Remembering J.R. Manning and Dr. James Cooper- Key Contributors in the World of Historic Bridge Preservation

Photo by Kelly Lacy on Pexels.com

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When we travel along the rural backroads of Indiana, one might see an old, iron through truss bridge along the way, with a four ton weight limit, being narrow and having a wooden deck, yet a fresh coat of paint, LED lighting for safe passage for night driving and a restored plaque with the names of Vicennes, New Castle or Central Plaines on it reveal that it looks brand new.  In another location, this time in Wisconsin, one sees another steel truss bridge, located inside a park, serving bikers and hikers. Each bridge having a history info-board describing its history and why it deserves a National Register listing. Each bridge is visited by dozens of people every day, is talked about by teachers who lead field trips with school children to the historic site and is read in history books, magazines and newspapers.

Preserving historic bridges takes a lot of efforts to carry out. It includes collecting documents on the bridge’s history, including the companies that built them. It includes informing the public about the bridge and its significance, to encourage them to take part in the preservation efforts. It also includes a good bridge marketing program where a historic bridge finds a new home if it is in the way of progress.

It especially includes some very key figures who lead the campaign to make preserving historic bridges happen, special people like the people we are honoring in this article. 

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J.R. Manning:

There were many nicknames for Jerrold Robert Manning (known by many as simply J.R.), including Loose Lug Nuts, the Kitchen Guy or simply Jerry. But if there is one word to describe J.R. when it came to historic bridges, it was “Shooter.” J.R. was a very popular figure in the upper Midwest. Born in Akron, Ohio, the family moved to Michigan and then to Brown Deer, Wisconsin. J.R. attended Algonquin Elementary School, Brown Deer High School, UW-Milwaukee-Mass Communications and Cardinal Stritch University-Business Administration. He mastered Dale Carnegie’s Sales Course and is a Certified Technical Trainer. J.R. was a member Brown Deer U.C.C and St. John U.C.C in Germantown serving as a liturgist and was on several committees. Many people viewed J.R. as a talented salesman and a musician. Yet his key signature was his famous quotes on the meaning of life, something that people like me took with.  J.R. however traveled a lot and saw and photographed hundreds of bridges along the way: in Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. He was a key contributor of photos, histories and news stories of historic bridges in bridgehunter.com, having provided people with some interesting and useful information. Yet his dedication to historic bridges didn’t stop there. He was also a fan of architectural history and one can find dozens of pieces and photos in landmarkhunter.com, which is devoted to historic buildings in the US. I never met him in person but we corresponded frequently via e-mail and social media and as a person, he was a great philosopher- a person who could spend a whole day talking about life over a cup of coffee.

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Dr. James Cooper:

If there is one state that would be considered the hub for historic bridges, regardless of the materials used for building it, it would be Indiana. Indiana has one of the most comprehensive marketing programs for historic bridges, where each structure threatened with replacement is relocated to different sites for reuse, while others are rehabilitated with the purpose to prolong their functional lives. It has a comprehensive inventory on the history of bridges and their builders that existed in the Hoosier State. There are even books written on Indiana’s historic bridges, including covered bridges, concrete bridges and even metal truss bridges. Much of this was the work of one pontist, who was a professor of history and sociology but whose passion for bridges spans for half a century.

Born in Princeton, N.J., James L. Cooper moved to Greencastle in 1964 to join the faculty of DePauw University, where he served for more than three decades. At DePauw, Cooper was dedicated to faculty development, becoming the university’s academic dean in 1981 and then vice president of academic affairs in 1983. Yet his interest in historic bridges started in the 1970s.

“I started in the late 1970s with an introduction to material culture studies as a supplement to documentary research.  HAER contacts led me into bridge survey work in Indiana which I combined with more traditional research in my survey publications.  Then Indiana Landmarks Foundation contacted me to turn bridge surveying/historical research into preservation efforts,” Cooper stated during an interview with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles in 2012.

