The Okoboji Bridge at Parks Marina

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Many thanks to Mary Dreier for the photos. 

Back in 2011, I had an opportunity to photograph, document and film the Okoboji Bridge, which used to span the Little Sioux River, a few miles west of West Lake Okoboji. It had spanned the strait that connected West and East Lakes as the second crossing between the first (a cable-stayed span with wooden towers) and the third, a single-span arch bridge. The current span, also an arch bridge, still carries US Hwy. 71 between Okoboji and Arnolds Park.

The bridge was damaged by the flooding during my visit and it would have taken a miracle to pull it out and make the necessary repairs in order for it to return to service someday. Most truss bridges damaged by major storms and floods are usually demolished and replaced because the repair costs are “too high,” according to county engineers. However the bridge was taken off the river and dismantled, stored somewhere until an owner would reclaim it and use it for his/her purpose.

That was according to bridgehunter.com.

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According to Mary Dreier, however, the bridge has a new owner.  Butch Parks, who owns the Parks Marina conglomerate, recently purchased the bridge. According to the website,

Parks Marina on East Lake Okoboji was established in 1983 when Leo “Butch” Parks purchased the then Gibson Sporting Goods. What was once a small fishing boat sales and repair facility, has expanded into a diversified three location business, with marinas, sales, service, storage, boat rentals, pro-shops, and specialty retail stores. Parks Marina on East Lake Okoboji features the World Famous Barefoot Bar. Okoboji Boat Works on West Lake Okoboji features much of the same, along with state of the art boat slips, the world’s largest Fish House, pro-shop and clothing Boutique, and a sandy beach for families to enjoy.

Part of the Parks Marina conglomerate includes a boat sales and service store in Sioux Falls, plus the Central Emporium in Arnolds Park, a shopping mall with over a century’s worth of tradition with small shops that sell food and merchandise typical of the Lakes Region.

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Now how does the Okoboji Bridge come into play?

The board of the county historical society recently did a presentation on the bridge and its history, which was well-received by many visitors. It was learned that Mr. Parks bought the bridge a while back with plans to install the crossing over a pond located just outside its East Lake Okoboji location. Already a concrete bridge is in place, according to Google Maps, yet it doesn’t mean that it is impossible to install it either in its place or elsewhere on the grounds. What is known is according to Ms. Dreier, the bridge is currently sitting on the grounds, just outside the large building which stores boats and the like, waiting to be sold and used on the lakes.

What will become of the bridge is unclear. I enquired Parks Marina about the purchase of the bridge and its future use via e-mail, only to get a no response. It could be that the headquarters is still in hibernation and it’s just a matter of a few months until I get a response. It could also be that the owner is not sure what the plans are with the bridge. But in any case, if he does respond, I have some questions for him, which includes:

  1. Why this bridge?
  2. What are the plans for the structure?

To be continued. But for now, enjoy the photos Ms. Dreier took for this article.

BHC 10 years

Mystery Bridge Nr. 128: The Disappearing Thacher Truss Bridge in Castlewood, SD

BHC Mystery Bridge

This Mystery Bridge entry takes us to the town of Castlewood in Hamlin County, The town is located east of the Big Sioux River, which snakes its way through the field in its infancy before it widens near Watertown. While Castlewood may be a typical rural American town, it does hold a treasure that is historically significant and one where we’re looking for.

The Castlewood Truss Bridge was a Thacher through truss bridge that had spanned the Big Sioux River southeast of town. It carries 184th street. The structure is 100 feet long with the main span having been 80 feet. The bridge was built by the King Bridge Company in 1894 under the direction of agent Milo Adams, and was the second of two bridges that was discovered and researched by the National Park Service in 1989. The second was at Yellow Bank Church Bridge in Laq Qui Parle County in neighboring Minnesota, built one year earlier. . Together with the Ellworth Ranch Bridge in Emmet County, Iowa, the Castlewood Bridge represented an example of the hybrid form of the Thacher Truss Bridge, which was patented by Edwin Thacher in 1881.

The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 9th, 1993, yet the bridge was replaced on a new alignment by a low-water crossing in the summer of 1990. According to recent satellite view, the Thacher Truss structure is no-more. All that is left are the wing-walls and the lally columns on the west bank of the river.

