HB in Polk County, Arkansas For Sale: Any Takers?

Image may contain: plant, tree, bridge, outdoor and nature

bhc newsflyer new

MENA, ARKANSAS- Polk County, Arkansas has a historic bridge for sale. Built in 1915, the structure has a riveted steel Pratt pony truss design, with timber stringers and a  wooden deck. The parameters of the bridge is 72 feet long and 11.67 feet wide between the trusses. It has been closed for several years, but the structure can be found on Polk County Road 50 near Old Sale Barn in Potter.  Takers of the bridge must take it as is, and it must be removed and transported by licensed contractor with commercial general liability insurance. This is part of the plan to remove the truss bridge and replace it with a new structure. How the truss bridge is repurposed is dependent on the new owner.

Sealed bids will be accepted prior to the auction at 9AM on November 25, 2019 in the basement of the Polk County Courthouse. The courthouse is located at 507 Church AVE, Mena, AR 71953. Bids should be delivered in a sealed envelope and clearly marked “Polk County Road 50 bridge”. The bidder with the acceptable amount will retain responsibilities for the truss bridge, including relocation, restoration and repurposing. Funding may be available to offset the costs.  Inquiries should be made to Polk County Judge, Brandon Ellison at 479-394-8133.


Rig Downs Historic Highway Bridge in Arkansas

Photo taken by Wayne Kizziar in 2011

Semi-truck with skidder brings down 1920s through truss bridge that used to serve three major highways, no one injured.

POTTER, ARKANSAS- Careless and ignorance seems to be the major theme involving historic bridges in the United States and elsewhere, as drivers of large heavy trucks have been illusive in ignoring the restrictions involving crossing a light weight bridge and have taken the chance, even if it meant paying the price for their ignorance.

After the Christmas Day disaster in Paoli, another bridge of similar type has fallen victim to an overwiszed and overweight truck in near Potter in western Arkansas. Police officials are investigating the reasons why the driver of a semi truck with a trailer loaded with a skidder, ignored the weight limit of the Two Mile Creek Bridge and tried crossing the bridge only to drop the 1920 structure into the water. The incident happened on Friday. According to officials, the Pratt through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings, Howe lattice strut bracings and riveted connections, had a weight limit of 6 tons, while the truck’s weight limit was four times the weight limit. The bridge used to carry three different state highways before the county took ownership. The crossing carried US Highways 71 and 59 as well as State Highway 375 before they were relocated on a new (and straighter) alignment. Prior to its collapse, it carried county highway 37.  Its truss design, a riveted Pratt through truss was constructed using standardized truss designs to accomodate the load. Unfortunately, it is unknown who the bridge builder of the 100-foot long crossing was.

It was just unfortunate that the bridge could not accomodate a truckload that was four times its weight limit, as it was seen in the picture below. Considered a total loss, the crossing was the last of the through truss bridges in Polk County. Compounding it with the most recent flooding, the bridge is the second one in a month that became victim. A two-span pony truss bridge was severely damaged by flooding on Christmas Day and its fate is uncertain. As for the driver, charges are pending for wreckless driving and disobeying the weight limit sign. More information will follow.

Side view of the bridge collapse with the rig on there. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Lance
Side view of the bridge collapse with the rig on there. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Lance

REMINDER: Today is the last day to enter your photos, bridges, etc. for the 2015 Ammann Awards. Entries will be taken until 12:00am Central Standard Time. The Voting process will start the following day, which will be posted in the Chrinicles. Get your entries in before it’s too late!!!

bhc new logo newsflyer

Mystery Bridge Nr. 51: The Bridges of Saylorville Lake in Iowa

The Des Moines River at the Woodward Viaduct in Boone County. This is the starting point of Saylorville Lake, which extends to north of Des Moines. Photo taken in August 2013

This Mystery Bridge article is in connection with a book project on the bridges along the Des Moines River. For more information about the book and how you can help, please click here for details.

