BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 28

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Our 28th Pic of the Week takes us back to 2007 and this bridge in Minnesota- the Kern Bridge. Located south of Mankato, this 1873 product of Wrought Iron Bridge Company is the longest bowstring arch bridge in the US, with a span of 190 feet. It is the second longest in the world behind the Blackfriar’s Bridge in London, Ontario (Canada). The bridge has been closed since 1990 and has been sitting abandoned ever since. Unless something can be done to rehabilitate the bridge, the structure is on the verge of collapse with a cracked abutment and missing planks according to the latest visit by James Baughn. Currently, there is some collaboration behind the bridge’s future in terms of restoring it for reuse. Yet lack of funding and the will to restore it is still imminent We’re looking for some ideas as to what to do with this structure. Does anybody have any ideas?

 

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Forum: The First Bridge You Ever Photographed

 

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Petersburg Road Bridge in Jackson, Minnesota. Built in 1907, the bridge was torn down in 1995. Photo taken in 1992.

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As we celebrate National Historic Bridge Month, one question came to mind that would be worth talking about is the first bridge you ever visited- and photographed.

It’s no joke. 🙂

Bridge enthusiasts, preservationists, historians and bridge photographers became great when they saw and photographed their first historic bridge. Just by looking at its age, unique features and its setting, the bridge provides a person with a chance to cross it from the present into the future aspects. That means, with every plank that you cross, you step even closer to your dream job of being a pontist until you reach the opposite side, and to your destination. Your first bridge is the place where you look beyond its history and towards possibilities that are there for you to learn about, research on and write about or (even teach) the histories that tie everything on this planet together, just by that bridge you visited.

My destination to becoming a teacher and writer started with this bridge- the Petersburg Road Bridge on the south end of Jackson, Minnesota. The bridge was built in 1907 by Joliet Bridge and Iron Company, replacing a bowstring arch bridge that had once spanning the West Fork Des Moines River at this spot. The Pratt through truss span with Howe lattice portals with heel struts was in service until it was closed in 1984 to motorized vehicles and in 1992 to pedestrians. After partially collapsing during the Great Flood of 1993, it was torn down in February 1995. The bridge used to be a primary crossing for people living on the south end of Jackson who wished to visit the north end or even the cemetary that was on the west end. And it was that bridge, where I took my first pics, using them for a science presentation in 7th grade in 1991. And while I never became a civil engineer, my interest in historic bridges grew during my time in college, which led to several articles being written on them.

And with that came the Chronicles, in its current form. After eight years, the column lives on. 🙂

I really don’t know if the interest in saving the bridge would’ve saved the Petersburg Bridge, where I spent my time there with the camera, but the bridge did serve as the call to go out and get some more photos of other bridges, and encourage  people to save them.

 

Now it’s your turn: What was your first bridge that you photographed and what got you to becoming who you are because of that? Feel free to leave a comment below or on the Chronicles’ facebook page.  🙂

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 19

This Pic of the Week takes us to Minnesota, where I was born and raised, and to another bridge used for target practice: The Broadway Avenue Bridge, spanning the Minnesota River, carrying MN Hwy. 99 in St. Peter, located 13 miles (26 km) northeast of Mankato.

Built in 1931, the 400-foot long span features Siamese Pennsylvania through truss spans, molded together to make it one span. The Howe-lattice portal bracings are skewed by 10°. The bridge was rehabbed recently, as a new coat of paint was added, along with new decking and lighting. Yet despite this, the bridge looks somewhat the same as before, minus the color change. Have a look at the difference and see what you think. I’ve stopped at the bridge at least five times for a photo opp. The shot taken before the rehab was in 2013. The shot after the rehab was in July 2018, six months after the rehab was completed. Enjoy! 🙂

Before

 

After

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You can click on the link above to see what else they have done to see for yourself. 🙂

 

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 10

Our next pic of the week is also a throwback dating back to almost a decade ago. This pic was taken at sundown at the Arial Lift Bridge in Duluth, Minnesota in September 2009. It was during that time we celebrated our last day in the States with a couple friends from the Mille Lacs region and we decided to take a day trip up north to see the city, its beautiful landscape and pieces of history that are typical of the city. The Arial Lift Bridge was one of those landmarks. Built as a transporter bridge in 1905, it was converted to a vertical lift bridge in 1930 and hs functioned in its original form ever since. For more details, click here. Nevertheless, the bridge still serves as a gateway to the Great Lakes Region , where ships start their journey through the five largest lakes in the United States before continuing along the St. Lawrence River and into the Atlantic Ocean.

And with that marks the start of the weekend. 🙂  Enjoy the pics and the information on the bridge. If you want to know more about the rest of Duluth’s bridges, click on this link.

