Minneapolis Bridge Company- Minneapolis, MN (USA)

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

During a period between 1870 and 1940, the United States experienced an exponential growth in the number of not only iron and steel truss bridges, but also the number of bridge companies and steel mills. Originating from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and New York, companies were established in the 1870s but through consolidations and insider business training, the numbers expanded westward, reaching Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa by 1910.

With these expansions came the development of the schools of bridge builders. Consisting of family dynasties and strong ties among the builders, these bridge builders were established either as family businesses or businesses with closest ties- whose founders later established ventures out west as a way to compete with the giant monopolies, like the American Bridge Company. Many schools of bridge builders existed beginning in the 1880s, including ones in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Ohio, New England,

and this one in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  The Minneapolis School of Bridge Builders featured bridge builders having established companies in Minneapolis and points to the east. These bridge builders were either self taught, had ties with companies to the east or both, and had a close-knit network of family members and close partners who later established companies or contracted westwards in the Great Plains and western states. They included the Hewett Family (William, Seth, Arthur), Commodore P. Jones, Lawrence Johnson and Alexander Bayne. Jones and Bayne were responsible for the Minneapolis Bridge Company, which was the longest tenured bridge company in the Minneapolis School and one of the longest in the United States.

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

Founded in 1887 by Commodore P. Jones, the Minneapolis Bridge Company has a unique history, some of which is still being debated by historians and scholars today. What is known is the fact that the bridge company operated under different ownerships as well as different names. According to the 1985 study on Minnesota’s bridges by Robert Frame, the company operated under Minneapolis Bridge Company from 1888 to 1898 and from 1913 to 1941, the Minneapolis Bridge and Iron Company from 1898-1910 and as the Minneapolis Bridge Construction Company 1941- ca. 1944.  Jones operated the company before he left in 1910 to join Seth Hewett (with whom he was partners in the bridge business some years earlier) and formed the Great Northern Bridge Company, which operated until 1922. It is unknown what happened to the company between the time span of 1910 and 1913, although some sources claim that the company was out of business by 1910 and was restarted in 1913. But more research is needed to determine whether this was the case. However, one of Jones’s disciples, Alexander Y. Bayne took over the company in 1913, and the Minneapolis Bridge Company resumed its bridge building business. Bayne was president of the company from 1913 to 1917, when his partner, Oliver Matteson took over the presidency and held it until 1926. Matteson had been an agent of the company up to 1917 as well as an agent for two other previous companies prior to the resurrection of the Minneapolis Bridge Company. Another bridge builder, Isak Helseth took over the operations in 1941 and presided over the company until it folded in 1950.  Assuming the bridge company was not closed down between 1910 and 1913, the Minneapolis Bridge Company relocated twice in its life span: first to the Met Life Building from its original location at the Lumber Exchange Building in 1913 and seven years later to 3100 NE 6th Street. The company was known to have constructed dozens of bridges during its existence. The 1985 study by Frame indicated that five were built by Jones and 27 by Bayne. However upon doing a count by the writer as part of a book project completed eight years ago,  31 bridges were constructed under Commodore Jones and dozens of others by Bayne.

Winona Bridge. Built in 1941

Several historic bridges remaining in the country were built by Minneapolis Bridge Company, almost all of which were under the operations by Bayne, even though he had another business in Canada. Examples of bridges built by the company that are still standing include the following:

Winona Bridge (Minnesota)

St. Mary Aqueduct (Montana)

Sorlie Memorial Bridge (North Dakota/ Minnesota)

Ortonville Arch Bridge (Minnesota)

Granite Falls Suspension Bridge (Minnesota)

Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter (Minnesota)

Ten Mile Road Bridge (Michigan)

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

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

Savanna-Sabula Bridge (Iowa/Illinois)

Kilen Woods Bridge (Minnesota)

Meadow Hill Drive Bridge (Wisconsin)

Walworth Bridge (South Dakota)

Rockdale Viaduct (Iowa)



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

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

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Savanna-Sabula Bridge a Memory

Photo taken in January 2015

Cantilever K-Truss Bridge Imploded on 9 March; Running Slough Bridge also to Disappear.

