2018 Author’s Choice Awards: Mr. Smith makes his picks

Lowe Bridge in White County, Illinois. Photo taken by Melissa Brand-Welch

Before announcing the official winners of the 2018 Ammann Awards, it’s time to take a look at the winners of the Author’s Choice Awards. Here, the author of the Chronicles (yours truly) picks out the best and worst in terms of bridges. And for this year, there is plenty of fame to go around. So without further ado, let’s take a look at my picks to close off a busy year.

 

Spectacular Bridge collapse

USA:

Florida International (niversity Bridge in Miami- There are accidents with fatalities that are caused by natural disasters, then we have some caused by human error. The Florida International University Bridge in Miami, which had been built by FIGG Bridge Engineering was one that collapsed on March 15th, killing six people was one that was caused by human error. Faulty design combined with a lack of thorough inspection caused the double decker bridge to collapse in broad daylight, turning a dozen cars passing underneath into steel pancakes. Most of the fatalities were from people who were squished underneath. It was later revealed the FIGG and four other companies had violated seven regulations resulting in fines totalling $89,000. Yet they are not out of the woods just yet, due to lawsuits pending against them.  It is unknown whether a new pedestrian bridge will be built.

Honorably mentioned:

Kingsland Bridge in Texas- We have accidents caused by mother nature that produced no fatalities and not even the most modern of bridges can withstand. A pair of runner-ups come to mind on the American side: The bridges that were lost in the worst forest fire in California history, and this one, the Kingsland Viaduct, a 50-year old bridge spanning Lake Llano that was washed away by floodwaters on October 6th. Fortunately here, no casualties were reported. A new bridge is being built.

 

International:

Morandi Viaduct in Genoa, Italy- It was the collapse of the year. The Morandi Viaduct in Genoa in Italy collapsed on 14 August during a severe storm. 22 people were killed, many of them had been crossing the concrete cable-stayed suspension bridge at the time of the collapse. The work of bridge engineer Ricardo Morandi had been under scrutiny due to defects in the decking and concrete cables and it was a matter of a simple storm to bring part of the bridge down. It served as a wake-up call for the Italian Government as it introduced strict standards for bridges afterwards, also in Europe. Other Morandi bridges are being examined with replacement plans being put together. As for this bridge, the 54-year old structure is currently being replaced with a steel/concrete beam viaduct, which is expected to be finished by 2020.

Chiajara Viaduct in Colombia- Runner-up here is another cable-stayed bridge, but located in the forest near Bogota. Here one didn’t need a storm to bring down the partially-built bottle-shaped cable-stayed suspension bridge, which happened on 15 January. 200 people were attending a seminar when the collapse happened, unfortunately those who were on the bridge- about 20 workers- were not so lucky. Eight were killed and others were injured, some critically.  The completed half of the bridge was taken down six months later. It is in the process of being rebuilt.

 

Biggest Bonehead Story:

We had a lot of eye-rolling and forehead-slapping stories in this category. So we’ll start at the place where anything can happen: The United States

USA:

Man Destroys Historic Bridge in Indiana, Gets Sentenced and Asks for a Retrial- This really bonehead story goes back to the now extant Hohmann Railroad Bridge, which used to span the Grand Calumet River near Hammond. The person was arrested and tried on federal charges of not only trespassing onto the bridge, but destroying property for the sake of scrap metal- without even a permit. His claim: no one owns it so the metal was his. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison without parole, yet he just recently asked for a retrial- for treating him unfairly in court and for wrongful judgement! Mr. President (Donald J. Trump): I have the perfect candidate for you to replace Elaine Chao as Head of the US Department of Transportation! He’s that type of guy!

Truck Driver Destroys Covered Bridge in East Chicago Days after Its Reopening- If the mother of this driver was at the scene of this rather careless accident, the person would have had a lesson of a lifetime, known as You break it, you fix it! On 28 June, 16 days after it reopened and was designated as a historic structure, Mr. Eriberto Orozco drove his truck through the covered bridge, ignoring the warning signs and sensors, and plowing smack dab into the newly restored structure. When he got out of the truck, he smiled. He has since been cited for reckless driving and destruction of property. The covered bridge is considered a total loss.