This leads us to the main question: What happened to the bridge?

Research in newspaper articles and correspondences have thus far come up with nothing concrete. The exception was the plan to replace the bridge in 1989 after reports revealed that the structure was rusting and no longer able to carry traffic, which ran parallel to the research into the bridge’s historic significance. Bridgehunter.com had pinpointed the replacement date as sometime after June 1990, even though the article mentioned August 1990 as its planned replacement date.

This leads us to why the Castlewood Bridge was listed before the end of 1993. According to the National Register of Historic Places, any historic structure can be listed on the register if they comply to the requirements of historic significance. Once it’s listed, then grants and funding are made available for restoring and protecting the place, and it is next to impossible to demolish the historic place unless plausible arguments are made justifying it, which includes understanding the consequences of destroying it, which is its delisting. If the Castlewood Bridge was demolished for any reason, the bridge would be delisted from the National Register, and all records pertaining to its nomination, history and the like would be archived and made unavailable for researchers. If the bridge was replaced before its nomination in 1993, why list the structure to begin with? And if it was destroyed after its listing in 1993, why is it still listed?

This leads us to the question of what happened to the Castlewood Bridge. One has to assume that the bridge was dismantled and put into storage to be reused elsewhere. This was what happened to the Yellow Bank Church Bridge, and the truss bridge now has a new home at the historic village park south of Hastings in Minnesota. Its role is mimicking the Famous Hastings Spiral Bridge, the first bridge in the world with a loop approach. With regards to the Castlewood Bridge, the question is: Where’s the bridge? And will it be reused somewhere, if it has not been re-erected already? If the bridge no longer exist, then the question is 1. Why justify its existence on the National Register, and 2. Were any bridge parts been preserved as a historical marker?

The research about the bridge’s fate has not born any fruit to date. Therefore, the question goes straight to the locals of Hamlin County, South Dakota and the residents of Castlewood with this in mind:

“Where’s the Bridge?”

BHC 10 years

Mystery Bridge 31: Thacher Truss Railroad Bridge in Waverly, Iowa

Thacher Truss Bridge in background. Photo courtesy of Luke Harden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few months ago, the Chronicles did a special on the Thacher truss bridges, designed and patented by Edwin Thacher and first used in 1884 in the state of Iowa. To refresh the reader’s memory, the Thacher truss is a combination of Warren, Kellogg and Pratt truss with an A-frame in the center panel of each truss span. While the Wrought Iron Bridge was reported to have built these trusses, using the exact design prescribed by Thacher, the King Bridge Company built the hybrid version of the design that resembled a Warren truss bridge with a center panel that is half the length of the outer panels.  If you count in the Phillips Mill Crossing in Rockford, the pony truss variant located west of Milford and the three hybrid Thachers in Emmet County, Hamlin County (South Dakota) and near Hastings, Minnesota, a total of ten Thachers were reported to have been built.

With this mystery bridge, as seen in the picture, let’s make it eleven Thachers.

Fellow pontist Luke Harden came across this picture of a Cedar River crossing in Waverly. According to the information, the bridge (which is in the background behind the wagon bridge) served the Chicago and Great Western Railroad and featured at least three spans of the Thacher truss. The bridge was about 400-500 feet long, looking at the picture more closely, with each truss span being about 120 feet long. The bridge served traffic until a train derailment brought down the entire structure in 1914.

Collapse of the bridge in 1914. Photo courtesy of Hank Zaletel

This means that the structure was in place for no longer than 30 years. Even more curious is the fact that the trusses were built using a combination of wood and steel, making the railroad bridge look rather unusual for the materials used for bridge construction. While bridge builders used iron and wood for construction in the 1860s and 1870s, it is even rarer to see a wooden truss bridge built using steel truss support, although one is reported to exist in Allamakee County in the Red Bridge (abandoned for over four decades).

While the bridge no longer exists- a replacement was built but only existed for another 30 years before the railroad abandoned the line and removed the bridge- piers from the structure can be seen from Adams Parkway Bridge, located next to it in the northeast end of the city. Yet more information about the bridge is needed. For instance: when exactly was the bridge built? What were the exact dimensions? Who built this bridge? And lastly what was the cause of the mishap. Any information on the bridge can be submitted using various channels including the comment section of the Chronicles.