SAVANNA, IL/ SABULA, IA- The end of an era has come for residents of the towns of Savanna and Sabula. One month after the replacement span- a tied-through arch bridge spanning the Mississippi River opened to through traffic, construction crews brought down the Savanna-Sabula Cantilever Truss Bridge on 9 March. Over 300 charges in 21 different places were used to bring down the main span. The Savanna-Sabula Bridge was built in 1932 by the Minneapolis Bridge Company, one of the major bridge companies that belonged to the Minneapolis School of Bridge Building, which featured the likes of Commodore P. Jones, the Hewett Family (Seth, William and Arthur) and Alexander Bayne, to name a few. Jones founded the company in 1887 and at the time of the construction of this bridge, Bayne was president of the company. The bridge had a span of 2481 feet, its main span was 520 feet. The blue-colored cantilever span featured a K-truss through truss span, one of the rarest of its kind in the country. The portal bracings were X-framed but a plaque was located on the Illinois end of the span. A video of the drive across the bridge can be seen below:

Because of its narrowness, combined with the roadway being in a flood plain and problems with river navigation, officials from Iowa and Illinois agreed to build a new span in 2013 while trying to give away the bridge to a party wishing to relocate it (see article here) Unfortunately there were no takers and therefore, the bridge was condemned, however some pieces will be reused for an exhibit in both ends, serving as a reminder of the bridge’s time as a toll bridge, serving the Short Route, connecting Cedar Rapids with Chicago.

Several videos of the bridge’s demolitions were taken, as it became a pile of scrap metal as of 10:35am on Friday the 9th of March, 2018. Some examples are shown below:


The Pratt through truss approach spans to the main span will be dismantled and the demolition of the bridge will be completed by May. At the same time, another accessory connecting Savanna and Sabula, the Running Slough Bridge (as pictured below) is being removed even as this article is released. The Pratt through truss span with West Virginia portals was built at the same as the Savanna-Sabula span and was the entry point to Sabula. The bridge was originally scheduled to be replaced this summer. However the partial collapse of one of the approach spans has prompted Iowa DOT to move the timeline forward and remove the bridge right away. At present, the new span is to be built and opened by the end of May. Whether this date is realistic depends on the weather conditions, especially because of the harsh winter the region has had, combined with possible flooding caused by the spring thaw.


New Hope Truss Bridge Collapses

Photo taken by Nathan Holth

Product of Lomas Bridge and Iron Works Company Collapsed on 18 February. Causes are being investigated

CINCINNATI, OHIO- Police and county officials are looking into the causes of a historic Bridge that mysteriously collapsed three weeks ago. The New Hope Truss Bridge collapsed during the night of 18 February. Remains of the Bridge were found in the water the following morning resulting in the alerting of authorities. The Bridge had been abandoned for over three decades, having been made obsolete by the current structure that was built to the west of the iron structure since 1960. That bridge carries US Hwy. 68. Built over White Oak Creek north of New Hope in 1884, the iron truss structure was the product of the Lomas Forge and Bridge Works Company of Cincinnati, having carried Main Street between the village and points to the north. The truss bridge featured a Whipple through truss bridge with two layers of Town lattice Portal bracings, sandwiching the builders plaque in between. The connections were pinned. The total length was 160 feet with a deck width of 14 feet.  There had been interest in purchasing the bridge for the purpose of restoration and repurposing for recreation use, but nothing was ever realized.

The collapse of the bridge was a mysterious one for there had never been any flooding in the area. This leads to one of two theories: 1. The bridge collapsed under ist own weight as it happened with the Schell City Bridge in Missouri six years ago, or 2. Someone tried to dismantle the bridge in an attempt to steal metal parts to be sold in the market. In any case, because of flooding that has recently been affecting residents along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and their tributaries, authorities will not be able to find out what exactly happened until the collapsed span is removed from the creek.

