historic Bridge Symposium. The conference is tentatively scheduled for mid- or late-May. Updates will be provided on the SIA website http://www.siahq.org/conference/SIAconf.html
Author’s Note: Some of the bridges mentioned here will be profiled separately in the future as there are some interesting stories that went along with them and how they were preserved. The Chronicles will do an interview with Bob Frame as well, for he devoted over 40 years to historic bridge preservation, including publishing inventories on historic bridges in Minnesota, the oldest version of which I still have in my possession and have been using to track down the history of the bridges in Minnesota.
Another colleague, Kaitlin O’shea of Preservation in Pink, was also there and provided highlights of the Conference from a preservationists point of view. You can see the article with pictures here.
Special thanks to Amy Squitieri for her help in providing us with information and photos of the event, the latter of which can be seen below:
The St. Anthony Parkway Bridge, also known as the Northtown Bridge, is one of Minnesota’s historic bridges that deserves some recognition in itself. Located in the western part of Minneapolis near Columbia Height, this five span Warren through truss bridge with riveted connections is one of the last bridges of its kind to span the railroad yard in the Midwest. Built in 1925, the 530 foot long bridge is built in a 40° skew, another rarity one can find in the region, if not the country! Despite the lack of information about the bridge- thanks largely in part to missing plaques on the end posts of the bridge- the Northtown Bridge is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as it is located on the Grand Rounds of Parkways and crosses a historic railyard owned by Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railways- all of which have been considered nationally historic!
In the meantime, the bridge has suffered a great deal, both in its outer appearance as well as with the decking. Officials at BNSF and the City of Minneapolis revealed in their surveys that the bridge is corroding, especially in the decking because of the trains passing underneath the structure combined with the use of salt in the winter time. Furthermore, the upper part of the bridge has sustained substantial damage to the portal bracing and upper chord, probably caused by trucks trying to cross the bridge despite height restrictions. A pair of photos in this article combined with a link to more photos (shown here) reveal a close-up view of the damage to the bridge.
As the city is actively pursuing a replacement bridge, pondering between a basket arch bridge similar to the Mississippi River Crossing at Lowry Avenue and a cable-stayed bridge similar to the Sabo Bridge, the question is what to do with the present structure, for even though one or two of the damaged spans are most likely going to be scrapped, the remaining spans have the potential to be reused, either along a bike trail in or around the Twin Cities area, or somewhere on a rural road for light vehicles, as has been done before. It may be possible that because of its historic status, the city may save only one of the spans, relocate it and reuse, as was the case with the Broadway Avenue Bridge in 1987, when one of the spans was relocated to its Merriam Street location, which still serves traffic to this day.
While the replacement plans are in the starting phase, the plans regarding the future of the present St. Anthony Parkway Bridge is still open. So let’s take a look at the bridge and ask ourselves this question:
What would you do with the current St. Anthony Parkway Bridge?
a. Relocate the remaining truss spans to rural locations- and if so, which areas would be potential candidates?
b. Relocate the trusses to the bike trail in and around the Twin Cities area- and if so, which bike trails could use a historic bridge?
c. Relocate the trusses to the bike trails elsewhere in Minnesota and the surrounding states- and if so, which ones need a historic bridge?
d. Relocate one of the trusses to a street location, like the Merriam Street Bridge- if so, which street in Minneapolis would be a candidate
e. Keep one of the trusses and relocate it to a nearby park
f. Other options
Please place your comments here, on the facebook pages or send your comments via e-mail. However, just as important as replacing the bridge is addressing the importance of saving the truss bridge to the state historical society and other state agencies, as well as organizations that specialize in bridge rehabilitation so that they have a chance to think about the options and support your decision. A link to MNHS is enclosed here, if you want to talk to the personnel about it.
When there is a will, there is a way to save a historic landmark that is part of a bigger district. While the city parks administrator would like a new crossing that is a signature for the City of Minneapolis, would it not be better to have a relict of history be saved that is just as big a signature for the city and its historic district as the new bridge? Minneapolis has a lot of history that can be reached by bike, foot or car and St. Anthony Parkway Bridge is one of those that deserves its place in history, live and in person…
All eyes seem to be focused on the Midwest for this year’s conferences and tours dealing with architecture, history and preservation. Apart from the ISPC Conference last month in Michigan and the upcoming Historic Bridge Weekend Conference in Iowa in August, a conference on industrial archaeology is coming to Minnesota at the end of May. The Society of Industrial Archaeology, based at Michigan Tech University, hosts a four day event every year, focusing on a region that is rich in industrial architecture and history. The organization has been hosting the event for 41 years, whereas a symposium devoted to historic bridges has been taking place since 1991.
This year’s event will take place May 30-June 2 in the Twin Cities at the St. Paul Hotel. Pre-conference tours and the introductory session will be on the 30th, followed by a Friday tour of the Mississippi River and its crossings, as well as places to the south of the Twin Cities (in Rice County), Film Festival and Book Signing session in the evening. Saturday will be the busiest with presentations, business lunch and the Historic Bridge Symposium, featuring presentations by six pontists from various fields, including Nathan Holth, Christopher Marston, Mark Brown, Rebecca Burrow, Amy Squitieri and Scott Newman. Kitty Henderson of the Historic Bridge Foundation, which is co-sponsoring the event with SIA, will emcee the symposium. And a post conference tour of the Mississippi River Waterfront and the newly refurbished Union Depot station in St. Paul on Sunday will round off the event.
Information on how to register for the four day event can be obtained here. You will also find all the contact information in case of questions. Highlights of the event will be provided by those taking part and will be posted in the Chronicles.
