When visiting Hartford, the capital of Connecticut, one will be amazed at the architecture that the city of 123,000 inhabitants has to offer. Apart from the Wadsworth Athenium, Hartford has several historic buildings that date back to the 1700s, such as historic public library, the Old State House, the Travelers Tower and the campus of the University of Connecticut, which is the powerhouse of women’s college basketball. Apart from the history centers that are devoted to Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain, one of the places that is worth visiting is the historic State Capitol Building. Located Bushnell Park, the Capitol is accompanied with various historic sites, including this one in the picture above, the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch. Located on Trinity Street in the park, the arch was built by George Keller in 1886 and was the first memorial arch of its kind in the United States. It was dedicated to honor over 4000 soldiers who died in the Civil War.
Little do the people realize, there was once a bridge that was attached to the arch. The bridge was brought to the attention of the pontist community recently because of its unique design. The bridge features a five-span stone arch bridge with a total length of between 160 and 200 feet. When looking at the photos and postcards of the bridge in bridgehunter.com, the first two historic bridges in Europe came to mind: The Alte Brücke in Heidelberg, Germany and the Charles Bridge in Prague in Czechia. Unlike the two, this bridge in Hartford was dated back to the 1700s, but we don’t know when it was built exactly. One postcard pinpointed the build date to 1757, but it is unknown whether this date is accurate. The other is we don’t know who built the stone arch bridge. If the memorial arch was constructed in 1886, it could be that Keller may have built the stone arch bridge itself, which means the bridge is younger than what was on the postcard. In other words, the question we have about the stone arch bridge is when exactly was it built and by whom?
Sadly though, as part of the modernization of the city in the face of increasing population and traffic, the stone arch bridge and the Park River itself were both buried with the river now running underground enroute to the Connecticut River. The memorial arch itself still stands, and cars can travel through it going one way towards the Capitol. An additional street was built that goes past the arch, carrying traffic to the City Center and XL Arena. Hartford itself has been dealing with poverty issues and population loss itself. Once touted as the richest city in the USA, in the past three decades, Hartford has been one of the poorest cities in the country with 30% of the population living below the poverty line and the city being beset by social inequalities and crime.
Hartford however has a lot to offer and it’s a question of civic leaders and city officials to find ways of making the city attractive again. It doesn’t necessarily mean trying to bring in professional teams as they did in the past for hockey, basketball and football. The last professional hockey team, the Hartford Whalers, moved to Raleigh, North Carolina to become the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997. Hartford is loaded with a lot of history and architecture it should pride itself on and should build off on. The Memorial Arch is one of them, as with the now buried Mystery Bridge. It’s a question of how to turn the city around and exploit the city’s strength. From there, it’s all uphill from there.
If you have any information on the Mystery Bridge, feel free to use the Contact Details or comment in the section below. Happy Bridgehunting, folks. 🙂
This week’s Pic of the Week takes us to a familiar bridge but whose setting taken by the photographer raises some eyebrows among pontists and photographers, especially those who are experts in night-time photography. This photo, taken by Danny Crelling, features the twin spans of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, just after the sun left the horizon and dusk was settling in. Unique about the suspension bridges here is the lighting. The bridges are illuminated with yellow lighting that reflects off Pudget Sound, something we don’t see much of these days. The reason: The high-pressure sodium lighting is being phased out in favor of LED lighting and its neutral white color.
When we look at the history of lighting, we can see not only the development with the use of materials needed to illuminate the lighting, but also the color the lighting illuminates. Incandescent lighting had a light brown to beige color. Mercury Vapor had a emerald green to light blue color. Magnesium had a light pink color. But high pressure sodium had a color of yellow to orange illuminating on the streets. Invented in 1956, it was introduced on the streets in 1970 and by 1990, all the towns in America were illuminating in bright yellow. It had a warm appeal for some, but for others, especially if they are utilized in industrial settings, it had a dystopian appeal which reminds me of the film released in 2011 entitled In Time, with Justin Timberlake. A trailer can be found here and it is highly recommended.
This twin suspension span will have its sodium lighting replaced with LED in the near future, as they have several advantages. First and foremost, LEDs produces less energy than its predecessors. They are brighter thus providing more security for homes and businesses as well as safety for motorists. And lastly, the colors can be adjusted either for a special occasion or to please the residents who prefer to have a good night sleep with a low light setting.