The loss of the bridge is a crushing one, for there is now one more through truss bridge left in Brown County at Higginsport. That bridge has been abandoned for many years and many people are fearing if nothing is done to restore the 1885 Whipple structure, that might meet its fate similar to the New Hope Bridge.  The George Street Bridge in Aurora, Indiana is the last surviving structure built by Lomas Forge. The Whipple through truss bridge was built in 1887 and was remodeled twice: in 1989 and again in 2011. The structure is still in use today.


San Antonio River Walk Tour and Bridges

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! 🙂




Mystery Bridge Nr. 92: The Unusual Truss/Arch Bridge at Van Loon

This next mystery bridge takes us to a place out in the middle of nowhere east of a larger city in Indiana. The Van Loon Bridge was one of the most unusual truss bridges found on record. The bridge used to span the Little Calumet River east of Hammond and features a two-span pony arch bridge with Warren truss features and riveted connections. According to an article in the Engineering News Magazine  dated in 1915, the bridge was assembled using scrap metal from an unknown source in Van Loon, Indiana. Unfortunately there were no records that indicated the existence of the community except that it was probably located somewhere outside Hammond. While fellow pontist Nathan Holth pinpointed the bridge’s location to the east, it is not 100% correct and chances are most likely that it could be either to the west or even somewhere along the Calumet. The same applies to the community of Van Loon for the community may have existed for a few years before having disappeared even from the record books.  What we do know is that the bridge, which is approximately 100-120 feet long and 13 feet wide has been extant for many years. This leads to several questions that need explaining about this bridge:

  1. Where exactly along the Calumet was this bridge located?
  2. Where was Van Loon located? When was the community founded, let alone when it vanished?
  3. If the bridge was built using scrap metal, where (in or around Van Loon) did the metal come from?
  4. When was the bridge built and by whom?
  5. When was the bridge demolished?
  6. Was there a replacement for the bridge?

This mystery bridge is unique for we are not only looking for the history of the bridge itself but also the community that only existed for a Brief time. Henceforth if you have any history of Van Loon that would be of great help for to better understand about the bridge’s history, one Needs to know more about the community it served. This includes the people who lived there, the businesses and the events that affected the community, including the factors that led to ist disappearance. You can provide one or both here or through the bridgehunter.com website.

While we have seen fancy bridges, like the one constructed using the remains of a Ferris Wheel, a car dealership, a stadium and the like, nothing is as fancy and interesting is a unique bridge built using parts from an unknown location. The bridge at Van Loon is one of those particular bridges that has that beauty.


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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck and happy bridgehunting! 🙂

Source: DWP Railway Trestle in West Duluth, 1977



2017 Ammann Award Results: Part 1

Rock Island Rail-to-Trail Bridge in Little Rock, AR at night. Photo taken by Chauncy Neuman, winner of this year’s Best Photo Award

New Olympic-Style Medal System to the Top Six Finishers

Record Number of Voter Participation

SCHNEEBERG (SAXONY), GERMANY- 2018 is here, and with it, the revealing of the winners of the 2017 Othmar H. Ammann Awards. This year’s awards ceremony is far different than in years’ past. For instance, instead of announcing the winners in nummerical order from top to bottom, the top six winners receive a medal in a combination of Olympics and Ore Mountain form. That means the top three finishers receive the typical Olympic medals, whereas 4th to 6th place finishers receive medals typical of the Ore Mountain region in Saxony in eastern Germany, the new home for this column (specifically, in Schneeberg). That means tourquoise, copper and iron ore to those respective finishers. To view the total number of candidates please click here for details, including how they finished.