The next mystery bridge features not only one, but SIX bridges, all within the vicinity of a lake. Saylorville Lake is the second of two man-made lakes along the Des Moines River in Iowa. The other is Red Rock Lake, located between Knoxville and Pella in Marion County (article on that can be found here). Yet Saylorville is the larger of the two, covering an area of 5,950 acres and 9 miles wide. The length of the lake is 17 miles long, starting at Woodward in Boone County and ending north of Des Moines. In the event of flooding, the lake is three times the length, extending as far north as Boone. The size of the lake is over 17,000 acres at flood stage, which was reached twice- in 1993 and 2008. The lake was authorized by the US Army Corps. of Engineers in 1958 as part of the project to control the flooding along the Des Moines River. It took 19 years until the lake was fully operational in September 1977.  Yet like the Red Rock Lake project, the lake came at the cost of many homes and even bridges.

Before Saylorville, six bridges once existed over the Des Moines River within the 17 miles that was later inundated. Five of them consisted of multiple spans of steel truss bridges built between 1890 and 1910. The sixth one consisted of a steel and concrete beam bridge built in 1955 carrying a major highway. All of them were removed as part of the project between 1969 and 1975. Yet some information on the bridge’s type and dimensions were recorded prior to their removal  for load tests were conducted to determine how much weight a bridge could tolerate under heavy loads before they collapse. Only a few pictures were taken prior to the project, yet information is sketchy, for the pictures did not describe the bridges well enough to determine their aesthetic appearance. Despite one of the bridges carrying a plaque, there was no information on the builder. All but two spans have a construction date which needs to be examined to determine their accuracies. In any case, the bridges have historic potential for each one has a history that is unique to the area it served before the lake was created.

While the bridges no longer exist as they are deep under water in a sea that is only 836 feet above sea level (that is the depth of Saylorville Lake when there is no flooding), it is important to know more about their histories so that they are remembered by the locals, historians, pontists and those interested in the history of the region now covered with beaches, marinas and houses. The bridges in question are the following:

Hubby Bridge

Location: Des Moines River at Opal Lane in Boone County

Bridge type: Pennsylvania through truss with A-frame portal bracings and pinned connections (four spans)

Built: 1909

Removed: 1975

Length: 660 feet (160 feet per span)


Chestnut Ford Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River at 145th Lane in Dallas County

Bridge type: Pratt through truss (3 spans total) with Howe Lattice portal bracings (2 spans) and A-frame portal bracing (1 span). Two of the three spans were pinned connected whereas the third span was riveted.

Built: ca. 1900; one of the spans was replaced later.

Removed: 1975?

Length: 480 feet (180 feet per span)


Hanley Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River near Jester Park in Polk County

Bridge type: Pratt through truss (one span); two additional spans existed but type is difficult to recognize.

Built: ca. 1900; two newer spans replaced the original spans damaged in 1953

Removed: 1975

Length: 360 feet total (largest span: 150 feet)


Corydon Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River south of Polk City in Polk County

Bridge type: Pratt through truss with X-frame portal bracings and pinned connections (two spans)

Built: 1889

Removed: 1975 but not before it collapsed under the weight of US Army tanks in 1972

Length: 312 feet total (156 feet per span)


Snyder Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River at 128th Street in Polk County

Bridge type: Pratt through truss with pinned connections. Portal bracing unknown (three spans total)

Built: 1898

Removed: ca. 1975

Length: 444 feet total (148 feet per span)


Hwy. 98 Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River between Woodward and Madrid in Boone County

Bridge type: Steel plate girder

Built: 1955

Replaced: 1973 with higher span

Length: 360 feet

The highway was later changed to Hwy. 210


What is needed from these bridges are the following:

1. More photos to better describe the structure

2. Information on the construction of the bridge, including the bridge builder and the year the bridge was built

3. Information and photos of the removal of the bridge

4. Stories and memories of the bridge during their existence prior to the creation of Saylorville Lake

If you have any useful information about these bridges, please contact Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. The information will be useful for the book project but the Chronicles will keep you posted when information comes in on these bridges. The creation of the lakes along the Des Moines River came at the expense of bridges, villages and some livelihoods. Now it’s a question of piecing together the history of the areas affected to find out what the areas looked like, with the goal of the younger generation remembering them for years to come. This includes the bridges that were erased from the map and in some, memory. And while they are physically gone, history surely will not.