For years, he tirelessly worked to document those bridges in a database that now serves as a resource for the historic preservation community. Furthermore, he helped fellow pontist Eric DeLony create an online network, where pontists and people interested in historic bridges would collaborate with each other. This network still exists and has been extended to include social media, especially in LinkedIn.  Cooper wrote several pieces devoted to historic bridges, including Artistry and Ingenuity in Artificial Stone: Indiana’s Concrete Bridges, 1900-1942 and Iron Monuments to Distant Posterity: Indiana’s Metal Bridges, 1870-1930.  Cooper’s work captured his appreciation for the culture, ingenuity and journey of the people who built, crossed, and settled around the bridges that he so admired.

“I credit him for helping me to understand the fragile plight of Indiana’s metal truss bridges and for shifting my focus towards preserving them. I will always considered him my mentor… something that he chuckled at when I told him one time,” mentioned  fellow pontist, Tony Dillon in a statement in bridgehunter.com.

From an author’s point of view, though I only conversed with him via e-mail, Mr. Cooper had extensive knowledge in his field of historic bridges. If you wanted to know about a bridge, engineer or bridge builder in Indiana, let alone the influence of the bridge builders in the Hoosier State on other states, especially after 1900, Mr. Cooper was that man to go to. His extensive research had a domino effect on historic bridge preservation throughout the US and even beyond. Some of the research and practice that has been done in Indiana is being carried out in other states, such as Texas, Oregon, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, etc. with mainly positive results for people wishing to see a piece of history that was a contributing factor in the development of America’s infrastructure.

Mr. Cooper’s work has garnered dozens of awards during his lifetime, including the the Indiana Historical Society’s Dorothy Riker Hoosier Historian Award, the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH)  Leadership in History Awards and lastly the 2012 Bridgehunter Awards for Lifetime Achievement (which was named the Othman H. Ammann Awards at that time), courtesy of the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles (an interview can be found here.)

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Death on August 19, 2021:

On August 19, 2021, both of these fine pontists passed away peacefully, surrounded by family. J.R. was 69 years old and is survived by his wife of 21 years, Kathy and his step son, Steve. A funeral service took place on September 2nd at the Schmidt and Bartelt Funeral Home, in Menomonee Falls, which included a storytelling session at Bub’s Irish Pub in Germantown that followed the service. The service was also live on Zoom.

Dr. Cooper was 86 and is survived by his wife Sheila, his daughter Mairi and her husband, as well as his son, James Jr. and his family (wife and two children).  Due to Covid-19, a memorial service will be held at a later time, but burial will take place in Auburn, NY.  

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While the 19th of August is considered a tragic day in the historic bridge community, it is (and will also be) considered a day of reflection on the years of achievement these two fine people have made, having left marks not only within their respective areas but also beyond. What they have done for historic bridges is being practiced elsewhere, not just in the United States, but also beyond. 

While many of us sometimes take life too seriously, here’s a quote J.R. left me in my last correspondence with him back in February, which states otherwise:

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“Don’t take life so serious, son, it ain’t nohow permanent.” ~Porky Pine in Walt Kelly’s Pogo

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You can only do so much in life. It’s a matter of how you can project your achievements and passions to others. For these fine pontists with a lifetime passion for bridges, all I can say is this: “Thanks for everything.” ❤

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 150 Tribute to James Baughn

The 150th Pic of the Week is a bit fitting given the fact that it falls into the series paying tribute to James Baughn, let alone the time where we start saying our good-byes in one way or another. James’ memorial service was this past Sunday at Burfordville Mill and Covered Bridge in Missouri, with up to 175 people in attendance- family, friends, colleagues in the field of historic preservation and pontists. And those who couldn’t make it for various reasons, we had our minds focused on him and what he did for the community as we shared some memories of the event. Already plans for memorial bridgehunting tours in person are being considered, whereas the Chronicles has one of its own in the social media spectrum. If you are interested, click here to learn how.

