How many of you have visited a winter carnival? What were some of your impressions? At this time of year, we have winter carnevals, featuring ice sculptures, sculpting competitions, lots of entertainment, but most importantly, lots of ice architecture, including the ice palace. In the Twin Cities in Minnesota, we have winter carnevals every two years, pending on the weather. The biggest event is on the Minneapolis side at Lake Harriet, yet there are smaller winter events throughout the metropolitan area.
This includes Stillwater, where this photo was taken. The Stillwater Lift Bridge was built in 1931 by J.A.L. Waddell and John Lyle Harrington and features a ten-span through truss bridge, one of the spans is a vertical life, allowing ships along the St. Croix River to pass through. It had served traffic, highway 36 until 2017 when the highway was rerouted to the cable-stayed bridge to the south. Afterwards, the bridge underwent an extensive, three-year project to restore the bridge to its original glory and repurpose it as an interstate bike trail between Minnesota and Wisconsin. It reopened last year and is now a loop trail that connects this historic bridge with its successor.
A lot has changed with the lift bridge, as there are no more cars waiting at the bridge and much of the traffic is now to the south. At the same time, Stillwater has become a bigger tourist attraction with more pedestrians and cyclists who would like to store-shop along the historic river front, containing many buildings that are at least 150 years old. And for pontists and bridge-lovers, as well as photographers, like Josh Driver, it provides some extended time to photograph the bridge from whatever angle best suits the person. This was taken at the time of the Stillwater winter festival shortly after the snow storm, showing the newly restored historic bridge with its glamorous lighting and beautiful coat of forest green paint. A perfect example of why a person should visit Stillwater- shop for the day, but stay for the bridge. 🙂
Our first mystery bridge of 2022 takes us to Minnesota. A negative photo was brought to the attention at bridgehunter.com recently by Alex Dettmann, a resident of Minneapolis. It features a stone arch bridge of about 20 feet long, and according to the writing, the bridge was located on Mankato Avenue and was built by Fred H. Pickles. It took some Google Research to determine that Mankato Avenue was located in Winona, though he wasn’t sure that it was the right address because the present-day avenue ended at the riverside. The negative came from a collection dating between 1910 and 1920.
As soon as it was presented, a postcard with an arch bridge similar to this was found and posted on the same website by fellow pontist Luke Harden. According to information, it was located near Lake Winona, spanning Gilmore Creek. If the Mankato Avenue picture is correct, the bridge was located at the tip of the lake on the east end. Chances are likely because of only a couple crossings that exist over Gilmore Creek that the arch bridge at Mankato Avenue does indeed match.
In either case, we’re looking for information about the person responsible for building the stone arch bridge in Winona, Mr. Pickles. Most stone arch bridges in Minnesota were built between 1880 and 1900, including the famous Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis. What we would like to know is when this bridge was built, what type of stone was used for the crossing and from which quarry. Because Mankato Avenue has become a major throughway, it’s unlikely that the bridge no longer exists. However, even if it was replaced, when did this take place.
You can provide this information under this link in bridgehunter.com with comments and additional photos.
Should there be any questions, contact Jason Smith here at the Chronicles who can help you.
Happy Bridgehunting folks and have a great start in 2022!
2021 Bridgehunter Awards Notice:
Don’t forget! You have 15 days left to vote in the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards. If you haven’t done so yet, click on the links and submit your votes. Encourage others to vote. Spread the word. The more votes, the better.
Crack in the Pier is the reason behind the closure with its future in doubt.
EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN- A beloved railroad viaduct spanning the Chippewa River has been closed due to advanced structural deterioration. Its future is in doubt as crews are looking into a pier that has deteriorated beyond repair. The Northwestern Viaduct spans the Chippewa River near the Big Pond site and city dam. It was built in 1880 by the Lassig Bridge and Iron Works Company of Chicago and the Leighton Bridge and Iron Works Company of Rochester, New York- the latter of which was responsible for the bridge’s signature Lattice deck truss design. The bridge has a total length of 890 feet, the largest span is 180 feet. The bridge is considered the highest in the state of Wisconsin, at 82 feet tall above river levels. The bridge used to be operated by Chicago and Northwestern Railroad until it was abandoned in 1991. Excel Energy purchased the bridge from Union Pacific in 2007 to save it from being demolished. In 2015 the bridge opened to pedestrians and cyclists.
Crews on Monday closed down the bridge as they discovered a major crack in one of the limestone piers that was also spalling, thus causing the bridge span to sag. In a statement provided by the City’s media relations:
The High Bridge was initially closed to the public on Monday, June 21, in order to repair a section of railing that was damaged by fallen tree limbs. Meanwhile, a heave had been observed in the bridge deck caused by a crack in one of the piers that supports the bridge. This week an outside Engineer examined the structure and recommended further investigation and repair before re-opening to the public. Since that examination, additional changes in the condition of the bridge have occurred, making this a more urgent situation. Additional fencing and water barriers are being installed to keep boaters, pedestrians, and bicyclists away from the structure for their safety.