Thanks to Luke Harden for digging up some facts about the bridges as they were documented in a report published prior to the bridges’ removal. Please click on the names of the bridges as they serve as links to the bridges found on bridgehunter- also thanks to his contribution so far.



Jackson Street Bridge Update 18 November, 2013

Side view of the Jackson Street Bridge.

Proposal to Demo the bridge to be brought up at Meeting 26 November; Voting to Commence Christmas Eve

Things are working much faster than anticipated with regards to the Green Bridge in Des Moines. While talks are being scheduled with regards to finding alternatives to demolishing the Jackson Street (Green) and neighboring Waterworks Park Bridges, the Des Moines City Council and the Park Board have officially planned a pair of important meetings, according to many sources, with regards to the future of the Green Bridge. The proposal to demolish the bridge will be presented to the City’s Park Board on November 26th at 5:00pm at the City Council’s Chamber, with voting to commence on Christmas Eve. Already, according to unknown sources, the City’s manager had proposed to demolish the Green and Meredith Trail Bridges last week to the Park Board only to be turned down by a 7-1 vote.  Despite the doom and gloom being presented by many claiming that the Green Bridge is in imminent danger of collapsing, it appears that the problems that led to its closure in March 2013 are fixable which is a good sign. The question is who will do it and how…

For those wanting to express their support for saving the Green Bridge, click here to contact the City’s council members and here to contact the Park Board. You can also like and follow the developments via facebook by clicking here. (800 Likes and counting, which is a very good sign that the interest in saving the bridge is present). Please ensure that you do this before the 26th meeting as well as prior to voting on Christmas Eve. The Chronicles will continue to follow the developments as they are unveiled, but it appears that the race to see who can get to the bridge first, between the bulldozer and the protesters, is off and running, and many people are looking on with great interest. And one will not have to ask who is cheering the loudest at the moment (and will continue to do so to the very end).  🙂

Another Des Moines Historic Bridge slated for the dumpster?

Waterworks Park Bridge. Photo taken by John Marvig in August 2013

Waterworks Park Bridge targeted for replacement with a larger bridge. Plan not yet finalized.

As the fight has started to save the Green Bridge at 5th Avenue over the Raccoon River, the days of another historic bridge located upstream may be numbered. If rumors hold true, the Waterworks Park Bridge, located at the park bearing its name, is being scheduled for demolition and replacement with a wider and bigger bridge. As mentioned in the third part of the series on Des Moines’ bridges, the two-span Pratt pony truss was built in 1922 but was converted to a bike trail crossing in 1999 and has since been serving as one of the key points in the park as well as along the Grey Lake bike trail which runs along the Raccoon River in the southern part of Des Moines. It is unknown whether the truss spans used to serve as a vehicular bridge or if they were relocated from outside. But judging by the photos recently submitted by John Marvig (and can be viewed by clicking here), the bridge’s main spans as well as the approach spans appear to be in great condition. Should there be any concern regarding the bridge, then most likely with the steel piers for they were repaired and reinforced with additional steel to ensure that the structure stays in place inspite of the ice jams and flooding. Yet, most of these problems can be solved by replacing the piers with those that are sturdier, mainly a combination of concrete and steel.

If a bigger bridge is to take place of this truss bridge, then the City will be mistaken if they think that the structure requires minimal maintenance. There is no such thing as a zero-maintenance bridge unless a person wants to replace it every ten years at the expense of tax-payers’ dollars because of structural concerns that were neglected . For any bridge, maintenance is expected to assure the bridge’s long-lasting lifespan, and given the condition of the Waterworks Park Bridge, all it takes is some cosmetic and structural work and the truss bridge will last another 50-60 years. It is highly doubtful that a modern structure, as proposed by the City, can do that, let alone make the park look nicer than it is right now.

While work on saving the Green Bridge is already in full gear, it will not be long until another movement to save this bridge gets going. So stay tuned for the developments.


Fifth Street Pedestrian Bridge now on facebook

Side view of the Jackson Street Bridge.