James provided us with some very unique angles in bridge photography and this one is no exception. It’s a portal view of a through truss bridge with a steep cliff as a backdrop. This serves as a reminder of the McCaffrey Bridge in Winneshiek County in northeastern Iowa, yet there are three distinct differences:

  1. The portals of this bridge are different in contrast to the aforementioned structure
  2. The truss design is also different.
  3. This bridge no longer exist, whereas the Iowa structure still stands.

Nevertheless, such locations were useful in a way that it served as a notice to slow down while driving across, otherwise, something like this happens. Yet with the advancement of sleekness and speed, many of these bridges have given way to newer, more modern and straighter structures, where they are supposed to be safer, yet they are anything but that because of they encourage drivers to race across the bridge and they are ill-effective against floods. Even a 20-year old piece of concrete slab can be wiped out by floodwaters within a matter of minutes!

So with that in mind, our Guessing Quiz question is: Where is this bridge located? Any ideas? Feel free to submit your answers here or on the Chronicles’ facebook pages.

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And by the way, to answer the Guessing Quiz Question to last week’s pic taken by James Baughn, the answer is Madison County Iowa, near the Roseman Bridge. Info on that bridge can be found here.

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Memorial Bridge Photo Tour for James Baughn

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2021 is a year where we continue to pay homage to a great pontist. Aside from what we have been doing for this year, with the Pic of the Week Tribute, memorial service that took place this past Sunday, and (in-person) memorial bridgehunting tours that are in the works, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is doing a Memorial Bridge Photo Tribute during the months of August and September and therefore we need your help:

Because of Covid-19 and the difficulties of coming together for an event paying tribute, we’re doing an Online Photo Tour where photos of your favorite bridges are showcased on the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles‘ facebook group page and open page. The objective is simple:

  1. You should choose five bridges you wish to visit that have a high degree of historic and technological significance- ones that you wish to showcase to the historic bridge and preservation communities.
  2. Visit and photograph the five bridges. How you photograph them depends on your preference. As a tip: Artwork and technology go together like bread and butter.
  3. Choose one photo from each bridge you visited and lastly,
  4. Post the bridges on the Chronicles‘ facebook pages. Please include your name, the date you photographed it, the name of the bridge and where the structure is located.

The memorial bridge tour is open to everyone (both in the USA as well as in other countries), including those who have subscribed to the Chronicles. Those who have not join the Chronicles but want to participate should click on the links below and then subscribe. There are no costs involved.

BHC Group Page: here

BHC Open Page: here

The photo showcase will start in August and continue through September. The goal is to honor Mr. Baughn in a fashion similar to the Salute to Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, as you can see below.

James Baughn left a legacy in the field of historic bridges and preservation by creating the largest database in bridgehunter.com. He was also active in the preservation efforts with many historic bridges and other events. While we all cannot come together due to uncertainties, we can honor him from near and far. All we need to do is get the camera out, target your bridges and start shooting.

Let’s make this tribute look like the fireworks display. After all, we have him to thank for all that he did.

Note: Information on further events honoring James Baughn will come once they are finalized. Stay tuned for the details…….

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 130: A Tribute to James Baughn

Sometimes the best photographers usually follow the events that are happening by visiting the site on a regular basis and taking lots of pictures. For bridge photographers, this applies when there are projects like bridge restoration or in this case, bridge replacement.

In our next series paying tribute to James Baughn, we go back to the year 2003 and to this bridge, the Cape Girardeau Bridge. This bridge was the oldest of the Twenties Trio that were built within a year of each other along the Upper Mississippi River. In 1926, President Calvin Coolidge signed a bill, authorizing the bridge project at Cape Girardeau. The American Bridge Company of New York (superstructure) and U.G.I. Construction of Philadelphia were given the contract to build the bridge, which the project started in February 1927 and was completed in September 1928. Three months later, the Quincy Bridge followed and at the beginning of 1929, the Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis. The bridge featured a series of six Pennsylvania through truss spans, followed by a continuous through truss span (671 feet), with a total length of 4471 feet.

