This week’s pic of the week takes us back to 2011 and to Minnesota. This shot was taken of the Long Meadow Bridge from the observation deck of Mound Springs Park and the Minnesota River Wildlife Refuge on the northern banks of Long Meadow Lake, all located in Bloomington, located south of Minneapolis and St. Paul, known as the Twin Cities. It was a crystal clear afternoon and I was able to get four of the five Parker through truss spans. Little did I realize is that an airline jet flew low enough over the bridge that it was caught on the camera. It was on its way to land at the Twin Cities Airport. Timing was of the essence, coincidence was gold in this case. This bridge photo was once the header for the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles on its Areavoices website when it was in operation. The Areavoices site was shut down in April 2018.
Since the photo was taken, the Long Meadow Bridge was rehabilitated and restored to its former glory. It was reopened to traffic in 2016 after two years of restoration and is now integrated into the network of bike trails that runs along the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers and in the Twin Cities Metropolitan area. Access to the bridge can be found through Cedar Park, on the same side as the wildlife refuge and Mound Springs Park. One has to follow Old Cedar Avenue all the way towards the park. That used to be a key highway before the expressway made it obsolete in 1977. One can see photos of the bridge before and after the restoration as well as additional information on the bridge’s history can be found here.
This week’s Pic of the Week keeps us in Minnesota but takes us towards the Twin Cities. About a half hour drive southwest of Minneapolis we have the city of Shakopee, located on the Minnesota River. The city of 41,500 inhabitants has a lot of popular places of interest, including Valleyfair, Cantebury Downs, and the Renaissance Festival, in addition to its historic city center (even though it has been dwarfed by a population explosion in the past 30 years.) When you follow the former US highway 169 (county highway 69) into the city and want to cross the Minnesota, you can at this one.
The Holmes Street Bridge features two bridges. The newest one (in the background) was built in 1993; the historic bridge in the foreground, a continuous Warren deck truss span was built in 1927. That structure replaced one of several swing bridges that had existed along the river from Mankato to St. Paul. The bridge is 645 feet total in length and had six spans, including an underpass on the Shakopee side. That span has a flight of stairs that connect the street with the bridge itself. The bridge carried US 169 before it was carried over to the 1993 crossing for awhile. The highway eventually was relocated again five years later when it became an expressway and bypassed Shakopee and its cross-river neighbor Chaska. County 69 became the replacement although with many cars driving through the city, it has the characteristics of a major highway in Minnesota with a four-lane highway whose lanes are much wider than a typical county road.
This photo was taken in August 2009 as we were making a brief stop for a break. The bridge was already open for pedestrians and cyclists and I saw quite a few of them passing by as I photographed the structure. The bridge was scheduled to be rehabilitated a year later, but it didn’t stop me from getting some details of the decking and truss superstructure before some of the elements were eventually replaced. While some of the gussets were replaced, the lighting and railings were completely replaced with those mimicking a nostalgic era of over a century ago. You can find more photos per bridgehunter.com here.
There is a story that came along after the photos were posted on bridgehunter.com. An insurance agency in Shakopee found this picture, the pic of the week feature, so interesting that they wanted to use it for their campaign. The green light was given- but under one condition. I wanted an example oft he finished product once it was released in the public. I received a folder with the name of the insurance agency in the end. It was a neat souvenir that I still have at home. And for the agent, a way to bring a relict of the past to the public to show them what makes Shakopee a unique community, despite it becoming an urban sprawl. A win-win situation for all.
Shakopee went from a small town of 9,400 in 1980 to an urban community of 41,500 by 2018, an increase of 31,000 over the course of almost four decades. Together with Chaska, the twin communities have a population of ca. 70,000 inhabitants. Ironically, Chaska had only 4500 inhabitants before sprouting in the 1990s. It has almost 27,000 residents. Both are part oft he Minneapolis/ St. Paul Metropolitan area, which has a total of 3.9 million people, counting the Twin Cities plus all the cities surrounding it.