The struggle to save an important landmark of the City of Des Moines has begun! As recently as this past Tuesday, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, in conjunction with Lost Des Moines has launched a facebook site devoted to preserving the Fifth Street Bridge, spanning the Raccoon River connecting Des Moines’ city center with the southern suburbs (more info on the bridge’s history can be found here). The Save the Jackson Street- Fifth Street Pedestrian Bridge facebook page is a platform where people can contribute photos, information and stories on this structure (nicknamed Green Bridge), as well as address pleas to the City of Des Moines, which owns the bridge as part of the bike trail system, to reconsider the recent decision to close the structure permanently and remove it. Right now, we’re collecting the first 1,000 Likes, with the bar being raised after reaching the goal. Once the mark is reached, there will be many measures to bring all parties together and find ways to fix and reopen this important link. A petition drive and informational meetings are two of many ideas that are being considered. Like and follow this page (by clicking here) as updates will be presented as they come.

While most information and updates will be found through the facebook page, the Chronicles will continue to provide stories on historic bridge preservation examples, including looking at ways historic bridges can be restored, being a reference for this bridge as well as others that are in danger of being demolished and replaced. This in addition to the bridge tours and the like.  Like and follow on the Chronicles’ facebook and twitter pages and stay tuned for more stories to come.

What to do with a Historic Bridge: Fifth Street Pedestrian Bridge in Des Moines






/* Style Definitions */
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;

Fifth Avenue/ Jackson Street Pedestrian Bridge in Des Moines. Photo taken in August 2013

The Fifth Street Pedestrian Bridge, also known as the Green Bridge, is one of many bridges of its kind that is part of Des Moines’ heritage because of its contribution to the city’s history and infrastructure. Built in 1898 by a local bridge builder, J.H. Killmar, with help from the George E. King Bridge Company, using steel from the Jones and Laughlin Steel Company of Pittsburgh, the Green Bridge features three Pratt through truss spans that are pinned connected and have Howe Lattice portal bracings that resemble the characteristics of the through truss spans built by King at that time. Yet the uniqueness of the bridge lies not within its aesthetic design and its integral part of the City’s network along the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers, but within its history.

Already at the start of the bidding for a new crossing, there was a bidding war regarding where the structure should be built between the “East Siders” who wanted a crossing over the Des Moines River at Sixth Street to provide a key connection between the City and the agricultural areas, and the “West Siders” who wanted a crossing at Fifth Street over the Raccoon River to provide access to the business district from the south end. This was in connection with the $30,000 in unappropriated funds the city council had put up for grabs. The “West Siders”, led by the Clifton Land Company, won the competition and the bidding was let out to the bridge company who would put a crossing over the Raccoon River, while land owners foot the bill for the abutments and flood control. The contract was given to J.H. Killmar in July 1896, but was not validated due to a lawsuit brought forth by the competing bridge contractors, who practiced the bidding combine- a practice where competing bridge companies “…would appoint several high bidders and one low bidder for each project. In this fashion, they could predict who would win the project, the low-bidder, and each contractor would take turns submitting the lowest bid for various projects. The only snag in this plan is that all contractors bidding on a project must be members of the combine for the scheme to work successfully.”(Fraser, 1993)  According to the bridge survey conducted in 1993, such bidding practice was considered immoral and illegal, and Killmar managed to be the outsider who received a generous contract allowing him to build his masterpiece. While the Lower Court ruled in favor of the bridge combine, Killmar and the City appealed to the State Supreme Court, which overturned the ruling on October 27th, 1897. Right after the ruling, Killmar commenced with his work, and despite bad weather and delays in the shipment of steel and other materials, the bridge was completed on June 22nd, 1898, at the cost of $19,000.

The bridge served traffic for 95 years until structural issues, caused by wear and tear, combined with damages from the Great Flood of 1993 forced its closure. Yet because of its significance to the city’s history, plus it represented one of the finest examples of bridges built by Killmar and King, the bridge received its listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. At the same time, the structure was rehabilitated and converted to bike and pedestrian trail use and became an integral part of the City’s bike trail system. It is one of eight bridges in the city that one can see lit up at night and still provides access to the southern suburbs from the city center.