In 2002, construction was let to build its replacement, the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge, the current bridge that features a cable-stayed span with H-shaped towers. The original bridge was closed to traffic on 13 December, 2003, the same day the new bridge opened to traffic. Demolition of the old bridge commenced in June 2004 and lasted a half year. What’s left of the original structure is an arch and the first two spans on the Missouri side, which were repurposed as an observation deck.

James did a detailed series on the bridge before and after its replacement and including the demolition of the bridge. During that time, he collected a series of facts and history of the structure, which he added as the bridge was being replaced. You can find this in his bridgehunter.com website by clicking here. The details he did of the bridge in terms of photos as well as research, served as an inspiration for another person to do the same with his website, Nathan Holth, who launched historicbridges.org in 2003, the same year the truss bridge was replaced. You can access his website by clicking here.

If there was a lesson learned from this, it is this: Details are key, especially if you are looking for hard-core facts that are needed to complete the bridge’s story or if you want to contradict the facts given by a previous author. Bridgehunter.com is like wikipedia as it provides a database with photos, facts and stories about bridges like these with the goal of making the information available for those to use for their own purposes, be it for research for a school project or for finding information to nominate a structure for the National Register of Historic Places or even for personal reasons. When this bridge was being replaced, the website was in its infancy. Now looking back at James’ legacy and in particular, this bridge, the website has been serving its purpose well- a library with interesting facts for all to access.

And if there is a word of advice for those who are doing a project that features one or more bridges, check out bridgehunter.com first, followed by the others. There you will find at least something that will serve as your starting point and can build off from there. The website is like an encyclopedia, you will most likely find what you are looking for. 🙂

BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 128: Tribute to James Baughn

As I mentioned in the last Pic of the Week entry for 2020, this year’s series pays tribute to the late James Baughn, who created bridgehunter.com, the largest bridge database in the US, and also won the Bridgehunter Awards for Lifetime Achievement for 2019. Every week, we will showcase his greatest bridge pics, most of whom stem from his website.

Our first bridge pic for 2021 takes us to Butler County and the Hargrove Bridge. This bridge spans Black River near the town of Broseley and features a combination of a swing bridge span, whose towers support two truss spans. These spans are the Miller-Borcherding trusses and as we will discuss this in a separate article, they feature a three panel pony truss, whose center panel has an A-shape frame and the outer panels have a subdivided triangular chord. The bridge was built by the Miller & Borcherding Bridge Builders in St. Louis in 1917, at the time when riveted trusses were considered the standard norm for truss bridge construction. The bridge was damaged by floods in 1992 but was restored to its former glory seven years later and has since been open to traffic, but with an 8-ton weight limit. More on this bridge can be found by clicking here.

This bridge was one of James’ first to appear on his website and one of his most frequented visited structures. It is one of those structures that one should visit when learning about the history of American architecture and infrastructure, especially as many bridge builders tried to fashion truss bridge designs of their own instead of building based on the standards provided by the state beginning in 1910- namely Warren, Pratt, Parker or Pennsylvania with riveted connections in a form of gusset plates. Their argument- less steel meaning less costs for manufacturing and assembling. When visiting the bridge, you will see how much less steel it was needed to create a unique structure.

And with that, we will move on with the next bridge James visited but not before we talk about the Miller-Borcherding truss type. And for that we will move right this way…….. => 🙂

Lifetime Legacy Post Humous: Howard Newlon Jr.

Broadway Bridge over Linville Creek in Rockingham County, Virginia- one of four Thacher truss bridges remaining in the United States. Photo courtesy of HABS/HAER (part of National Park Service).