 

International:

Three-Bridge Solution in Saxony- The battle between preservation and progress got a bit hairier and went way over the top with this story: A stone arch bridge had to be rebuilt elsewhere, moved aside for a modern bridge. Unfortunately, as you can see in the video, things went south in a hurry. Watch and find out what happened and why we have three bridges instead of one. The story is in the documentary Voss & Team and starts in the 11th minute.

 

Best example of a restored historic bridge: 

 

International:

Blackfriars Street Bridge-  This year’s awards are the year of the bowstring arch bridge for there were some great examples of restored bridges of this kind that have been reported. While the Paper Mill Bridge won the Ammann Awards in two categories, the Author’s Choice goes directly to the Blackfriars Street Bridge because of the painstaking task of dismantling, sandblasting and repairing (in some cases replacing) and reassembling the structure back into place. All within 18 months time, keeping the historic integrity in mind and the fact that the bridge still holds the world’s record for longest of its kind. This is one that will be discussed in the historic bridge community for years to come and one that deserves some kind of recognition of sorts.

Silk Road Bridge in Turkey- Runner-up in this category goes to the Silk Road Bridge in Turkey. The over 700-year old structure features a multiple span stone arch bridge, built at the beginning of the Ottoman Empire. The bridge underwent an extensive renovation project to strengthen the arches and super structure and put new decking in. The bridge looks just like new. A link to the project is here: https://www.dailysabah.com/turkey/2018/12/26/restoration-of-5-centuries-old-silk-road-bridge-in-central-turkey-completed

USA:

A pair of bridges visited during my US trip definitely deserve some recognition for its work. The Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter, Minnesota is one of them. The 1930s two-span through truss bridge underwent a makeover in 2017 with new decking and lighting, fixing some truss parts and a new coat of paint. The forest green colored bridge looks like it was newly built. It’s definitely one for the ages.  The other bridge worth noting is the State Street Bridge in Bridgeport, Michigan. The 112-year old two-span Pratt through truss bridge was restored in 2016 where the trusses were taken apart, sandblasted and painted. Some of the truss parts were bent and needed to be straightened. A new pier and new decking followed. The bridge is now one of the key components of the county historical museum, where a collection of historic houses and a park line up along Main Street, adjacent to the Cass River crossing.

 

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The Hidden Gem: Best Find of a Historic Bridge

Originally meant for finding only one historic bridge, I had to make some exceptions for two of the notables that deserve to be recognized. Henceforth, let’s have a look at the winners of the Author’s Choice in this category:

USA:

The Bridges of White County, Illinois- Fellow Bridgehunter Melissa Brand-Welch found a collection of abandoned truss bridges in this southeastern Illinois county, each of which had its unique design and history. There are at least six through truss bridges and numerous pony trusses that one can find here. Each of them have potential to be restored and reused as a bike/pedestrian crossing. This county got second place in the category of Tour Guide for American Bridges in the 2018 Ammann Awards, while Ms. Brand-Welch won in the Best Bridge Photo category with her oblique photo of the Siglar Bridge. Winning the Author’s Choice Awards in this category should be the third and most convincing reason for county officials to act to collaborate on saving these precious structures. If not, then Ms. Brand-Welch has at least three accolades in her name.

Camelback Girder Bridge in Wakefield, Michigan- Runner-up is this small crossing. Michigan is famous for its camelback girder bridges of concrete, for dozens were built between 1910 and 1925. This bridge, located 500 feet away from a park in Wakefield, is easy to miss unless the oversized chair next to the shelter catches you. Then during your stop for a photo and picnic, you will see it. May be a boring concrete structure to some, but it is unique enough for a brief stop.

International:

In the international category we have three bridges that deserve recognition because they are either rare to find or are rarely recognized by the public. We’ll start off with the first bridge:

Höpfenbrücke in Pausa-Mühltropf (Vogtland), Germany- Located just off a major highway, 15 kilometers west of Plauen in Saxony, this bridge was built in 1396 and was an example of a typical house bridge- a bridge with houses either on the structure or in this case, on the abutments. This structure was restored recently after flood damage forced its closure. The bridge is definitely worth the stop as it is one of three key points the village has to offer. The other two are the palace and the city center, where the bridge is located in.