With all the conflicts that had occurred when constructing the bridge, there is one on the horizon involving its possible demolition and removal. Structural deficiencies in the bridge led the City to close the bridge in March 2013, and the bridge has been closed since then. Word has gone around the City that the closure will be indefinite with plans to remove the entire structure being decided upon by the city council.  A lot is at stake with this bridge, yet the reasons for the demolition seem lame. The Army Corp. of Engineers claim that there are too many bridges along the Raccoon River making the southern part of the city vulnerable, yet there are just as many bridges along the Des Moines River going through downtown as the ones along the Raccoon. Even more notable are the bridge types, for the Fifth Street Bridge is the only bridge of its kind remaining along the Raccoon River, and all it would take is to raise the structure four feet to alleviate the floodwaters, which occurs once in 100 years. It would be mammoth of an effort to do the same thing with the concrete arch bridges located next to the bridge.  Then there is the claim of structural issues, which included problems with the bridge decking and the questionable repairs made on the bridge in 1998. Yet they were not specified in detail for people to understand.  This should lead to questions being raised as to: 1. What exactly are the structural issues noted on the bridge, 2. Could they be fixed at an affordable price (99.9% of the time, the answer to that question is “yes.”), and finally, 3. Why were these structural issues not addressed when the bridge was rehabilitated and converted into a pedestrian/bike crossing 15 years ago?  If the claim that the City does not want to maintain the bridge anymore is true (which was mentioned by many discussing about the situation), then the council members are a mile away from reality, for the City is obliged to maintain all of its bridges, including the pedestrian ones, to ensure that they are safe and they last a long time.


It is unknown what the future holds for the bridge, but the majority of the population favors fixing and reopening the bridge. Even more so, they demand an explanation as to why they are unwilling to put more money into a bridge like this one, which appears to be in pristine condition with perhaps some minor repairs and new paint needed, which will cost half the amount the City claimed it will cost ($1.75 million in comparison to $750,000 needed to demolish the bridge).  Furthermore, as the bridge is a National Landmark, the City will eventually be locking horns with the State and Federal Governments, which will force them to reconsider their stance. It was already done with the Cedar Avenue Bridge in Bloomington, Minnesota, 150 miles north of the state capital, back in August, even though problems the bridge has is similar to what is on the Green Bridge. Work will commence on restoring the five-span truss bridge next year, with a target plan of reopening it in 2015. With successes involving the Cascade and Wagon Wheel Bridges, the State will not hesitate to put a stop to the plans, which will be a blessing to those who favor keeping the Green Bridge in tact.


In the end, the future of the bridge will lie in the hands of the people of the City. While the CGW Railroad Bridge was demolished due to flood damage and arson which made even restoring the structure useless, the City will not accept losing another historic bridge because of something that can be fixed. With fewer truss bridges left in the state, people will stand for the Green Bridge and at least be allowed to vote on it through a referendum. Then they can decide whether they want the bridge restored or replaced.


The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will be following the situation closely and keep you informed on the bridge’s future. In the meantime, have a look at the photos of the bridge by clicking here and you are free to decide how to repair the unique structure with a history that people want to keep.

Mystery Bridge Nr. 33: Old truss bridge in Des Moines

Old Euclid Avenue Bridge in Des Moines. Photo courtesy of Iowa DOT Archives.

Before diving into a rather large third and final part of the tour through Des Moines, Iowa looking at the history of truss bridges, there is one bridge to consider because of its rather unique history. While there were many bridges whose information is scarce and would require an in-depth research through the city and railroad archives, the Euclid Avenue Bridge is a unique structure that should not be ignored. The three-span Pratt through truss bridge spanned the Des Moines River from 1931 until its removal as part of the urban renewal project that was initiated after the Great Flood in 1993. Yet according to records found in bridgehunter.com, the bridge was located in two different places: the first crossing was at Euclid Avenue but only lasted two years. A haunched concrete arch bridge took its place and has been serving traffic for over 80 years. The bridge ended up at the location of 2nd Avenue, where it served as a replacement to an earlier truss bridge from 1935 until its eventual removal.

Photo courtesy of Iowa DOT Archives

The reason for the assumption? The spans between the span at 2nd Avenue and the one at Euclid Avenue are identical according to the photos. Yet looking more closely at the 2nd Avenue site, the bridge served inter-rail traffic, a streetcar service which transported people from point A to point B for three decades until it was discontinued. However, photos from the 2nd Avenue site showed that the bridge was narrowed, making one researcher interpret that it might have a different structure that was built at that location and not the one at Euclid Avenue.