This next pic of the week takes us back a few years and across the big pond to Minnesota. Specifically, to Rock County, to an artificial lake as a park and lastly, to this beautiful bridge. The Schoneman Park Bridge has been in its home since 1990. The Waddell-style kingpost pony truss span was built by William S. Hewett in 1908 but at its original location- a tributary of the Rock River near the juncture with Ash Creek at where County Highway 1 is located. There were three bridges at that site prior to their replacement with the current structures in 1991: a through truss bridge over the Rock River with A-frame portals, a wooden stringer bridge over Ash Creek and this one. Because of its rarity and historic significance, county and state officials worked together with the city of Luverne to relocate the bridge to its current site. Schoneman Park was erected in 1987, using land that was donated by Dr. Ben and Rena Schoneman as well as James and Lois Van Hove. An artificial lake was established as well as plains and wetlands before the idea of a trail and crossing came to mind. After talks with the Rock County Highway Department, the Minnesota Historical Society and the Federal Highway Administration, an agreement was made in 1990 to move the bridge to Schoneman Park to be erected over a stream connecting the lake with the pond. The move was completed in October 1990. Two years later, the bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Until 2015, this bridge, with a beautiful farm backdrop as seen in this pic taken two years earlier, had been the only one of its kind left in the state. That was until the Minnesota Department of Transportation brought up another bridge to my attention which was discovered and documented in 2015. That bridge was located in Clearwater County near Bagley Lake. That structure has since been relocated to the fairgrounds. Unlike this bridge near Luverne, the Clearwater structure is just an accessory for visitors, showcasing itself as a rare example of how a bridge like the Waddell Truss helped shape America’s infrastructure over a century ago.
More pictures and facts about the Schoneman Park Bridge can be found here. All but a handful were taken by yours truly. Enjoy! 🙂 ❤
In connection with the BHC’s 10th anniversary, we’re conducting a campaign to promote historic bridges in terms of preservation, photography, stories and tourism. After the first campaign on the strangest encounter while bridgehunting, our next campaign deals with:
THE FIRST HISTORIC BRIDGE YOU PHOTOGRAPHED.
The question to the readers is: what was the first bridge you photographed and what was your first impression of the structure? The historic bridge must be older than 70 years and you must also describe it.
The first bridge I photographed was this one: The Petersburg Road Bridge in Jackson, Minnesota. The through truss span was built in 1907 and was torn down in 1995 after having been abandoned for 11 years. Although my first photo of the bridge came in 1990 with a camera taking 110-film, this photo was taken with a Kodak camera taking 35mm film in 1992, the time the bridge was fenced off because it was unsafe. The bridge used to be a gathering point for not only my family but for a neighborhood that was located along the West Fork Des Moines River before flooding in 1965 and 1969 forced them to move away. Many people jumped off the bridge and took a swim in the river. The bridge was a meeting point for fishing and grill fests; even so in 1987 when two boys wandered off and got lost for many hours before they were found. My grandma and many neighbors living nearby fought to keep the bridge open for pedestrians in 1985, which was successful. Yet the Great Flood of 1993 sealed its fate as a portion of the bridge collapsed. On February 1st, 1995, a day after I turned 18, the structure was removed. The area has been converted into a recreational area.
Now it’s your turn. What was your first bridge you photographed? Tell us your story and share your photo, either here or on the Chronicles’ facebook page here.
We are still accepting strange encounters while bridgehunting, the story behind it you will find here.
The Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge to be dismantled and stored awaiting relocation to a new home.
MANKATO, MINNESOTA- It finally happened. After 147 years spanning the LeSueur River south of Mankato as the longest bowstring arch bridge in the US (and second longest in the world behind the Blackfriars Road Bridge in Canada), the Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge is off the river and awaiting for a new home. Construction crews on Thursday lifted the 189-foot long bowstring arch bridge, in one piece, off its stone foundations and placed it in the field to the east of where it once stood.
One of the main obstacles that workers faced was the issues with the crumbling eastern abutment. “We were all kind of holding our breath,” said Lisa Bigham, state aid engineer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s District 7 in an interview with Minnesota Public Radio News. “It took a while to get everything kind of in place, the cranes to be positioned where they needed to be. Then, we were just kind of watching. And then, all of a sudden you could see air in between the bridge and the abutment. And it actually went very smoothly.” The eastern abutment had been coming apart, piece by piece in the past 5-10 years thanks to years of erosion and neglect, raising concerns across the board, from engineers and preservationists to even locals that the historic structure could potentially collapse. The structure had been closed to all traffic since 1989, with the township road having been abandoned. But nonetheless, the workers were satisfied with the lifting as it went smoothly as it could.