Pul Doba Suspension Bridge- One of the fellow readers wanted some information about this bridge. It is one of a half dozen in India whose towers is shaped like one of the towers of a castle. It was built in 1896 but we don’t know who built it. We do know that this bridge is a beauty.

The Bridges of Conwy, Wales-  How many bridges does it take to get to a castle? Three, according to the city of Conwy in Wales, which has three structures that lead to one of the most popular places in the country: an arch bridge for traffic, a chain suspension bridge for pedestrians and a box through girder with towers for trains. Not bad planning there, especially as they fit the landscape together despite its space issues with the channel and the penninsula.

 

This sums up my picks for 2018. While we will see what 2019 will bring us for historic bridges, we will now take a look at the results of the Ammann Awards, which you can click here. Remember the results include a podcast powered by SoundCloud.

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Flooding Washes Out 1960s Era Viaduct in Texas

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Lake LBJ/Llano River Crossing connecting Kingsland Washed Out by Flash Floods. No Casualties Reported.

Sometimes communities have one key crossing that is considered an icon to some but to the most, the lifeline that connects families and brings families together. The Kingsland Crossing is that key icon that keeps the community of Kingsland in central Texas together. Built in 1969 to replace a multiple-span Parker through truss Bridge, this 1200-foot Long, multiple-span concrete stringer bridge carries Texas Highway 2900 and connects the community to the North and the areas to the south, including Sunrise Beach Village. The river it spans is actually a lake that was created in 1950 under the name Granite Lake Shoals, where the Llamo and Colorado Rivers meet. Yet the lake was renamed after Lyndon B. Johnson, the US President who succeeded John F. Kennedy after he was assassinated on 22 November, 1963.

Sadly as of 16 October, 2018, the Kingsland Crossing is no more. Floodwaters that afternoon washed out 80% of the entire bridge after it had flowed over the roadways. No one was on the Bridge at that time as it had been closed off. Water levels in the region rose to over 13 feet above flood stage, thus forcing the evacuations of hundreds along the area. One person has been reported dead as of this post. A pair of videos shows the bridge as it was being carried away by the floodwaters as well as drone footage of the bridge remnants after flood levels had receded:

There is no word yet as to how much damage the flooding has inflicted in the area nor how people will be able to access the area temporarily until a new span is built. This Bridge should not be mistaken for another Kingsland Bridge that exists, which is The Slab. Built during the era of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the low-water crossing spans the Llamo River over granite cliffs, etc. at Highway 3404 and is a popular attraction for sunbathers, swimmers and hikers. Even though the Slab is flooded on various occasions, it is unknown whether it survived this flood. More news will come as the river levels go down and people survey the damage and casualties.

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Kingsland has a population of 4,600 inhabitants and is located 65 miles northwest of Austin, the state capital of Texas. The nearest City is Llano., which is 20 miles to the southeast. Kingsland is famous for the Grand Central Cafe Restaurant and Club Car Bar, the site where the Horror film Texas Chainsaw Massacre was produced in the 1980s. The Slab can be see in this clip below:

 

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San Antonio River Walk Tour and Bridges

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Hays Street Bridge in San Antonio. Photo taken in 2015 by Royce and Bobette Haley

San Antonio, Texas- one of the most unique cities in the state. With a population of 1.5 million inhabitants, the city, which was founded by the Spanish over 200 years ago, is rich in its history and cultural heritage. It is home of the Alamo, the site of the battle for Texas where all of the rangers who fought the troops under Santa Ana lost their lives, triggering the famous cry by Sam Houston, which won the war against the Mexicans. It is home of the San Antonio Spurs basketball team with its storied history of championships in the NBA. And it is home of the famous River Walk and its numerous bridges along the route.

While San Antonio has as many bridges as Pittsburgh, the majority of the city’s historic bridges are located along the River Walk. The idea of the River Walk dates back to a tragedy that took many lives more than 90 years ago. In 1921, flooding along the river devastated much of San Antonio, killing 90 people. It was when city planners undertook a massive effort to create a series of dams and diversion canals, designed to reroute the river around the city. While work commenced on the Olmos Dam and diversion canals in 1926, the conservation society stopped a proposal to construct a pavement sewer canal, thus leading to one local architect who conceived an idea which became the face of today’s city center.