The bridge was last inspected in November of last year. City officials and engineers are looking into ways to either repair or replace limestone pier, while at the same time, work to preserve the bridge’s structural integrity. This includes a range of options from making minor repairs, adding additional bracing, encasing the pier or simply removing the affected spans and rebuilding the entire pier from scratch before putting the spans back on. The last option was practiced with the Red Jacket Trail Bridge south of Mankato, Minnesota in 2011 for the exact same reason as the situation being seen with this bridge. When and how the repairs will be made, how long and the costs involved remain open at the time of this press release. The structure is considered a nationally significant monument not only because of its history but because it is the only bridge of its kind left in the country- a quintangular Lattice truss bridge.
Eau Claire is considered the city of bridges but ist main attraction is the one currently receiving (inter)national attention but for the wrong reasons. It is hoped that there is solution to this problem that will not alter the bridge’s integrity, but at the same time, make the crossing safer for people wishing to enjoy the view oft he city, ist bridges and the areas along the Chippewa.
The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest. Check out the tour guide in the Bridges of Eau Claire, which was created in 2012. Photos and places of recommendation courtesy of fellow pontist, John Marvig. Click here and enjoy the tour.
Bridgeport, Michigan. August 2018. Standing on a finished work of art. The Bridgeport (State Street) Bridge spans the Cass River. The structure had been rehabilitated, turning a pair of rusty and partially twisted Pratt through trusses leaning on a center pier into a structure that had just been put together for the first time. Hours of welding and new bolts, restoring it in-kind and complete with new decking and new railing. The Bridgeport Bridge has become a centerpiece of tourism in a town, which neighbors another popular tourist attraction, Frankenmuth.
The bridge itself is a cousin resemblance to a pair of bridges built in Jackson County, Minnesota, where I grew up. This was one of them: The Petersburg Road Bridge which was built in 1907 by a company that became a primary supplier of bridges for a decade, the Joliet Bridge and Iron Works Company. The portals are typical of such a bridge built by Joliet, the one that was later adopted by other bridge builders. Another bridge of similar features was built two years later, spanning the same river as this one: West Branch Des Moines River, but just south of Windom. Both structures are now extant. Another feature are the builder plaques that represent either a shield or a New York-style trapezoid, as you can see in the Bridgeport Bridge shot.
Still what was the bridge company all about? I did some research on this while writing a book on Jackson County’s bridges a decade ago and found that the Joliet Bridge and Iron Company was like a fame flower (Phemeranthus rugospermus)- it built dozens of bridges during its short existence.
The company was founded in 1896 by Robert C. Morrison and had agents throughout the USA, including Max J. Frey, the company’s agent in St. Louis, who may have been responsible for the Upper Midwest. Much of the work was concentrated in the South and Midwest, mostly in Michigan, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois and Minnesota, though the company also built bridges in countries outside the United States. It garnered international reputation for its prompt action and good workmanship. At its peak, 400 people were employed at Joliet by 1914 with its bridge building headquarters located on Collins Street, right next to the penetiary. A subsidiary plant under the direction of George Larimer was in operation in Memphis, Tennessee from 1909 until its closure by 1912. Apart from the Bridgeport Bridge, some of the noteworthy bridges built by Joliet during its almost 25 year run include the earliest known existing bridges- a pair of twin suspension bridges at Chautauqua Park in Pontiac, Illinois, constructed in 1898. Other examples include the existing historic bridges in Michigan, such as the Black Bridge at Tiny’s Farm and Church in Frankenmuth, the Gugel Bridge south of Frankenmuth, Currie Parkway Bridge and Smith Crossing both in Midland. The Bello Street Bridge at Pismo Beach in California is the only example of a bridge built the furthest away from Joliet’s coverage. Minnesota once had a lot of bridges built by Joliet, eight of which in Jackson County. All of them have since disappeared.
Despite its popularity in bridge construction, the Joliet Bridge and Iron Company was forced to shut down briefly when Robert C. Morrison died in 1913. His son Raymond K. Morrison took over operations afterwards and reorganized the company as the Joliet Bridge and Construction Company in 1920. That company continued to construct bridges in the region, despite the decline in steel mills due to the Great Depression and later lesser demand for the product. The company ceased all operations by 1985, making it one of only a few bridge companies that had dominated bridge building at the turn of the century and survived through the Reagan era of the 1980s. Key structures built during Ray’s era included the Algoma Street Drawbridge in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and the Braceville Arch Bridge in Illinois, which used to carry Route 66. Both structures no longer exist, but it does lead to questions of what other structures had been built by the company before it folded permanently. Just as important is which bridges in foreign countries were built by Joliet, regardless of which era.