This year’s Ammann Awards received many entries, more than last year. However one of the awards that is of importance is the Lifetime Legacy Awards, given to person(s) who devoted a large amount of time and energy to saving historic bridges. In the case of one person who left this world peacefully this year, there is the Lifetime Legacy Award Post Humous given in his loving memory and honor.

Howard Newlon Jr. passed away on 25 October, 2012 at the age of 80. He spent a total of 33 years at the Virginia Transportation Research Council, involving himself with inventories and projects promoting historic bridges and ways to preserve them. He also an expert in anything dealing with concrete. This included the publication books on various bridge types in the 1970s and 80s, beginning with the first one on metal truss bridges built prior to 1932. Up until now, I have all of these books in my bridge library thanks to Ann Miller whom I had inquired on questions involving historic bridges some years ago. They will be profiled in the Chronicles next year.  When he retired in 1989, he was director of research. In addition, he spent 50 years teaching at the Institute of Engineering and Architecture at the University of Virginia and its schools, retiring in 2003. He was also active in many societies dealing with engineering, including the American Society of Civil Engineers, which handed him the History and Heritage Award in 2009. The Lifetime Legacy Award provided by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is the latest of honors going to his resume. Ann Miller and Dan Deibler, who have worked at the Virginia Transportation Research Council have agreed to provide tributes to Mr. Newlon as guest columnists here at the Chronicles, honoring him for his work. Some editing was needed for length purposes, but it is hoped that Mr. Newlon is remembered for what he did for Virginia and for the historic bridge community.

From Ann Miller with regards to his historic achievements:

Howard Newlon’s career in transportation research covered over a half century, and for much of this period he was deeply involved in issues relating to historic transportation structures and materials.  For most of his career he was associated with the Virginia Transportation Research Council (recently renamed the Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation & Research [VCTIR], this is the research component of the Virginia Department of Transportation [VDOT].  Mr. Newlon received his bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Virginia in 1953; he joined the Research Council staff in 1956 while pursuing his master’s degree in Civil Engineering.  Promoted to head of the Research Council’s concrete lab, he remained at the Research Council after receiving his master’s degree in 1959.  As the head of the Research Council’s concrete lab, he undertook groundbreaking research on concrete, and also undertook extensive research into early concrete structures and the history of concrete.

Promoted to Assistant Director of the Research Council in 1968, in addition to his internationally recognized research on concrete, Howard Newlon organized the Research Council’s history research section.  In 1972, under his direction, the Research Council undertook the first statewide survey of early metal truss bridges in the U.S.; this survey covered Virginia’s metal truss bridges from the 19th century up to 1932, when responsibility for most of Virginia’s county road systems was taken over by the state.  A survey of stone masonry and concrete arch bridges followed in the early 1980s.  Building on these early surveys, the Research Council has continued the process, undertaking additional surveys on non-arched concrete bridges, movable span bridges, covered bridges, and footbridges, as well as updating the original surveys of metal truss and arch bridges, and developing an historic bridge management plan and management recommendations for other transportation-related cultural resources. The Research Council surveys and related projects have served as models for similar surveys and management plans in other states.

Also under Mr. Newlon’s direction, the Research Council instituted its Historic Roads of Virginia series, producing transcriptions of early county transportation records (“road orders”) and histories of significant Virginia roads.  Begun in 1973, this series is still ongoing: the 28th volume is currently in production.  In company with other historians, Mr. Newlon also inaugurated, and wrote many of, the “Backsights” series of transportation history articles, which appeared in various VDOT publications from the 1970s until the early 2000s.  The “Backsights” series covers elements of Virginian and national transportation history, including associated personalities, from the 17th through the mid-20th centuries.  The articles are written in a style that holds the interest of historians and engineers, but are also accessible to laymen.

Howard Newlon was promoted to Director of the Research Council in 1981, and continued in that capacity until his retirement in 1989.  After his retirement he acted as a periodic consultant to the Research Council and to other organizations on various aspects of transportation history.