Robert Hugman (1902-1980) submitted his plan for the canal and riverwalk project in 1929. Despite opposition to the plan, Hugman received backing from mayor Jack White, who in 1938 passed a bond that resulted in the beautification of the city center along the river. There, 4 kilometers of canals, walkways and many bridges were constructed as part of the Works Progress Administration, resulting in the increase of commerce and tourism. Many bridges crossing the River Walk today date back to the late 1930s.

This takes us to a pair of videos that will show you the River Walk area according to boat tour. While the Hays Street Bridge is not among those crossing the river, there are some others that are as old as the 1887 structure but were brought to the River Walk area.

Can you find out how many bridges cross the River Walk area? And if so, which types of bridges and from which eras did they come from. Click onto the data file from bridgehunter.com (here) and compare. You will be amazed at the number of (many historic) bridges that you can see while touring by boat.

Good luck! 🙂

Video:

 

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Overheight Truck Sheers Through Truss Bridge in Texas

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Photo taken by Brent Tindall, Public Domain

Historic Highway Bridge Closed Indefinitely after Truck Rams into Bridge with the Trailer Set on High.

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DALLAS-FT. WORTH/ GLEN ROSE- Less than one week after a historic bridge in Iowa was lost to an overweight truck, another historic bridge may be destined for scrap heap because of another accident. Yet this time, it involved a truck, whose trailer was far too high for the bridge’s overhead clearance.

The Glen Rose Bridge, located over the Brazos River on US Highway 67 between Glen Rose and Ft. Worth, is currently closed to traffic after a trucker travelled through the cantilever through truss structure with a raised loader, tearing through the portal and sway bracings of the bridge before stopping a third of the way through. The vertical clearance for the 1300-foot cantilever Warren structure is 15 feet! The 1947 structure had been renovated in 2009 to accomodate westbound traffic with the east bound traffic serving the newer structure. It is unknown if the loader, which was in a diagonal position at the time of entering the bridge, was raised intentionally, or if there was either technical or driver error. The driver, who was unhurt in the accident, has been cited for driving with an overheight truck across the bridge, yet more dire consequences may be coming for him and the trucking firm as costs for repairs will need to be calculated.

The 70-year old bridge is currently closed to traffic with all westbound traffic being shifted to the newer, eastbound bridge. It is unknown how much work will be needed on the bridge, but officials at Texas Department of Transportation estimate the westbound bridge being closed for up to a year, be it extensive repairs or a full-blown replacement.

This is the second such accident in less than four years. The Skagit River Interstate 5 Bridge collapsed on 23 May, 2013 after a truck struck its portal bracings, causing one span to collapse. It took less than five months to construct a replacement before reopening the bridge, which still serves I-5 in Mt. Vernon, Washington.

While the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on latest on the Glen Rose Bridge, have a look at the extent of the damage by clicking here. Be careful, the damage may be graphic to some viewers.

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The portal bracings are like the red door of the house of the Burnham family in the film American Beauty. Consisting of lattice or letter-style patterns, they are used to support the end posts of the through truss bridge. They once featured interwoven Town lattice bracings with ornamental features with swirls, iron urns and fancy builder’s plaques. Since 1900, they feature letter-shapes, like the A, M, X, and WV. This one has the WA style, the letters representing the state of Washington.

The sway bracings are horizontal overhead bracings that support the truss frames, keeping it intact. Pending on the through truss bridge’s height and simplistic design, they can be single or multi-layered. The Glen Rose has Lattice-style sways, which increases in layers as the driver approaches one of its two towers.

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Historic Bridges: Management, Regulations and Rehabilitation: Seminars in Texas and Oregon

State Highway 78 Bridge at the Texas-Oklahoma border

 

 

MADISON (WI)/ MINNEAPOLIS (MN)/ AUSTIN (TX)/ PORTLAND (ORE)- Historic bridges represent a significant portion of the history of American architecture and infrastructure. Its unique design, combined with the significance in connection with the bridge builder and/or other key events makes them valuable pieces of our landscape- encouraging people to visit, photograph and even learn about them. Yet when it comes to preserving them, many people don’t know the policies that exist, such as the Historic Preservation Laws (and in particular, Section 106), many ways to rehabilitate and repurpose them and avoiding adverse effects when they need to be remodeled to meet the demands of today’s traffic standards.