Aside from the brightness issue, the colors can be depressing, even when some communities have adjusted the color to having a purple or dark yellow setting. And the new fixtures are not being accepted warmly by many who, like me, have taken a liking to the fixtures that were produced by GE, Nemo and Westinghouse and are sure that these LED lights could actually be fitted into these fixtures. A pair of videos will show you some examples.
Nevertheless, the photo of the bridge here represents a good example of how colorful our night settings have become- nothing all yellow and dystopian but one where we can see the many different lighting in action. Whether this will continue to be the case in 10 years’ time when the last of the sodium bulbs are phased out completely depends on how communities and highway agencies will operate the LEDs and whether the people will accept them. One variable that will remain constant though, the history and unique design of the suspension bridges, especially as they were built as successors to Galloping Gertie and were the focus of a documentary which came in second in last year’s Bridgehunter Awards in the category Bridge Media and Genre. For more on that, click here. Gertie’s successors, built in 1950 and 2007 respectively, continue to serve traffic to this day and like its history, these two bridges will be around for years to come.
The Flensburg Files has an English activity that ties in the history of street lighting and grammar. Enjoy the history and the exercises when you click here.
After talking about the podcast History that Doesn’t Suck (click here if you haven’t read the interview yet), we’re going to move on with the interview with Prof. Jackson about his masterpiece on the Brooklyn Bridge and the family that left their mark on its construction, from the planning to the realization of the historic landmark. Born in Mühlhausen in the German state of Thuringia, John Roebling had already established a reputation for his perfectionism and his inventions. He had already invented the wire suspension bridge and prior to building the bridge in Brooklyn, he had already left his mark with the Cincinnati-Covington Suspension Bridge as the longest of its kind in the world and the suspension bridge at Niagara Falls as the first suspension bridge with double-decking. Little did he realize that designing the Brooklyn Bridge was easy, building it presented more obstacles than necessary and after he died in 1870, the responsibility fell to his son, Washington and his wife Emily, who would complete the job even though the bridge opened in 1883.
This is just a summary. Yet the juiciest details would come in the form of a podcast Jackson created in June of 2021. It was then followed by a two-part interview with Dave Arnold and Kristen Bennett of Infrastructure Junkies in October. Both of these can be found in part 2 of the interview I did with Prof. Jackson. The first will start with the actual podcast which is enclosed below. It will then be followed by my questions and lastly, the two-part series by Infrastructure Junkies.
We hope you enjoy the show and will get an appreciation of how people come together to build a bridge that not only crosses a river but a landmark that helped America be what it is today. 🙂
And so, without further ado, here we go:
After listening to his podcast, here are the questions I had for him and his responses:
1. What got you interested in the topic on the bridge and with that, the Roebling family?
Well, the Gilded Age is often thought of as kind of a “downer” in US history. I wanted to tell some stories that highlighted the good in the era too. Among those, in my mind, are the magnificent construction projects undertaken in the time. I’d call the Brooklyn Bridge one of the most outstanding among those.
It also has such a compelling story in terms of its construction. It is Roebling family’s multi-generational work! The blood and tears in that thing (literally) makes it a compelling tale.
2. Have you visited any of the Roebling sites, including bridges, historic residences, and even the birthplaces including John’s in Mühlhausen, Germany?
Alas, I’ve only been to the Brooklyn Bridge. But you can bet I walked it, both ways, slowly, admiring every Roebling cable spanning the bridge and running into the anchors.
3. Did you have an opportunity to read the novel by David McCullough on the Brooklyn Bridge or any of the works about the bridge?
I have read David McCullough’s most excellent history of the Bridge. In researching the episode, I also read Roebling biographies, histories of Gilded Age New York, Boss Tweed, looks at maps, plans, etc. Every episode is rigorously researched. It isn’t uncommon for me to have dozens of primary and secondary sources. If you visit my website you can see the sources I used in that episode (HTDSpodcast.com).
4. You mentioned a lot about the engineer John Roebling and his character in your podcast. What are two things that you know about him that many of us don’t know about him?