Joliet Bridge and Iron is not related to another company located in the same city, the Joliet Iron and Steel Works Company. That company was founded in 1869 but constructed many steel parts for buildings, bridges and the like. That company was taken over three times before it became part of US Steel in 1936. The company closed down by the early 1980s but the site was later converted to a historic site.
The Joliet Bridge and Iron Company represents a bridge company that survived many mergers and crises and still built many structures that represented fine examples of infrastructure that expanded throughout the USA during the first half of the 20th Century. Its innovative designs and great workmanship has resulted in many structures still standing today, most of which in Illinois and Michigan. Many of them have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and some have even been restored to their former glory. Nevertheless there are still many that have long since disappeared that deserve recognition because of their association with the company and the Morrison family. You can find a database of the bridges that were built by Joliet below:
Now, the bridge is staying put, but will be the centerpiece, crossing over the Blue Earth River connecting two of Mankato’s largest parks.
The 148-year-old historic iron structure will span the Blue Earth River between two of the city’s largest parks, providing a pedestrian and bike crossing that also will fill a gap in the local trail system, and create a vital link between the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail on Mankato’s northeast side and Minneopa State Park to the southwest. “From an engineering perspective, it’s an exciting project, but it’s also one that’s great for our community and the region on whole,” said Assistant City Engineer Michael McCarty in an interview with the Mankato Free Press. He was in charge of putting together the winning application in an eight-way competition for the one-of-a-kind bridge. Four finalists had submitted full applications to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) for the structure. Aside from Mankato, the other three finalists came from Watonwan County, Fergus Falls and Sherburne County. “It was a close race. The applications were all really good,” said historian Katie Haun Schuring of MnDOT’s Cultural Resources Unit, one of the members of the steering committee of engineers and historians that ultimately decided Mankato’s plan was the best. “… All of the locations would have been good. I think Mankato’s just rose to the top after a lot of great discussion.”
The decision to keep the Kern Bridge home made a lot of sense as the last surviving bridge of its kind in Minnesota is also one of the Blue Earth County’s “Seven historical wonders” when it comes to architecture that had shaped the county in the past 150 years. Furthermore, the county is diverse in the number of different types of bridges that still exist and can be seen today. They include the Dodd Ford Bridge and, the Maple River Railroad Truss Bridge both near Amboy, as well as a Marsh arch bridge and the Red Jacket Trestle. Another truss bridge, the Hungry Hollow Bridge is sitting in storage and awaiting reuse elsewhere. When people think of Blue Earth County and bridges, the Kern Bridge would definitely go on top as it was the structure that spearheaded efforts by other engineers to leave their marks over rivers and ravines while expanding the network of roads and railroads that connected Mankato with Minneapolis and other points to the north and east.
Along with the wrought-iron bridge, now disassembled and stored in shipping containers, Mankato will be receiving federal funding that will cover 80% of the $1.8 million cost of reassembling it. According to the Free Press, numerous regulatory hurdles will need to be cleared because of the historic nature of the bridge, the need to build piers in the Blue Earth River, the existence of the flood-control system in the area, the design work on the bridge approaches, and the regulations related to federal funding. The Kern Bridge will be the main span over the river but will be flanked by steel gorders which will make the historic structure the centerpiece for the two parks. If all goes well, the bridge will be back in service by 2024 but as a pedestrian and bike crossing.
And while its 150th birthday celebration will most likely be in storage, the reestablishment and reopening of the longest bowstring arch bridge, combined with its reinstatement as a National Landmark, will serve as a much-deserved belated birthday gift in itself. Even the best things come if we wait long enough and work to make it happen. 🙂
The Kern Bridge finished second in the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards in the category Bridge of the Year because of the efforts to save the structure from its potential collapse.
The news came just as the Newsflyer podcast was released. To listen to the other news stories, click here.
NEW ULM, MINNESOTA (USA)- Officials from the Brown County Highway Department have a historic bridge for sale and for those interested, all you need is a plan to present and a dollar to pay. The Petersen Bridge spans the Minnesota River, carrying Rennville County Highway 3 and Brown County Highway 8. It’s approximately 7 miles SE of Franklin and 20 river miles NW of New Ulm. Also known as the Eden Bridge, it features a two-span Warren pony truss bridge with riveted connections. It was built in 1918 and has a total length of 250 feet- the largest span is 81 feet. The bridge has been considered eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
In a statement by Brown County:
Because the bridge has a visually-low profile (being a pony truss rather than a through-truss), and because there is flexibility to omit approach spans as needed, the bridge could fit well into any number of urban or rural settings
The bridge is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places but needs to be replaced with a wider structure. The county hopes to find a new owner who can reuse the bridge on a trail, in a park, or in a similar setting.