Even more puzzling is the entire structure itself, for it featured three spans but whose portal bracings and other features were totally different: the outer spans had Town Lattice portals and appeared as if they were King Bridge Company structures, whereas the center span had an M-frame design. This leads to the conclusion that the bridges may have been imported to Des Moines from elsewhere and assembled by the local bridge building company.

This leads to several questions that need to be clarified, namely:

1. If the bridge was brought in from outside the community, where were they originally built and when?

2. Who was responsible for bringing in the three spans to be erected in 1931 at the Euclid Avenue site, let alone relocate them to the Second Avenue site in 1933-35?

3. Were the trusses narrowed to accomodate rail traffic at the 2nd Avenue site, or was there another bridge built next to the 2nd Avenue Bridge that accomodated rail traffic?

4. What did the 2nd Avenue Bridge look like prior to its removal in 1993 and was that year the correct date of the bridge’s removal?

This case would require any research in the form of newspapers, oral stories and most importantly, photos. Do you have the information on this bridge? If so, please send them to the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com and help out on solving this rather unique mystery involving this bridge.

While the Euclid Avenue Bridge was unique in itself, there are other truss bridges that deserve as much recognition as this one, even though some of them have vanished into the history books. More on them in the next article….


The Bridges of Des Moines Part II: The Arch Bridges

Court Avenue Bridge in Des Moines Photos taken in August 2011

After a night photo tour of the bridges in Iowa’s state capital, the next segment will look at the arch bridges serving the city of 250,000. Like many cities in the US, these bridge types were successors to truss bridges built between 1870 and 1880 and made of either iron or steel. In one case, the predecessor was a Post through truss bridge, reported to have been the lone bridge of its kind built in the state. These bridges were built out of concrete, either made with gravel or clay. Two periods should be noted when the bridges were built: the one between 1909 and 1920, when these bridges were built using a closed spandrel design. Four of them were built using a combination of gravel and clay as materials, albeit three of them are still in service today. Then there was the period between 1918 and 1940, where the structures were built using the open spandrel design and gravel for concrete as materials. The Scott Avenue and the previously mentioned Meredith Bikeway Bridges are the youngest bridges that are still standing in Des Moines, each built in 1937 during the period of the Works Progress Administration. Most of the bridge construction were the work of a local bridge builder who became known for his patented rainbow arch bridges. James B. Marsh dominated the bridge building scenery, first while working for the King Bridge Company with its branch office in Des Moines and later as an independent entity known as the Marsh Bridge Company. While there is speculation that the Seventh Street Bridge over Raccoon River may have been built by him (judging by the arch design that is similar to the rainbow arch), he is credited for building four of the arch bridges in Des Moines, one of which was with the help of another bridge engineer, George Koss, whose business was (and still is)  located in Des Moines, as well.

All but two of these bridges are being renovated even as this article is being posted. The reason for this is to strengthen them against the floodwaters. This is all part of the long-term plan to ease flooding which had affected the city on four different occasions: 1993, 2008, 2011 and last year. How exactly will this be done remains to be seen, but already work is being carried out on the Scott Avenue Bridge at present. The plan is to rehabilitate the bridge one-by- one before 2020, while raising the dikes and the Red Bridge.  Two of the bridges are not affected, for the Grand Avenue Bridge over Walnut Creek has been replaced and the St. John’s Road Bridge is spared from the work because of its location away from the Raccoon River.

Despite the construction going on, one can see the bridges in their place while touring Des Moines, even though the best time to photograph them are either in the day time or on a cloudy evening when the city lights illuminate the skies. Here are the bridges worth seeing while in Des Moines (just click onto the names to get to the external links):

Locust Street Bridge:   The Locust Street Bridge has the reputation of being the only crossing to have been built twice by the same builder. James B. Marsh built the three-span Pratt through truss bridge in the 1880s while working for the King Bridge Company. He later replaced it with the present bridge in 1909. The bridge features a closed spandrel arch bridge with the gravel concrete arch being filled in with  brown-colored clay. The bridge is 447 feet long with six spans total. It was rehabilitated in 1967 as part of the urban renewal project and remnants can be seen on the bridge, going beyond the 60s-style street lamps. Yet it will not be long before a rehabilitation and renovation will come to this bridge, prolonging its life and making it more attractive.