This year’s awards set some impressive records that can only be bested by more participation and more awareness of the historic bridges that we have left in general. For instance, we had records smashed for the highest number of voter turnout in each of the nine categories. Furthermore, there were at least seven lead changes in each category, which was also a first. In four of the categories, there were lead changes with at least four of the candidates. In another category, each of the candidates took a shot at first place and stayed at the top for at least a week before it was dethroned in favor of another one. In summary, no leader was safe regardless of margin that was built with its second place competitor. 🙂

And with that we will take a look at the winners of the 2017 Ammann Awards, divided up into two parts so that the readers are not overwhelmed with the content. The winners of the 2017 Author’s Choice, where the author himself picks his favorites, will follow. But for now, let’s see what the voters have chosen for bridge favorites beginning with…..



This year’s Best Photo Category brought in not only double the number of candidates as last year (12 entries) but also double as many candidates that vied for first place as last year- there was a battle among three candidates for the top spot for the 2016 Awards. All six candidates finished in the top six with Chauncy Neumann bringing home the gold for his night photo of the Rock Island Railroad Bridge in Little Rock, AR., a fine example of a rail-to-trail crossing that still has its use in its second life today. His photo can be seen in the Chronicles’ facebook page as well as an avatar for the Chronicles’ twitter page. The silver medal went to Esko Räntilla for his stone arch bridge, built in the 1700s spanning a small creek in Finnland. That photo can be seen in the Chronicles’ wordpress page. Third place finisher receiving the bronze was Kevin Skow for his shot of the pony truss bridge Mill Creek in Kansas. His photo can be seen on the Chronicles’ twitter page. All of them will remain to be seen until mid-July before they become part of the header rotating page for the Chronicles’ wordpress page. The rest of the results:

Draschwitz Bridge north of Zeitz in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt: Winner of the Best Kept Secret International Award


This category is divided up into American and International Bridges and focuses on historic and unique bridges that receive little to no attention compared to other historic bridges, like the Golden Gate and Brooklyn Bridges in the States. In the international part of the category, we had 14 entries from three continents with four vying for the top spot. In the end, the winner of award goes to a small village north of Zeitz in Germany and this unusual bridge, the Draschwitz Truss Bridge over the White Elster River. This bridge is unique because of its v-laced top chord. The story behind it can be found here. Silver goes to the suspension bridge at Betsiboka in Madagascar, whereas Bronze goes to another unique arch bridge in Greece nominated by Inge Kanakaris-Wirtl, the Plakidas Bridge. The rest of the top six include:

Sarto Bridge in Louisiana. Photo taken by Cliff Darby

In the States, we had ten entries, featuring bridges from all over the country. This included a “dead bridge”- one that has been extant for many years, yet one decided to nominate it post humously. As in the international portion, four of the ten vied for the top spot, but in the end, the Sarto Bridge, spanning the Bayou des Glaises at Big BendAvoyelles Parish, Louisiana came out the winner by a slim margin, outlasting the Johnson Bridge in Stillwater County (Montana) by five votes. That “dead bridge” mentioned earlier, was Sugar Island Bridge in Kankakee Illinois, came in third with 88 votes- a bronze medal well earned a century after it was converted into a pile of scrap metal. The bridge was destroyed by a tornado in 1916 and was replaced afterwards.  The rest of the top six include:

Geneva Creek Bridge in Muscatine, Iowa. Winner of the Mystery Bridge Award. Photo taken by Luke Harden



Twelve bridges were entered in this category, of which three came from the States and the rest from Germany. Still, the winners of both the international and American competition were clearly decisive with the American bridge winning the all around by a wide margin. That was with the Geneva Creek Bridge in Muscatine, Iowa, a Bedstead Howe pony truss that features two spans and was relocated at an unknown time. Information on that is enclosed here. The ancient arch bridge in Erfurt won the international division but came in second in the all around. That bridge spans a small waterfall that empties into the Diversion Channel on the south end of the city in Thuringia. It may be the oldest extant structure in the city’s history. For more, click here. Not far behind was another competitor from the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, a thatched-roof covered truss bridge in St. Peter-Ording, whose unique story can be found here. The rest of the standings include:

The rest of the winners can be found in Part 2. Click here to get there. 🙂

Ancient Arch Bridge at Pförtchen Bridge in Erfurt. Winner of the Ammann Awards for Mystery Bridge International