The National Preservation Institute, in collaboration with Mead & Hunt, and Departments of Transportation in Minnesota, Texas and Oregon are conducting two seminars this year to focus on ways of designating and preserving what is left of our engineering heritage.   Amy Squitieri (Mead & Hunt), Kristen Zschlomer (MnDOT), Amber Blanchard (MnDOT), and Steve Olson (Olson & Nesvold Engineers) are heading two interactive seminars, scheduled to take place on the following dates:

 

April 4-5, 2017 in Austin, Texas

September 12-13 in Portland, Oregon

 

In the seminars, one will have a chance to look at bridge history and typology, rehabilitation and preservation techniques used on historic bridges that meet current and historical standards, ways to avoid adverse effects when reconstructing bridges, finding alternatives and solutions to bridges slated for replacement, and navigating through the process of Sections 106 and 4(f) of the Historic Preservation Laws.

 

Those who have taken the seminar have benefitted from this in a substantial way, as you can see in the evaluation comments in the NPI page (here).  Participants of the interactive seminar include federal and state agencies dealing with transportation and historic properties, as well as managers and consultants preparing compliance documents under actions dealing with Section 106 and other laws, as well as those interested in learning about the policies and practices involving historic bridges.

 

Minnesota, Texas and Oregon are three of only a dozen states in the country that have a comprehensive and successful track record in statewide inventories and the preservation and management of historic bridges. Some examples of successful bridge stories in photos can be seen below.

Piano Bridge in Texas- This bridge was restored in 2013- when the truss bridge was dismantled, sandblasted and reassembled; known as in-kind restoration
Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter, MN: Restored in 2016
Portland Water Works Bridge in Oregon, prior to its relocation to a storage area in 2015, awaiting reuse. Photo taken by Michael Goff

Costs and discounts are available via link. You will receive a confirmation of the reservation as well as the venue and schedule of the events. For more information, please contact NPI via phone at (703) 765-0100 or send them an e-mail at: info@npi.org.

Mystery Bridge 44: Fink Truss Bridge in San Antonio

Houston Street Bridge in San Antonio Photo courtesy of Texas Transportation Museum

The Fink Truss: one of the most unusual of truss bridge types ever designed and built.  Invented and patented in 1854 by Albert Fink, the truss design features a combination of Warren and Bollmann trusses, and with the diagonal beams criss-crossing the panels, especially the deck trusses resembled a triangle with many subdivided beams. Many trusses built with this design were in the name of the German bridge engineer, who was born in Lauterbach in Hesse and emigrated to New York after completing his engineering degree in Darmstadt. This included the following Fink deck truss bridges: the Appomatox High Bridge in Virginia– built in 1869 and featured 21 Fink deck truss spans, the Verrugas Viaduct in Peru– named after the virus that inflicted the workers who constructed the highest bridge in Peru with three Fink deck truss spans in 1869, the Lynchburg Bridge in Virginia– built in 1870 and is the last of its kind in the US and one of two known bridges left in the world. The other Fink deck truss remaining is the Puenta Bolivar in Arequipa, Peru, built in 1882 by Gustav Eifel.  Fink trusses were found in through truss designs as well, as was seen with the Hamden (New Jersey) Bridge– built in 1857 and was known to be the oldest metal bridge in the US at the time of its collapse by a car accident in 1978, and the Zoarville Station Bridge at Camp Tuscazoar in Ohio- built in 1868 and is still the remaining truss bridge of its standing in the US.

While it is unknown how popular Fink Trusses were during its heyday of construction between 1860 and 1880, one of the through variants was brought to the author’s attention via one of the pontists. This bridge was located over the river in San Antonio, Texas at Houston Street. Built in 1871, this Fink through truss span, similar to the Zoarville Station Bridge in Ohio in its appearance, replaced a wooden bridge built in the 1850s but was washed away by flooding six years earlier. Sources have indicated that the iron span was imported from as far away as St. Louis. Yet as the first bridge building companies were not established before 1890, according to Darnell Plus, one has to assume that the span originated from places further eastward, perhaps in Ohio or Maryland, were the Zoarville Station Bridge was built by the likes of Smith, Latrop and Company of Baltimore. But there is no current to support claims of the span’s origin. It was from the eastern part of the US, where the iron bridge parts were transported by train to St. Louis and then to Indianola, Texas- most likely by ship as the town was situated on the Gulf of Mexico. From there, it was transported by horse and wagon for more than 150 miles northwest to San Antonio. With fourteen of the largest wagons in the area hauling bridge parts that were forty feet long and weighing tens of tons, this effort of transporting the bridge for over 100 miles to its destination was one of the largest feats ever accomplished in Texas.