Court Avenue Bridge:
Located over the Des Moines River, this 496 foot long bridge features five spans of the closed spandrel arch bridge and is the most ornamental of the arch bridges in Des Moines. The bridge was designed by James Marsh and constructed by George Koss’s company in 1917 and serves as a key link between Des Moines’ city center and the State Capitol. The bridge was rehabilitated in 1986 as part of the construction project to redesign the street and eliminate the Capitol Hill Tunnel (the latter occurred in 1992). Today, it still serves as the important link between the two entities, with the lighting making it more attractive to photographers at night. This bridge replaced the Post through truss bridge built in the 1870s and is the only one known to have been built in Iowa thusfar.

Grand Avenue Bridges The Grand Avenue Bridges featured two closed spandrel arch bridges located within four miles of each other: the Walnut Creek Bridge, which was built in 1914 and featured two spans totalling 168 feet, and the Des Moines River crossing, built in 1918 and totalling 495 feet worth of six spans and looking identical to the Locust Street Bridge. The 1914 bridge was recently demolished and is being replaced at the time of this post, whereas the 1918 span is slated for extensive rehabilitation in the near future.

Walnut Street Bridge: Spanning the Des Moines River, this bridge was one of four built by James Marsh and features a closed spandrel arch bridge design similar to the ones on Locust Street and Grand Avenue. The 1911 structure features five arches totalling 503 feet, yet like the Locust Street Bridge, it has seen better days since its rehabilitation in 1967 featuring modern railings and 60s-style street lamps. Yet with its next rehabilitation, it might change that state. Interesting fact is the fact that the bridge replaced a bowstring arch bridge built in 1871. Although unknown who the bridge builder was, it appeared to have been the longest bridge of its kind in the state and even surpassing the still exant Kern Bridge in Mankato in neighboring Minnesota. Evidence is needed to support this claim, though.

Scott Avenue Bridge  
The Scott Avenue Bridge is located over the Des Moines River at the junction of the Raccoon River and the Meredith Bikeway Bridge. Built in 1937, this bridge may have been part of the Works Progress Administration project, authorized by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to get people back into the work force. The five-span open spandrel arch bridge is 747 feet long and the thickness of the arch is similar to the Seventh Street Bridge spanning Raccoon River. But it is unknown whether Marsh, Koss or another bridge builder was responsible for building this bridge. During the visit in 2013, the bridge was closed to all traffic because of rehabilitation. But it did not stop those from making a stop at the nearby Mullet’s restaurant, which serves local specialties, including fish and the like.


Seventh Street Raccoon River Bridge 
The Seventh Street Bridge over Raccoon River is the second longest but the tallest of the deck arch bridges in Des Moines. Built in 1915, the bridge is 800 feet long with the height above water being over 40 feet. The bridge features a four-span open spandrel arch bridge which can be easily seen from a mile away. Yet the best photo opportunity can be found at the Fifth Street Pedestrian Bridge.

University Avenue Bridge  
More information is needed for the University Avenue Bridge, located north of the I-235 Bridge. According to current data, the bridge was built in 1920, although when exactly it was built, let alone who built it was unknown. It is known that the bridge is an open spandrel arch bridge featuring seven arches, totalling 850 feet, making it the longest bridge of its type in Des Moines. Although not visible from the interstate bridge, one can see it from the bike trail going along the Des Moines River, which the bridge serves. The bridge serves as an important link between Drake University on the west end of the bridge and the Iowa State Fair, located two miles to the east.

St. John’s Road Bridge  Located over an unnamed creek north of Water Works Park, the St. John’s Road Bridge is famous for its ornamental bracings made of concrete, together with the rest of the one-span closed spandrel arch span. Built in 1900, the bridge is only 40 feet long, yet its features will make the driver pull over for a short photo opportunity.