Two things most people probably don’t know about John Roebling: 1) he loved his family. He worked so hard and was such a serious person, I think this is lost sometimes. But under that tough skin was a loving heart, even if he failed to show it as often as he should’ve. 2) John wasn’t just an engineer, he was an inventor. Though I might say a successful engineer is and must be an inventor. I’m slow to speak to what engineers should do when I’m not one, but as a historian who’s studied a lot of engineers and their incredible works, I’ve noted that the greats don’t just build; they build things others said couldn’t be done: like the Brooklyn Bridge. Generations of Americans said it couldn’t be done. John never asked “if” a thing could be done. He just started figuring out the “how” on his own.
5. When John died from tetanus as a result of his foot injury, his son Washington took over. If you were to compare him with his father, what are some differences you can find between them in terms of their character, how they handled building the bridge, etc. ?
Both were brilliant men and excellent engineers. John was more stern in his demeanor. Washington displayed more emotional intelligence than his father.
Yet, John was the genius than Washington wasn’t. And I don’t mean that as an insult, I think “Washy” would agree with me. He was an excellent engineer, but if we reserve “genius” for the top 1%, the out-of-the-box thinkers, John is the one of the two who hits that mark.
6. Then there’s Washington’s wife, Emily. She basically took over when he fell ill and became bed-ridden. What role did she play in helping finish the bridge project?
Oh, Emily is a hero! She taught herself engineering so she could be the relay between her bed-ridden husband and the ground. She was the co-Chief Engineer in my book.
7. There are some in the history community that say that Emily should have been credited for building the bridge, but in the end, Washington’s name was mentioned. Why was she fully left out and should there be something to honor her for she was Washington’s eyes and guidance?
Frankly, I think it’s a damn shame that the plaques on the Brooklyn Bridge listing the big shots who built it and made it happen do not list her. I think it should be updated.
The reason why she got left off … I have no sources that I’ve seen in which the decision makers explain their rationale. As a historian, I want those documents first and foremost. In their absence, however, I would say it is fair to speculate the reason comes down to US attitudes on gender roles in the 19th century. And I am all for her receiving the proper recognition she deserves in our present.
8. Since the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, there have been improvements in safety standards regarding bridge building. Can you elaborate further on this?
Thankfully, John Roebling over-engineered it. The bridge was designed to hold far more weight than it was expected to. That’s why it didn’t need much change for the first few decades. But as the population increased and cars became a thing, concrete and steel-reinforced roadway had to be added in the 20th century. The bridge has been renovated (painted, cleaned, etc.) a number of times. Like anything you want to last, it needs care and attention.
Though perhaps one of the most important things New York has done was simply building other bridges, which cut down on traffic and weight on the bridge each day!
9. Last year, you did a two-hour podcast on the Brooklyn Bridge and the Roebling family through Infrastructure Junkies. Your original podcast was about an hour. What are some differences between the two podcasts?
The key difference is that HTDS’s episode was the story of the Brooklyn Bridge told as a single-narrator. I got int the drama of the Roebling family a bit more and the intrigue of New York politics. With Infrastructure Junkies, not only was the story’s telling through a conversation, it was focused very much on the nuts and bolts (literally). Still a good time, just a different flavor.
10. What was your reaction to winning the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards in the category Best Bridge Media and Genre?
Honored, of course! Thank you again for the acknowledgement. It’s always good to know one’s work is appreciated, and I’ll add that I was particularly proud of that episode. I really enjoyed it. I obsessed over getting the engineering details right. So getting a nod for my telling of the Brooklyn Bridge was great.
11. Are you planning on doing some further podcasts on American bridges and if so, which ones?
Likely going to do Golden Gate and Bay Bridges at least. Others … we’ll see!
12. If you have some advice for people doing podcasts on bridges, what would you give them?
I would say know your audience. Are you telling the history of bridges or the infrastructure? Not that they are mutually exclusive but figure out what your primary goal is and make sure your product matches your intentions.
And now the two-part interview about the Brooklyn Bridge done by the crew at Infrastructure Junkies. Each part is approximately 40 minutes.