With the bridge standing in the nearby field, the wrought iron structure will be disassembled and stored in containers awaiting relocation for reuse as a bike and pedestrian crossing. Currently, MnDOT is soliciting proposals for reusing the bridge at a different location on a statewide level. “The pieces will be kept safe and dry,” Bigham said. “And so then whoever gets to take this bridge in the future, will be able to put the pieces back together and they’ll have a really cool bridge.” Federal and state funding has been placed aside for the project, with some funding having already been collected prior to the move. Carlton Companies of Mankato bidded $595,660 for the move itself. Because many bridge parts may need to be sandblasted and/or repaired before being reassembled, the cost for completing the whole project, including rehabilitation and reassembly is still unknown. The bottom line is the bridge is out of the water and is safe on land. The question will be what the future will hold for the bridge. That will be answered in the coming months.
The Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge was built by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company in 1873, 15 years after the creation of the State of Minnesota. It was also known as the Yaeger Bridge, named after the nearby farm owned by George Yaeger. The structure is all wrought iron with pinned connections. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, and the relocation project will not affect its status. The bridge is the last of its kind in Minnesota, even though dozens of them had existed mainly in the southern half of the state up until the 1970s. The bridge was closed to traffic in 1989 and was taken off the highway and bridge data bank in 2003. The structure has been the focus of literary works and also attempts to refurbish it for future use, all of whom had failed to date. This attempt came because of its historic significance and popularity among pontists and (bridge) photographers and locals familiar with the bridge and its enriched history. Since 2019, a facebook page on Relocating the Kern Bridge has been in use, where people can share ideas on how to reuse the bowstring arch structure, as well as photos, stories and the like. A link to the page is at the end of the article.
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest with the Kern Bridge and its future.
With 2019 and the second decade of the third millennium over and done, we’re now going to reflect on the key events in the area of historic bridges and feature some head-shakers, prayers, but also some Oohs and Aahs, jumps of joy and sometimes relief. Since 2011, I’ve presented the Author’s Choice Awards to some of the bridges and bridge stories that deserve at least some recognition from yours truly directly. Some of the bridges from this edition are also candidates in their respective categories for the Bridgehunter Awards.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at the winners of the Author’s Choice Awards in their respective categories starting with the unexpected finds:
Best Historic Bridge Find (International):
2019 was the year of unique bridge finds around the globe, and it was very difficult to determine which bridge should receive the Author’s Choice Prize. Therefore the prize is being shared by two bridges- one in Germany in the state of Saxony and one in Great Britain in the city of Bristol.
Rosenstein Bridge in Zwickau (Saxony), Germany:
Our first best historic bridge find takes us to the city of Zwickau and an unknown historic bridge that had been sitting abandoned for decades but was discovered in 2019. The Rosenstein Bridge spans a small creek between the suburb of Oberplanitz and the bypass that encircles Zwickau on the west side and connects Werdau with Schneeberg. The bridge is a stone arch design and is around 200 years old. It used to serve a key highway between the Vogtland area to the west and the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) to the south and east, transporting minerals and wood along the main road. It later served street traffic until its abandonment. The name Rosenstein comes from the rock that was used for the bridge. The rock changes the color to red and features its rose-shaped design. A perfect gift that is inexpensive but a keeper for your loved one.
Close-up of the bridge’s tubular railings. Photo taken by Nathan Holth
Brunel Swivel Bridge in Bristol, UK:
The other bridge that shares this honor is That Other Bridge. Located in Bristol, England, the Swivel Bridge is very hard to find, for the structure is underneath the Plimsol Bridge, both spanning the River Avon. While Bristol is well known for its chain suspension bridge, built over 150 years ago and spans the deep gorge of the Avon, the Swivel Bridge, a cast iron girder swing span, is the oldest known bridge in the city and one of the oldest swing bridges remaining in the world, for it is 170 years old and one of the first built by I.K. Brunel- the suspension bridge was the last built by the same engineer before his death. Therefore, the Swivel Bridge is known as Brunel’s Other (Significant) Bridge. The Swivel is currently being renovated.