The bridge has been closed to traffic since 2017 and work is underway to replace the historic bridge with a modern one, with the project set to begin later this year at the earliest.
Those interested in purchasing and repurposing the bridge can obtain a package by clickinghere. It includes the contact information for the Brown County Highway Engineer in case there are questions or if you are interested in taking the bridge.
The deadline for all entries is June 30th, 2021 at 4pm local time. More information on the bridge can be found via bridgehunter.com, here as well as John Weeks website, here.
Note: While you are at it, there is a tour guide on the bridges of New Ulm which may be of interest of you. Have a look by clicking here. An interesting story on New Ulm can be found in the Flensburg Files by clicking here.
NOTE: This post features photos from a mid-August stop at the historic Waterford bridge near Northfield, Minnesota. The historic Waterford Bridge, located in Waterford Township in Dakota County, Minnesota. TO THE MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT of Transportation, the historic Waterford Bridge some two miles northeast of Northfield is tagged as bridge number L3275. I suppose bridges, […]
GLENCOE, MINNESOTA- When visiting McLeod County in 2011, rumors had it that the county had no more truss bridges. The last one had been taken down near Lester Prairie three years earlier. SInce my visit, two more truss bridge spans were discovered by local highway officials, including this one, the Koniska Bridge. The five-panel Pratt through truss bridge spans the South Branch Crow River and can be seen from the County Highway 11 bridge, a half mile away. Built in 1904 by William S. Hewett, one of the members of the Minneapolis School of Bridge Building, the bridge is 90 feet long, has A-frame portal bracings and is pin-connected. The bridge was once part of the village of Koniska, which had been abandoned before the bridge was replaced and left abandoned in the 1960s. Since then, it has sat quietly in the wilderness.
That is until now. Crews are planning to remove the bridge sometime in the fall or winter for safety reasons. The bridge’s decking is wooden but it’s rotting. The structure is rusting but there is no word on how bad. Bottom line is the avoidance of liability issues. It is unknown whether the bridge will be scrapped altogether or will be in storage for possible reuse. But as records indicate it was a Hewett truss, there is a chance to take the structure and relocate it for reuse. Furthermore, like another Hewett truss bridge in Mazeppa, it has the potential to be listed on the National Register.
If interested in the truss bridge, contact the McLeod County Highway Department in Glencoe. The contact details are here.
MANKATO, MINNESOTA- The longest bowstring arch bridge in the United States and second longest in the world is available for reuse. The question is who has some ideas for the structure? The Minnesota Department of Transportation is soliciting interest in the purchase and relocation of the Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge, which had spanned the Le Seuer River on Township Rd. 190 south of Mankato between now and August 31st.
According to information on the MnDoT website, the bridge must be rehabilitated to meet historic standards as stated in the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Projects. The restoration project must comply to the guidelines of both MnDOT and the Federal Highway and Safety Administration. Currently, costs for reconstructing and restoring the historic bridge is estimated to be at approximately $1.5 million. Fortunately, federal funding is available to cover 80% of the costs for the whole project, which means 20% must to brought up by the party owning the bridge. The bridge has currently been delisted from the National Register, yet it can be re-listed once the structure is reconstructed and reopened for use.
Letters of intent are currently being collected by cities as well as county and state agencies, with cities having 5000 of less inhabitants being required to have a county sponsor. At present two suitors are in the running, both cities and both outside Blue Earth County, where the bridge once stood for almost a century and a half: Fergus Falls in Otter Tail County and North Mankato in Nicollet County. Both plan to have the structure span a body of water and be used as a pedestrian bridge. It is unknown who else is interested in acquiring the structure at present.
If you are interested in acquiring the bridge, you should click onto link that will usher you to MnDOT’s Historic Bridge website. There, information, contact details and applications are available. The Letter of Intent is to be submitted by no later than 31 August. Applications for the bridge must then be filled out and the deadline is 30 September.
We have seen many bowstring arch bridges being reused for various recreational purposes. The Freeport and Eureka Bridges in Winneshiek County, Iowa are now picnic areas in parks. Springfield in Arkansas and Paper Millin Delaware are now pedestrian crossings. The interest in reusing the Kern Bridge as a crossing for pedestrians and cyclists is strong among those in Minnesota and beyond who wish to see her in action again. The question is where will it go and how will it be reused?
The story of the bridge’s fate is unraveling and we’ll keep you posted……