During this tenure at the Research Council, Mr. Newlon also initiated VDOT’s History Research Advisory Committee (now incorporated into the Environmental Research Advisory Committee) to assist with questions of the identification and significance of historic structures.  He was instrumental in the identification and preservation of both the only surviving Fink deck truss in the United States, and of the oldest Bowstring arch truss in Virginia.  He also participated in the restoration of the historic Meems Bottom covered bridge, which was partly burned by vandals in 1976, and was restored and reopened to traffic in 1979.

On a national level, Mr. Newlon received an 1986 Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation for his contributions to protecting and preserving the nation’s historic bridges.  Also in 1986 he was designated as “Virginia’s Outstanding Civil Engineer” by the Virginia Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. He served as chairman of the TRB Subcommittee on Historic Preservation as Related to Transportation from its formation in 1976 until 1988.  He was chairman of TRB Committee A1FO5 on Social, Economic, and Environmental Factors (now Committee ADC50 on Historic and Archaeological Preservation in Transportation) from 1988 until 1991.  In addition, he was an advisory member of the task group which organized TRB Committee ABG 50 on Transportation History.  In 2009, Mr. Newlon received the American Society of Civil Engineers History and Heritage Award.

Until shortly before his death, Mr. Newlon continued his involvement in the Research Council’s history program.  He served as an advisor to the Research Council’s project to collect the “Backsights” articles on transportation history and make these available in electronic format.  In addition, he presented his lecture on “The History of Transportation in Virginia” for digital recordation, and participated in the Research Council’s “History of Concrete Research” project.

Mr. Newlon was a lecturer in the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture, teaching structures, materials and preservation courses.  He also lectured at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (now Virginia Tech), the College of William and Mary, Old Dominion University, Princeton University, and Ohio State University.

From Dan Deibler with regard to working with him:

In the summer of 1973, Howard Newlon hired me, a graduate student in architectural history at the University of Virginia, to turn his idea about the historical value of metal truss bridges into a reality.  Prior to this, no systematic study had been done of bridges in general let alone a study of a particular type.   My career as an architectural historian thus began.
Howard was very clear about the goal of the project but how the goal was to be achieved was assigned to me.  He introduced me to “stress and moment” theory of trusses in an afternoon and then showed me the engineering library.  I had no background in engineering and no natural interest in truss bridges; but over the next three years (I remained on the project until 1976), under Howard’s discerning eye and engaging intellect, I became totally engaged in the subject and developed a methodology to identify and evaluate the historic value of metal truss bridges.  Having Howard to consult made it easy:  he provided ample time for research; he connected me with professionals at the Smithsonian, at other universities and nationally prominent professional engineers.  His professional expertise and national reputation opened up avenues of research that otherwise would have been unavailable to me.
Howard Newlon’s idea to create a methodology for identifying and ranking metal truss bridges for historical, not structural, value was pioneering.   It was only later when I began working in different state historic preservation offices (West Virginia, Florida and Pennsylvania) that I understood the significance of the project that Howard had given me.  The opportunity to develop a systematic data collection process and the opportunity to develop an evaluation methodology proved invaluable throughout my career.  I still look at it as a gift.
I learned much by working for a person whose intellectual curiosity was never restricted by his discipline.  He talked with ease about historical topics, political issues, departmental policies as well as the research issues in concrete technology.  His mind was always focused on the world at large but when called on by an engineering colleague, he could switch his thoughts instantly to the specifics of scientific data.
For me Howard Newlon set a high standard for what to expect in a professional manager.  His modesty, his knowledge, his intellect, his sense of humor, and his graciousness can never receive too much praise.  His manner and manners made it easy for his vision to become yours.  He was truly a wonderful person and a person who made a difference.

 

The author would also like to thank Justin Spivey for his help in compiling the information on Mr. Newlon.