“S-Bridges” were one of the oldest bridge types built in the US, featuring multiple spans of stone or concrete arches that are put together in an S-shape. It was good for horse and buggy 200-years ago, especially as many existed along the National Road. They are however not suitable for today’s traffic, which is why there are only a handful left. The Fox Run Bridge in Ohio, as documented by Satolli Glassmeyer of History in Your Backyard, is one of the best examples of only a few of these S-bridges left in the country.
Royal Springs Bridge in Kentucky:
The runner-up in this category goes to the oldest and most forgotten bridge in Kentucky, the Royal Springs Bridge. While one may not pay attention to it because of its design, plus it carries a busy federal highway, one may forget the fact that it was built in 1789, which makes it the oldest bridge in the state. It was built when George Washington became president and three years before it even became a state. That in itself puts it up with the likes of some of Europe’s finest bridges.
We had just as many bonehead stories as bridge finds this year. But a couple of stories do indeed stand out for these awards. Especially on the international level for they are all but a travesty, to put it mildly.
Tournai Bridge in Belgium:
Sometimes, bigger is better. Other times less means more. In the case of the senseless demolition of the Pont des Trours (Bridge of Tears) spanning the River Scheldt in Tournai, Belgium for the purpose of widening and deepening the river to allow for ships to sail to the River Sienne from the Atlantic, one has to question the economic impact of using the boat to get to Paris, let alone the cultural impact the demolition had on the historic old town. The bridge was built in 1290 and was the only bridge of its kind in the world. Its replacement span will resemble an McDonald’s M-shape pattern. In this case, less means more. Smaller ships or more trains to ship goods means better for the river (and its historic crossings) as well as the historic city. In short: Less means more.
Runner-up: Bockau Arch Bridge (Rechenhausbrücke) in Saxony.
Residents wanted to save the bridge. There was even a group wanting to save the bridge. The politicians and in particular, the Saxony Ministry of Transportation and Commerce (LASUV) didn’t. While the 150-year old stone arch bridge over the Zwickau Mulde near Aue was the largest and oldest standing in western Saxony and was not in the way of its replacement- making it a candidate for a bike and pedestrian crossing, LASUV and the politicians saw it as an eyesore. While those interested wanted to buy the bridge at 150,000 Euros. Dresden wanted 1.7 million Euros– something even my uncle from Texas, a millionaire himself, would find as a rip-off. Supporters of the demolition are lucky that the bridge is not in Texas, for they would’ve faced a hefty legal battle that would’ve gone to the conservative-laden Supreme Court. The bridge would’ve been left as is. But it’s Saxony and many are scratching their heads as to why the demo against the will of the people- without even putting it to a referendum- happened in the first place. As a former member of the Friends of the Rechenhausbrücke, I’m still shaking my head and asking “Why?”
This story brings out the true meaning of “Half-ass”. The Gregon Street Overpass, which carries the Norfolk and Southern Railroad (NSR) is an 80-year old stringer bridge that has a rather unique characteristic: Its vertical clearance is 11 feet 8 inches (3.56 meters). It’s notorious for ripping off truck trailers, driven by truck drivers who either didn’t see the restriction signs, traffic lights and other barriers or were unwilling to heed to the restrictions because of their dependency on their GPS device (Navi) or their simple ignorance. In October 2019, NSR wanted to raise the bridge to 12 feet 4 inches (3.76 meters) to reduce the collisions. The standard height of underpasses since 1973 have been 14 feet (4.3 meters). End result: the collisions have NOT decreased. Epic fail on all counts!
My suggestion to NSR and the NCDOT: If you don’t want your bridge to be a truck-eater, like with some other bridges that exist in the US, like in Davenport and Northhampton, make the area an at-grade crossing. You will do yourselves and the truck drivers a big favor.
Not far behind the winner is this runner-up. A truck driver carrying 42 tons of beans tries crossing a century-old pony truss bridge, which spans the Goose River and has a weight limit of three tons. Guess what happens next and who got short-changed? The bridge had been listed on the National Register because of its association with Fargo Bridge and Iron and it was the oldest extant in the county. Luckily the driver wasn’t hurt but it shows that he, like others, should really take a math course before going on the road again.