The mastermind behind this task was freighter and pioneer, August Santleben. Born on 28 February, 1845 in Hannover, Germany, he and his family emigrated to Medina County, Texas when he was four months old and settled at Castro’s Corner, along the Medina River near Castroville. His life began from there, where he became the youngest mailman at the age of 14, running a carrier route between Castroville and Bandera, and became involved in the Civil War on the side of the Union. Yet his biggest success was a freighter and stage coach driver, establishing routes between Texas and Mexico, including the first ever line between San Antonio and Monterrey established in 1867. The service later included destinations of Satillo and Chihuahua, the latter of which was the basis for establishing the Chihuahua Trail several years later. After 10+ years in the business of freighter, Santleben and his family (his wife Mary and his nine children (two were adopted) moved to San Antonio, where he ran a transfer company and later became a politician, serving the city for several year. Before his death on 18 September, 1911, Santleben had written his memoir about his life and successes entitled A Texas Pioneer, published in 1910, and still widely known as one of the best of its genres of that time. The book has been published most recently, according to the Texas Transportation Museum, but can be view online, by clicking here.

In his memoir, Santleben described the hauling  of the Houston Street Bridge from Indianola to San Antonio, citing that the iron bridge was the first of its kind in Texas, when the mayor ordered the truss bridge from an undisclosed bridge company, and one that garnered public attention for quite some time because of its aesthetic appearance. Gustav Schleicher oversaw the construction of the bridge in 1871. He later became a member of the US Congress, representing his district. According to Santleben, the bridge, which was a considered a novelty because of its unique appearance, served traffic for 20 years before it was relocated to the site known as “Passo de los Trejas” at Grand Avenue near the Lonestar Brewery. According to the museum, the bridge continued to serve traffic at Grand Avenue for over 40 years. It is unknown what happened to the iron structure afterwards, for no further information on the bridge has been found to date. Yet, as Santleben had mentioned in his memoir, the bridge was the forerunner to numerous iron structures that populated the streets of San Antonio shortly after its erection at the Houston Street site, replacing the wooden structures that were considered unsafe because of their short life spans.

While the Houston Street Bridge became the first iron bridge crossing to span the river at San Antonio, let alone the first iron bridge to be constructed in Texas, it is unknown whether the bridge was brand new, or if it was a used structure, having been constructed somewhere in the eastern half of the country before it was dismantled and transported out west. What is definitely excluded from the equation is the fact that the span came from the three-span crossing at Camp Dover, Ohio, where the Zoarville Station Bridge originated from. That bridge remained in service until 1905, when it was replaced by a newer structure made of steel, with one of the iron spans being relocated to its present location at Camp Tuscazoar. What could be mentioned though is that the Houston Street Bridge may have been fabricated by Smith and Latrop, which had built the Zoarville Station Bridge two years before. This is because of the portal bracing that is similar to the one at Camp Tuscazoar. It was then transported by train and ship to Indianola, where Santleben led the caravan to haul the bridge parts to San Antonio, where Schleicher oversaw the efforts in building it at Houston Street.  While Santleben stated in his memoir that there was no reason for the iron bridge (which had been relocated from Houston Street to the location at Grand Avenue) to not be there for another hundred years, it is unknown when exactly and whether the iron bridge was relocated, or  if it was scrapped. Therefore it is important to find out how long the iron bridge was in service at both locations in San Antonio before it was dismantled.

To summarize the questions regarding the bridge, we need to know the following:

  1. Was the bridge fabricated before being transported to Texas, or was the truss span a used one, which had originated from somewhere out East?
  2. Was it Smith and Latrop that fabricated the truss bridge?
  3. How was the bridge transported to Texas?
  4. How long was the bridge in service at both Houston Street and Grand Avenue? Who was responsible for the relocation of the bridge from Houston Street to Grand Avenue?
  5. What happened to the bridge after its 40+ year service at Grand Avenue?