And before we close it on the series on the Brooklyn Bridge, we have one person to interview because of the book review on David McCullough’s work on the bridge. That will come in the next article. Stay tuned! 🙂
The next two mystery bridges will take us to Jackson County, Iowa, located in the far eastern portion of the state. There are two bridges that fellow pontist Troy Knox of Bridging the Driftless brought to the audience’s attention via his personal blog.
This is the first of them. The Caven Bridge was a single span Pratt through truss bridge that spanned the North Fork Maquoketa River on 60th Avenue north of Canton and Emeline. The bridge had a total length of 160 feet, 110 of which consisted of the truss span. Its portal bracing is A-frame but condensed vertically. Nothing is known about the date except sources had it down for 1900. Whether it was built in that year or a couple years earlier or later remain open. There is no information about the bridge builder, except bridges like this one, judging by its portals, may have been built by the Clinton Bridge and Iron Works Company. Yet there is no information as far as builder’s plaques or any inscriptions in the metal beams.
The reason why the information is in past tense is because the Caven Bridge no longer exists. According to information, crews tore down the bridge in November 2021, even though the bridge had been closed to traffic for some time. It is unlikely a replacement span will be built soon as the road is rarely used and the area is sparsely populated. Nevertheless, it would be a great closure to determine when exactly was the bridge built and by whom.
This is where you come in. Feel free to find and comment about this structure. After all your bridge matters. Thank you for your help and best of luck! 🙂
OZARK, MISSOURI- When I first became involved with Christian County’s historic bridges back in late 2010, we were at the beginning of a renaissance- a renaissance where our country was becoming more aware of the importance of historic bridges, and there were numerous exchanges of ideas and success stories on historic bridge preservation. The public was beginning to wake up and whenever they heard about a historic bridge that was targeted for demolition and replacement, they stepped forward to halt the plans and worked together to save these precious structures, those that played key roles in the development of America’s infrastructure and with it, bridge engineering. Myself, together with fellow pontists Todd Wilson, Nathan Holth, Bill Hart and the late James Baughn worked together with Kris Dyer and the organization to save the Riverside Bridge in Ozark, first restoring it onsite in 2012 and then after flooding caused damage two years later, relocating the bridge and restoring it at its new home at Finley Farms in 2020. The preservation movement gained a lot of support among the community and the county that they never forgot how important the Riverside Bridge really was to them- and still is today.
After a double-success story which garnered a two gold medals in the 2012 Ammann Awards and three silver medals in last year’s Bridgehunter Awards, plus several other awards, there is hope that the Riverside Bridge story could be spread to three other bridges in Christian County. As mentioned in last week’s BHC Newsflyer podcast, three historic bridges are slated for replacement, though it is unknown how the county will fund these projects, let alone when they will be replaced remains open.
Which of these bridges are targeted for replacement? Three remaining “wild” truss bridges- bridges that are either open to traffic still or have been abandoned for only a few years, waiting for repairs or replacement so that the crossing is used again. The only common variable: Like the Riverside Bridge, these three were built by the Canton Bridge Company in Ohio. Specifically they are as follows:
Location: Finley Creek on Smyrna Rd. NE of Ozark
Bridge Type: Pin-connected Pratt through truss with A-frame portal bracings
Dimensions: 281 feet long (main span: 119 feet), 11.8 feet wide, vertical clearance: 14.8 feet high
Date of construction: 1912; rehabilitated in 2004 & 2017
The Green Bridge is one of only three through truss bridges left in the county and also the last of the single span truss bridge. Like the Riverside Bridge, its portals feature the typical markings and the bridge builder plates with the name Canton on there. It’s one of the tallest in the county and one where even a train could cross it. It’s narrow enough that only one truck and one person could be on the bridge at the same time. This was my personal experience visiting the bridge with Ms. Dyer and a friend (and former high school classmate) of mine and his family. The bridge is situated in a natural habitat surrounded by forests on both sides of Finley Creek. A beautiful place for a picnic or a photo opportunity.
The Hawkins Ford Bridge is one of those mystery bridges, whose case needs to be solved before its ending as a vehicular crossing. It was relocated here in 1966 but no record mentions where its origin was. We just know that Canton built the structure in 1915 and that’s it. The bridge has been closed to traffic since 2017 and even though there are claims that justify its end of life, the bridge still has a chance at a new life for because of its bridge type, there are many ways to save it. The bridge is quite popular among locals, as you can see in the photos in bridgehunter.com.