This one gets an award for not only a spectacular disaster that destroyed a multiple Bailey Truss- as filmed in its entirety- but also for the swiftest reply in rebuilding the bridge in order to reopen a key highway. Bailey trusses have known to be easily assembled, regardless of whether it’s for temporary purposes or permanent. Cheers to the inventor of the truss as well as the New Zealand National Guard for putting the bridge back together in a hurry.
No bridge is safe when it comes to flash flooding. Not even concrete arch bridges, as seen in this film on the century-old Chania Bridge in Greece. Flash floods undermined the bridge’s piers and subsequentially took out the multiple-span closed spandrel arch bridge in front of the eyes of onlookers. The photos of the destroyed bridge after the flooding was even more tragic. Good news is that the bridge is being rebuilt to match that of the original span destroyed. But it will never fully replace the original, period.
This category was a real toss-up, for the US went through a series of what is considered one of the biggest wrath of natural disasters on record. In particular, massive amounts of snowfall, combined with extreme temperatures resulted in massive flooding which devastated much of the Midwest during the first five months of the year. The hardest hit areas were in Nebraska, Iowa and large parts of Missouri. There, large chunks of ice took out even the strongest and youngest of bridges along major highways- the most viewed was the bridge near Spencer, Nebraska, where ice jams combined with flooding caused both the highway bridge as well as the dam nearby to collapse. The highway bridge was only three decades old. Even historic truss bridges, like the Sargent Bridge in Custer County were no match for the destruction caused by water and ice. While the region has dried up, it will take months, if not years for communities and the infrastructure to rebuild to its normal form. Therefore this award goes out to the people affected in the region.
Runner-up: Close-up footage of the destruction of the Brunswick Railroad Bridge.
Railroad officials watched helplessly, as floodwaters and fallen trees took out a major railroad bridge spanning the Grand River near Brunswick, Kansas. The railroad line is owned by Norfolk and Southern. The bridge was built in 1916 replacing a series of Whipple truss spans that were later shipped to Iowa for use on railroad lines and later roads. One of them still remains. The bridge has since been rebuilt; the line in use again.
The world’s first cast iron bridge got an extensive makeover in a two-year span, where the cast iron parts were repaired and conserved, new decking was put in and the entire bridge was painted red, which had been the original color when the bridge was completed in 1791. The jewel of Shropshire, England is back in business and looks just like new.
King Ludwig Railroad Bridge in Kempten, Germany:
The world’s lone double-decker truss bridge made of wood, received an extensive rehabilitation, where the spans were taken off its piers, the wooden parts repaired and/or replaced before being repainted, the piers were rebuilt and then the spans were put back on and encased with a wooden façade. A bit different than in its original form, the restored structure features LED lighting which shows the truss work through the façade at night.
Longfellow Bridge in Boston:
This multiple-span arch bridge with a draw bridge span underwent a five-year reconstruction project where every aspect of the bridge was restored to its former glory, including the steel arches, the 11 masonry piers, the abutments, the four tall towers at the main span and lastly the sculptures on the bridge. Even the trophy room underneath the bridge was rebuilt. All at a whopping cost of $306 million! It has already received numerous accolades including one on the national level. This one was worth the international recognition because of the hours of toil needed to make the structure new again.
The runner-up is a local favorite but one that sets an example of how truss bridge restoration can work. The Winona Bridge went through an eight-year project where a new span carrying westbound traffic was built. The cantilever truss span was then covered as it went through a makeover that featured new decking, sandblasting and repairing the trusses and lastly, painting it. To put the icing on the cake, new LED lighting was added. The bridge now serves eastbound traffic and may be worth considering as a playboy for other restorations of bridges of its kind, including the Black Hawk Bridge, located down the Mississippi.
And with that, we wrap up the Author’s Choice Awards for 2019. Now comes the fun part, which is finding out which bridges deserve international honors in the eyes of the voters. Hence, the Bridgehunter’s Awards both in written form as well as in podcast. Stay tuned! 🙂
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