Three channels are open for you to help contribute to the information. You can post your comments either on this page or on the Chronicles’ facebook page. There is also the contact information through Hugh Hemphill at the Texas Transportation Museum, using the contact form enclosed here. And lastly there’s Jason Smith at the Chronicles, whose contact information can be found here.

Texas takes pride in its history- in particular, with historic bridges as they tie in with the local history, as seen here with the Houston Street Bridge. Yet each bridge has its missing pieces to fill- some big, some small. It is up to the reader (us) to provide these missing pieces and make the communities, like San Antonio proud of its heritage.

Interesting note to close: Located on Matagorda Bay near the Gulf of Mexico in Calhoun County, Indianola was founded in 1844 by Sam Addison White and William M. Cook. It was once the county seat of Calhoun County and at its peak, had over 5,000 inhabitants. It was the easternmost terminus of the Chihuahua Trail. Yet the town was devastated by two powerful hurricanes- one in 1875 and another in 1886. The latter, combined with a massive fire, obliterated the entire town, resulting in its abandonment. The county seat was moved inland to Port Lavaca. Today a marker is located at the site where it once existed. More information can be found here.

Clarendon Bridge in Monroe County, Arkansas

Side view of the Clarendon Bridge. Photos taken by John Moore IV, used with permission

Sister Bridges. They may look alike in structural appearance. They may be built at the same time. They may have been built by the same bridge builder. The difference though is where they are located, how each of the structures are maintained and how they are honored and appreciated by locals and passers-by. There are many sister bridges that exist in the US, Europe and other places. One of the most common sister bridges can be found in Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania, where three self-anchored eyebar suspension bridges spanning the Allegheny River are located. All three yellow-colored crossings were built by the same bridge builder (American Bridge Company) at the same time (between 1926 and 1928), and each one was named in honor of the prominent people originating from Pittsburgh: Roberto Clemente, Rachel Carson and Andy Warhol.

In Arkansas, there are sister bridges as well- in the form of Warren cantilever through truss bridges. Located over the White River, the bridges at Augusta, Newport and Clarendon were built in 1930-1 by Ira G. Hedrick, a prominent bridge builder for the state. To build these gigantic structures, Hedrick worked together with six different bridge companies from five states, including Texas, Missouri, Virginia and Kansas.  Each of the bridges had a center span of 400 feet but a total length of between 3,000 and 4,000 feet.

All three sisters are facing demolition. Already gone is the Augusta Bridge through replacement in 2001, replacement and imminent demolition are in the works for the Newport and Clarendon Bridges. However, private groups are working together with the state and local governments to ensure that when their replacement bridges open to traffic, their prized works by Ira Hedrick are saved and reused for recreational purposes.

The Clarendon Bridge is the longest of the sister bridges. Spanning the White River at Clarendon, the bridge was designed by Hedrick and built by three bridge companies in 1931. It carries US Hwy. 79 and has a total length of 4,200 feet, counting its concrete approach spans that glide into Clarendon. At the moment, a replacement bridge is being constructed down stream, and plans are in the making to demolish the historic bridge by the end of 2015, after the new bridge is built. Yet a local group is trying to purchase the bridge for reuse, integrating the crossing into the nationwide bike trail network, while at the same time, bring the history of the bridge and its surrounding area- the White River Delta- to life.

Approach span to the east, spanning the Bayou. Photo taken by John Moore IV

The Chronicles had an opportunity to interview John Moore IV, who is one of the organizers of the Save the Big White River Bridge group. The author wanted to know how significant the bridge is and what they are trying to do to save the bridge from its untimely end. Here are the answers to the questions provided below:

1. What is so special about the Clarendon Bridge? How is the bridge tied in with the community in terms of history and significance?