Furthermore, information is needed for the Adams Parkway Bridge, for the two-span truss bridge existed before its replacement in 1968, yet its markings is similar to a bridge built by the Clinton Bridge Company at the turn of the century, including the portal bracings. Both bridges will be included in the Iowa Truss Bridge book, which is being compiled by the author even as this article is being posted. Any information would be much appreciated.

With this latest discovery, it leads to the question of how many other Thacher truss bridges were built in Iowa, let alone in other parts of the US. We’ll find out more as other pontists and people finding old photos will bring bridges like this one to the attention of the readers and other interested people alike.

 

Iowa Transportation Heritage Quiz II: The answers to the historic bridge questions

After providing the answers and some interesting facts about Iowa’s transportation heritage, part II features the answers to the questions dealing with the history of Iowa’s bridges, the state’s bridge builders and the engineers who left their mark in the state.Without commenting any further, here they are!

 

Which bridge is in the picture above?

Green Bridge in Waverly

Ft. Atkinson Bridge near Decorah

Red Bridge in Des Moines

Rusty Bridge near Spencer

The Kate Shelley Viaduct, located in Boone was named after a girl who was famous for this heroic deed?
She stopped a train from falling into a flooded creek
She rescued the brakeman and engineer from the train that had fallen into a flooded creek
Both a & b -> both deeds occurred on the same night in 1881. She later became station agent for the train station in Moingona, the site west of where Kate crawled across the Des Moines River bridge and where the bridge was washed away and the train fell into the creek.
She became president of the Chicago and Northwestern Railways.

Photo by John Marvig

Where was the first railroad bridge built over the Mississippi River located?
Dubuque
Keokuk
Quad Cities -> The wooden Howe through truss bridge was completed in 1856 and was located in Moline, at the site of the present-day Arsenal Bridge
Burlington

Which of the following Iowa communities did NOT have a bridge building company
Okoboji -> Okoboji was a tourist community and never had a bridge builder
Ottumwa
Oskaloosa
Des Moines

The Melan Arch Bridge, located in Rock Rapids, was the first of its kind to be built using reinforced steel rods. Its designer and inventor Josef Melan originated from which European country?

Austria -> Melan originated and spent his life in Vienna. His student, Frederik von Emperger, who built the bridge in 1894 originated from Bohemia.
Bohemia (now Czechia)
Prussia (now part of Germany)
France

Zenas King, who built many bridges in Iowa under the name King Bridge Company in the 1880s and 90s had a nephew (not son), George, who started his own bridge building business in which Iowa community?
Council Bluffs
Corning
Des Moines -> George E. King established this business in 1889 and ran it until ca. the 1930s
Davenport

Note: Zenas King did have a son who took over his business after his death in 1892. James A. King was president of the company from 1894 until his death in 1922. The company ceased operations within a year after his death and with that a 50+ year family-owned business where many of Zenas’ children and extended family members were all part of the business. More information can be found here.

Which bridge type was not developed and experimented in Iowa?
Kellogg Truss
Thacher Truss
Marsh Arch
Pratt truss  -> First patented in 1844 two years before Iowa was established as a state.

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Source: Library of Congress

Iowa was the first state in the country and the first in the world to invent and construct this bridge type?
Bowstring arch bridge made of steel
Steel girder bridge made of aluminum -> It was built in 1958 over I-35/80 at 86th Street in Urbandale. Served traffic until its replacement in 1994.
Parker truss bridge made of metal
Marsh arch bridge using recycled concrete

Close-up of Thacher Truss

Edwin Thacher patented the first Thacher truss bridge, a bridge with an A-frame in the center panel, in 1884, and the first bridge of its kind was built where?
Independence -> Built in 1884 to serve rail traffic over the Wapsipinicon River.
Rockford
Estherville
Lake Park

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Which Iowa river has the most number of steel railroad viaducts in the state
Big Sioux River
Little Sioux River
Skunk River
Des Moines River -> as many as 10 railroad viaducts still cross the river today, including the Kate Shelley, Ft. Dodge, Armstrong and Madrid Viaducts. The Kate Shelley and Ft. Dodge Viaducts are the longest and second longest along the river, respectively.