While most of the arch bridges are still in use, the truss bridges on the other hand have disappeared in large numbers, making it very difficult to determine when they were built and who were the contractors for these metal bridges. In the third part of the series on Des Moines’ bridges, we’ll focus on the lost bridges of Des Moines but will feature the ones that were not mentioned but are still important parts of the city’s history. The bridges mentioned in the first and second part and the CGW Railroad Bridges will not be a part of this article for their histories have been mentioned already.

Newsflyer: 31 May, 2013

Fifth Avenue Bridge in Des Moines (now closed until further notice). Photo taken in August 2011

One bridge was altered and restored to traffic. Another bridge’s future is in limbo after inspections reveal structural issues, and another bridge will be torn down if no one claims it by July. These are the top three headlines that the Chronicles has for its Newsflyer on the last day of May. This is in addition to what Mother Nature has been giving people on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Already places along the Mississippi River are experiencing high water signaling another Grand Flood of enormous proportions similar to 1993. In Germany, and parts of Europe, heavy rains in the last two days, combined with more to come over the weekend may set the stage for flooding of biblical proportions- the first since 2002. And with that, many of the bridges will be in the way of floodwaters. But before tallying up bridges that may be in danger (let’s hope not), let’s have a look at these headlines:

Two Des Moines Bridges to be gone- Fifth Avenue Bridge the third one to go?

In the past six months, the City of Des Moines has seen a change in landscape as far as bridges are concerned. While the Red Bridge will be raised four feet to accomodate potential floodwaters, the CGW Railroad Bridge, located at the south end of the city center will be no more. According to sources closest to the Chronicles, the last of the original four spans of through trusses will be dismantled bit by bit, with the goal of wiping the bridge off the map by the end of July.  This will be the second historic bridge behind the Grand Avenue Arch Bridge spanning Walnut Creek to be demolished. The arch bridge is currently undergoing bridge replacement after the 1926 arch bridge was demolished in November.

It is possible that the three-span truss bridge, spanning the Raccoon River, carrying the name Fifth Avenue and Jackson Avenue, may be the next bridge to be demolished despite the fact that the structure was converted to a pedestrian crossing 15 years ago. The Pratt through truss bridge with Howe portal and strut bracings, built in 1898 by King Bridge Company and two Des Moines engineering firms was closed to all traffic in March of this years due to reports of structural issues involving rust and corrosion. Yet this bridge, which is well lit at night, is part of the city riverside development and is a top concern for many preservationists, who do not want to see the bridge gone. The future is in doubt as questions are being raised as to how to handle this problem, so that the bridge can be reopened to pedestrians. More to come in the Chronicles.

Photo taken by James Baughn







Wilton Springs Bridge to be torn down if no one claims it

Spanning the South Fork southeast of Marshall in Saline County, the 1899 Central Bridge Company structure featured a Pratt through truss span with A-frame portal bracing. It has been sitting abandoned for six years, but now, the county wants to relieve itself of the burden. People wanting the bridge have until July 1 to claim the bridge and relocate it for reuse. Should no one come to claim it, the once ornated structure will be torn down when the contract is let, which should be no later than 2015.  More information on the bridge and how it can be purchased can be found here as well as through James Baughn’s website.

Checkered House Bridge in Vermont widened and reopened:

Built in 1929 by the American Bridge Company, the Checkered House Bridge, which spans the Winooski River near Richmond is a Pennsylvania petit through truss bridge with a length of 350 feet long. Its despite its green color, its origin came from the Checkerboard House, located adjacent to the bridge and like the giant structure, is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The bridge was the focus of an enormous rehabilitation effort that was completed last weekend, as the bridge was widened by 10 feet, making the structure’s width be 30 feet long. This year-long task consisted of cutting the upper chord in half, moving one half over 10 feet, adding steel to support the widened structure, adding an additional X-frame portal bracing, putting a new decking on, and lastly, painting the bridge red in color. In addition, the road, US Hwy. 2 was also widened and realigned to help control the flow of traffic across the bridge. The bridge was reopened three days ago and Kaitlin O’shea has some pictures and highlights of the event, which can be seen here.  The project page will feature some information on the project. While a couple truss bridges have been widened in the past, including one in New Jersey and the Washington Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, this one is the only one of its kind in the US that was widened because of the magnitude of the structure.