The Big White River Bridge in Clarendon, Arkansas isn’t just a bridge spanning a body of water. As it twists and turns two and a quarter miles through the upper boughs of the river bottom hardwoods it’s not just a bridge going through the woods. This bridge is a symbol. Before it’s 1931 construction the folks of Monroe County relied only on a ferry to cross the river, which left the miles of untamed, flood ridden river bottoms to cross on foot and hoof. The Big White River Bridge became a road of progress. What was once a sleepy little town, stuck somewhere in the late 1800s was suddenly projected into the 20th Century. Highway 79 became one of America’s premier roads across the country. The day the bridge was opened there was two-day celebration including a circus, parachute jumper, high divers, boat races, pageant, and parade. The Big White River Bridge is near and dear the heart of Monroe County.

2. The Clarendon Bridge is one of the sister bridges over the White River. Can you tell us more about it?

The Big White River Bridge was built as one of a set of three double-cantilever bridges in Arkansas. These bridges were built in Clarendon, Newport, and Augusta. After the 2001 demolition of the Augusta bridge, only the Clarendon and Newport bridges remain. Both Clarendon and Newport are working to save their respective bridges since being scheduled for replacement.

3. What is the current situation with the bridge? Is construction of its replacement underway?

The current situation for the bridge is that it is scheduled to be demolished in mid to late 2015. The replacement bridge is currently being built and will be open for traffic around May of 2015.

4.  According to a recent posting in bridgehunter.com, the city of Clarendon was not willing to take ownership of the bridge. Does this hold true still? If so, what attempts are being made to either convince the city to reconsider or have another party take ownership?

            The City of Clarendon is willing to take the bridge only in a responsible manner. We are pursuing different means of long-term upkeep, but none of this can be set in stone until the powers that be approve the bridge to still stand.

5. What plans do you have for the bridge? Will there be some restoration work in store and if so, how?

If all goes well, we plan to keep the entire two and a quarter miles of the bridge to use as a cycling and pedestrian bridge. The national cycling group, Adventure Cycling Association, wants to designate the bridge as part of a national cycling interstate as U.S. Bike Route 80. The bridge will serve as an integral part of the system by being a safe route across the largest contiguous bottomland hardwood forest in North America.

6. Have you done some fundraising for the bridge? What other support are you receiving for the project?

We have not done any fundraising so far as the bridge has not yet been approved to remain standing. We have, however, garnered an incredible amount of support from individuals across the nation and the State of Arkansas. Our Congressional and Senate offices are in full support. Virtually every cycling group in the state has given us their approval. The U.S. Coast Guard, Arkansas Water Ways Commission and the National Register of Historic Places all have given support and/or approval. The Harahan Bridge project in Memphis has also given us their best whishes.

7. It is mentioned in the website that a historic bridge will provide some revenue for tourism. How do you want to make the bridge attractive for the tourists?

As mentioned earlier, if the bridge is saved, it will become part of U.S. Bike Route 80. It will also serve as a cycling route from Memphis to Little Rock. The Harahan Bridge project is creating a cycling and pedestrian bridge crossing the Mississippi River at Memphis. Going through Clarendon would serve as a no-brainer route for crossing the central part of the state on a bike. Also the natural landscape and the extraordinary nature of the bridge is a testament unto itself. There are few bridges of this mass that run through a forest of this size.

8. Based on your experience so far, what advice would you give to a group or organization working to save a historic bridge?

First of all one should start early. One shouldn’t try to save a bridge once the decision has been made to tear it down, but when the talk of replacement begins. Secondly, the most important part of gaining traction when trying to save something so momentous as a bridge is building relationships. Saving a bridge is not just a matter of one person’s hard work. It’s a matter of motivating hundreds of people to get behind your cause and say, “Yes. We must save this bridge.” If you do begin the preservation process late in the game, much like we have done, the hill becomes a steeper climb, but as we have learned, it may not yet be too late. It is not just about cutting ones way through red tape but finding the right people who know the right people and building trust and relationship.

9. How would you handle the issue of liability for the bridge?

To prevent liability lawsuits we will use appropriate signs and guardrails. Also while a municipality can be sued, those running the municipality cannot be personally sued for their roles in the government. There is the possibility of a lawsuit in nearly any venture that one may propose, but that should not fetter progress.

If you want to know more about the bridge, or are willing to help in the preservation efforts, please click on the link with the contact details, and write to the organization. Every little support and effort will count a long way towards saving the Clarendon Bridge, one of the two remaining sister bridges over the White River and one of the last remaining works of Ira Hendrick.