Murray Bridge sv
Murray Bridge spanning the Des Moines River in Humboldt County. Built in 1905 by A.H. Austin. Photo taken in September 2010

 Which Iowa bridge builder later made a career as a school board president?
A.H. Austin  -> He was active in the Webster City school council including his tenure as president.
Lawrence Johnson
George E. King
James Marsh

 

Author’s note: Another Iowa bridge quiz is in the making and will come soon. The state has the third highest number of (historic) bridges in the country. With that comes several categories one could write about. This is just an introduction. 

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Help needed: Photos, postcards and stories about Iowa’s Bridges

Durrow Road Bridge in Linn County, Iowa Photo taken in August 2011

When looking at the Durrow Road Bridge, located east of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the first thing that comes to mind is that it is a typical through truss bridge built in the 1920s. Judging by its recent paint job, it has been maintained really well and on a regular basis. But while photographing the bridge, a resident on a farm place located just around the corner takes notice and decides to stop at the bridge to find out what I was doing (in reality, I was with another pontist who resides near Marion, located north of Cedar Rapids). It is from that point on, we have a nice long conversation about the history of the bridge and why it was named. The bridge was relocated here in 1949 from Cedar Rapids to replace a wooden trestle bridge and add a piece to the farmstead that is over a century old.

The main idea is the fact that each bridge has its own history and character that makes preserving it for future generations a must. Yet, bridges like this one are being replaced in favor of progress with the records on its history and its association with the local communities lost forever.  There are many books that have been written about these historic bridges. They include Dennis Gardner’s book on Minnesota’s historic bridges in 2008, using the materials of wood, stone, metal and concrete as the main pillars to the story of how the bridges were developed.  Another book on the bridges bridges in New Jersey, written by Steven Richman, portrays the existing bridges in New Jersey. And there are many books written about the covered bridges in the northeastern corner of the USA from Pennsylvania to Maine, many of them have contributed to the states taking pride on their covered bridges more than the other bridge types.

The truss bridges in Iowa, a project that has been launched, will be a book that will differ from all the books that have been written for two reasons: 1. Iowa’s bridges have been documented in books already but in bridge types only. This includes the Marsh Arch bridges, written by the late James E. Hippen in 1997 and the bowstring arch bridges, written by Michael Finn in 2004. Up until now, there are no sources that deal with truss bridges in the state with the exception of reports conducted by agencies, like the Iowa Department of Transportation, and other interested parties but are only limited in availability.  2. The focus of the book will be on the development of the truss bridges in Iowa beginning with the first crossings along the Mississippi River and in big cities, like Dubuque and Ottumwa and continuing on with the dominance of truss bridges over bowstring arch bridges, experiments with new bridge types, like the Thacher truss bridge, the role of the bridge builders, first from out of state and later from local Iowa bridge builders. It is then followed by the introduction of standardized truss bridges and how they waned in popularity in favor of concrete bridges. And finally the book will focus on the successes of identifying these bridges and preserving them for reuse. The book will feature truss bridges both past and present and their history and how they brought the communities together. This includes stories similar to the one of Durrow Road Bridge.

If you have any old photos and postcards of bridges (esp. those that no longer exist in Iowa), as well as any information and stories pertaining to the truss bridges in Iowa, please send them to Jason D. Smith via e-mail at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. Mailing address is available upon request.

The book project will take approximately 5-10 years to complete pending on the amount of information that comes in. But quality will outweigh quantity and the goal is to bring the history of truss bridges in Iowa to light (going as deep into the research as possible) so that the readers can understand how they contributed to the development of the state’s infrastructure, let alone to the development of their communities and farmsteads.  So if you have any information that is useful to this book, I would love to hear or see it. Thank you very much for your help.

Ellsworth Ranch Bridge in Emmet County. This 1895 Thacher through truss bridge is NOT the first one that was built. There is one that was constructed earlier and somewhere in Iowa. Do you know when and where the first Thacher bridge was built? Photo taken in August 2011