 

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 6

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This BHC Pic of the Week is also a throwback, going back eight years to August 2010. Here, in the Minnesota town of Wabasha, on the Mississippi River, one can get a brillant pic of this bridge with the statue of the Dakota native American chief Wabasha in the foreground. The Chief Wabasha, whom the town was named after, had signed a treaty in 1852, ceding land to the United States which is today the southern third of Minnesota. It was the same Wabasha who fought on the side of the Dakota tribe during the War of 1862, which started the process of rounding up and designating them to reservations in the western half of the country. Wabasha was exiled to Nebraska, where he died in 1876. After 28 years of warfare, the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 ended the conquest of freedom for native Americans and the closing of the American frontier. Much of the history can be found at the Native American Museum in Wabasha, where the statue stands.

The bridge itself was built in 1987, and is the youngest through truss bridge on the Mississippi. The polygonal Warren truss span connects the community of 2300 with Nelson (Wisconsin) and is a half mile long from shore to shore. It has recently been renamed in memory of Michael Duane Clickner, a local resident who fought and died in the Vietnam War.

On the day of blue skies and warm temperatures, an afternoon shot was just right for the occasion. However, sometimes morning shots are even better too, if one takes the time to do that- especially in the summer, when the days are much longer and the sun is towards the north- in the direction of the bridge and statue.  🙂

 

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Minneapolis Bridge Company- Minneapolis, MN (USA)

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Granite Falls Suspension Bridge, spanning Minnesota River. Built in 1933

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.

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Kilen Woods Bridge in Jackson County, MN  Built in 1913. Replaced in 2004.

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.

Winona Bridge. Built in 1941

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:

Winona Bridge (Minnesota)

St. Mary Aqueduct (Montana)

Sorlie Memorial Bridge (North Dakota/ Minnesota)

Ortonville Arch Bridge (Minnesota)

Granite Falls Suspension Bridge (Minnesota)

Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter (Minnesota)

Ten Mile Road Bridge (Michigan)

Savanna-Sabula Bridge. Built in 1932. Demolished and replaced in 2018.

Bridges that no longer exist but were built by Minneapolis Bridge Company include the following:

Savanna-Sabula Bridge (Iowa/Illinois)

Kilen Woods Bridge (Minnesota)

Meadow Hill Drive Bridge (Wisconsin)

Walworth Bridge (South Dakota)

Rockdale Viaduct (Iowa)

 

Sources:

Frame, Robert III „A Report on Historic Bridges in Minnesota.“ St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society and Minnesota Department of Transportation, 1985

Gardner, Denis. “Wood + Concrete + Stone + Steel: Minnesota’s Historic Bridges.” Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008

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DWP Railway Trestle in West Duluth, 1977- Mystery Bridge Nr. 90

The first, and at the same time, 90th Mystery Bridge article takes us back to Duluth, Minnesota. As the gateway to the Great Lakes, the third largest city is loaded with bridges in the past and present, including its key landmark, the Ariel Lift Bridge. I compiled an article on the city’s bridges, which was nominated for the 2017 Ammann Awards in the category of Tour Guide US Bridges.  You can acess the tour guide here.

One of the bridges that is not on the list is this bridge that was dug up “In the Attic” by the colleagues at Duluth News Tribune. The Duluth and Winnepeg Viaduct was perhaps the longest railroad viaduct of its kind in the city, and one of the longest in the state. At between 2,000 and 4,000 feet, the viaduct caresses across West Duluth enroute going north towards Winnipeg and parts of Canada. It features multiple steel girder and trestle spans crossing several streets. Wooden trestles split the neighborhood, while it forms a snake-like curve as the rail line runs along Lake Superior and the St. Louis River going southwards; the sharpest curve to the north takes the trains to the Messabi Range and onwards towards Canada.

There is no date on its construction but looking at the records, the Duluth-Winnipeg Route was established in 1901, providing access to the Iron Range, where Hibbing, Virginia and Eveleth were located. It continued on towards the northwestern corner of the state before crossing over into Canada at Emerson in Manitoba, the site of the former US/Canadian Customs station. That station was closed in 2006, leaving the Port of Entry at I-29 and Trans Canada 75 north of Pembina. The route continued to Winnipeg where it joined the main trans-continental route. The route was taken over by Canadian National, which still operates the route today as part of the subsidiary Wisconsin Central.

Despite its continual operation today, the viaduct in West Duluth is long since gone. While it is possible that the viaduct was built at the time of the creation of the railroad line itself (between 1900 and 1903), we don’t know when exactly the railroad viaduct was removed, for despite the line being abandoned in the late 1970s in favor of an alternative line going north, the viaduct was removed after 1983, as shown in the pictures provided by the Duluth News Tribune.

This takes us to the following question, which after looking at the article released by the Tribune should give you some incentive to looking into the history of the bridge. First and foremost, when exactly was the viaduct built and by whom? Secondly, how long was the bridge exactly? And lastly, when was the bridge removed and why? While fear for liability is understandable, there has to be some other concrete reasons for the bridge’s demise. But we won’t know until we click on the link below and do some research to solve this case.

Good luck and happy bridgehunting! 🙂

Source: DWP Railway Trestle in West Duluth, 1977

 

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