Here is a question for many who are involved in marketing historic bridges: 1. What types of bridges have you marketed and sold, 2. How big were they, 3. Were they sold in chunks or in its entirety, 4. did you have to finance the relocation or did the parties do it themselves and 5. (most importantly), were there any takers?
From the point of view of the pontist and historian, the realistic answers for these questions are mainly truss bridges (mostly single span pony trusses) whose length did not exceed an average of 150 feet, although most multiple spans were sold in chunks, parties had to pay for the relocation and rehabilitation costs unless state and federal grants were available and finally, only 10% of the people were interested and actually took the bridge, even though another 40% were interested but did not have the financial resources to cover them. While some states, like Indiana, Texas, Iowa and Vermont have had more success than others, these statistics are alarming and also sobering, as mentioned by Eric Delony in a publication on the disappearance of historic bridges, published in 2003.
Which brings us to this case study involving the Sabula-Savanna Bridge. Spanning the Mississippi River and connecting the former in Jackson County, Iowa with the latter in Caroll County on the Illinois side, this half a mile long bridge was built in 1932 by the Minneapolis Bridge Company and features a Pratt through truss approach span and a cantilever through truss main span, all blue in color. The SaSa Bridge is unique because it represents one of the rarest examples of historic bridges built by the Minneapolis Bridge Company, one of a half dozen bridge building companies located in the largest city in Minnesota. While the Minneapolis bridge building empire dominated much of Minnesota and all areas to the west during the time span of 1880 and 1940, its influence was not as big in Iowa and Illinois thanks to their own set of bridge builders that existed during that time, like the Federal Bridge, Iowa Bridge, and Wickes Construction (all of Des Moines), the Clinton Bridge and Iron Company, the largest of the bridge builders in Iowa, and Illinois Steel, which built numerous bridges in Illinois and parts of Iowa. Even more unique is the cantilever truss span, which features a K-truss design. K-trusses are different from other trusses, where two diagonal beams, which start at the same vertical beam on one side of the panel meet in the midle of the next vertical beam, creating a K-shaped truss. These trusses were developed in the late 1920s and became popular around the world, as K-truss bridges were built for railroad crossings in Europe. Here in the US, one can find a large quantity of K-trusses in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania but here in Iowa, only one bridge of this kind exists, which is this bridge.
The situation with the bridge is as follows: The Illinois Department of Transportation wants to replace this bridge with a modern one to accomodate more traffic passing through the region. Construction on the new bridge is set to begin in 2015 and upon completion in 2-3 years’ time, the old structure will be removed. However, the IDOT has decided to give the bridge away- for free! All 2,500 feet of the structure is yours if interested, except for one catch: you need to relocate the bridge and maintain its historic integrity in the process, while the DOT will pay for the costs to equal that of the demolition costs. Plus you are responsible for maintaining the bridge and the liability that goes along with that. Plus the bridge would have to be gone within 30 days of the opening of the bridge. Still interested?
The offer has created an outcry among historians and pontists alike, which ranges from being “unrealistic” to “laughable.” One even mentioned that the costs of maintaining the bridge “forever” is ironic for IDOT has had a bad record of maintaining and preserving historic bridges in their state not counting the greater Chicago area. As mentioned in an earlier posting, the same agency is pursuing the demolition of relict bridges along US Hwy. 50 in order to expand the highway to four lanes. The opinion on the IDOT side has been indifferent as well as one person mentioned that no takers would be expected.
No takers means preparing the bridge’s obituary early then, is it not?
There are some questions though that will result in having the offer being revised at the convenience of other agencies working either at the same level or above the IDOT. Firstly, the SaSa Bridge is also owned by the State of Iowa, which has had an excellent record of preserving the remaining existing historic bridges in the state- mostly in an area east of the Des Moines River, with reports of many truss and arch bridges being relocated to parks and picnic areas for reuse and some being reused as part of the bike trail. Yet according to their website, there seems to be little or no cooperation with its next door neighbor, opening the door to ownership disputes.
Secondly, while environmental impact surveys are being carried out, there is no mentioning of Section 106 of the Historic Preservation Law, which focuses on alternatives to demolition and the documentation of the bridge prior to the project beginning. As the SaSa Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the states are required to conduct the survey before construction starts.
And finally, as it is impractical to relocate a bridge of that size and mass, records have indicated that bridges like this were given to county authorities for use in their system as soon as the new highway bridge is in use. Many examples of such arrangements exist, among them, the St. Francisville Bridge over the Des Moines River at the Iowa-Misouri border. The cantilever Warren through truss bridge, built in 1927, was made obsolete by a freeway bridge, made to carry the Avenue of the Saints linking Mason City and St. Louis, and was subsequentially taken over by the counties of Lee (Iowa) and Clark (Missouri), which has maintained it as a street bridge ever since.
Keeping these arguments in mind, one has to ask himself whether this arrangement of giving the bridge away like IDOT is doing is both legal and practical or if there will be legal action to force the agency to revise its proposal to allow other parties to take over the bridge in its place, to use either for local traffic or part of the bike trail. Given the landscape of the Mississippi River valley and the counties affected by the bridge project, leaving the bridge in place and maintaining it “forever,” as IDOT stated in its offer just makes sense for everyone involved. The fortunate part is construction will not start for another two years, which means more meetings and other proposals will be brought forward before the project is finalized and the excavators can start digging for a new abutment for SaSa’s replacement. Story to be continued…..
More information and photos of the bridge can be found here, as well as in the words marked and underlined in the text.
Australian Traveller that loves to "Roam" our globe, creator of ENDLESSROAMING.COM sharing the experience through word and photography. Currently residing in my home of Newtown Sydney but hope to be back on the road late 2020. Feedback / questions are more than welcome, happy travels