Location: Bull Creek on Red Bridge Road south of Ozark
Bridge Type: Three-span Pratt pony truss with pinned connections
Dimensions: 255 feet long in total (longest span 85.8 feet), 11.5 feet wide
Date of Construction: 1915; Repaired in 2005
The Red Bridge was built at the same time as Hawkins Mill but like the Green Bridge, it is located in a heavily forested setting and is a very narrow crossing- narrow enough that only one car and one person could fit, side by side. If there is one bridge that would need to be completely rebuilt, it is this one because of the piers that have been crumbling since my visit in 2011.
All three bridges are considered elgible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, but given Canton Bridge Company’s good track record with the county, let alone the company’s agent, these three structures should be on the National Register. In fact, given the fact that also the Riverside Bridge and Ozark Mill Bridge, now standing side by side at Finley Farms, have not been listed yet, there should be a historic bridge designation with the purpose of not only protecting them but also making them a tourist attraction, as it is being done with the covered bridges in Lyndon, Vermont (as mentioned in the most recent podcast).
The bridges at hand here are no longer suitable for modern-day traffic and according to Christian County Highway Commissioner Miranda Beadles, the new structures would be two-lane to allow for all traffic to use them, especially emergency crews, school buses and utilities. But the county has expressed interest in saving the structures and is open to all options, including giving them to a third party. The question is what options are available? Here are a few worth considering:
Leaving them in place
This option has been practiced where historic bridges could be in place alongside the old one. For the three bridges, there is the option of making a park/rest area on the bridge, integrating them into a bike trail crossing, converting them into a fishing pier or leaving it as is. Advantage is that the relocation costs would be subtracted and the cost would only be allocated for repurposing them onsite, including the cost for the parking area and possible lighting. Plus it would allow for easier and quicker listing on the National Register. The drawback is the costs for ensuring that the bridge is not a liable risk. That means repairs to the structure, esp. with the Red Bridge, plus security and flood protection would be needed. But for this option, it is the most popular avenue for historic bridge preservation.
This was done with the Riverside Bridge already as Finley Farms purchased the structure and financed the restoration project. Normally relocating a bridge takes a lot of money, not only for the cost of disassembly and reassembly, but also the transport and the construction of the abutment and decking. In the case of the three bridges, there is the question of where to place them, though Ozark would be the best spot for these structures, be it as a city-wide bike trail network where these bridges would be showcased, or a bridge museum and/or park near the Finley Farm complex, or an open space where the bridges could be displayed and a new park would be created. That option would depend on the availability of space in town but most importantly, the interest in the community in this endeavor.
Integrating the historic bridges into the new structure
This practice is being done with several historic bridges, including the Route 66 Bridge at Bridgeport, Oklahoma, which will be considered the largest ever. And even though all three bridges would benefit from this “reconstruction,” including the National Register listing, the county has made it clear that the new structures would be two lanes, thus making Hawkins Ford and Red Bridges eligible, and the Green Bridge would be left out, its future unknown.
The current status is as follows: the three bridges are scheduled for replacement but the county has not given up on them just yet. They are looking for ideas on how to reuse them. The interest is still there to save them. The question is how. The Riverside Bridge has shown us that when there is the interest and the way to preserve a historic bridge, nothing will stop it from making it happen. While the Missouri Department of Transportation has been literally busy working on replacing every single historic bridge on the map, competing with Maine, Minnesota and Wisconsin for the title of the first truss-bridge-less state in the country, there are some counties in the state and those along the Route 66 Corridor that do not subscribe to MoDOT’s point of view. The end of a bridge’s structural life does not mean the bridge must be torn down and replaced. And newer structures designed to last 100 years have turned out to have lasted a quarter of that time. With global warming and its disastrous implications on our environment, we have to rethink the way we preserve and replace bridges. We have to appreciate how bridges are built and make use of what history offers us by preserving what is left and using the playbook to build those that are adaptable to change and conform to the environment surrounding it. Truss bridges have played a pivotal role in doing both- as a bridge type that fits with nature and a bridge type that withstands floods and other natural disasters.
And this is where we return to the three bridges of Christian County and their futures. How should they be preserved? If you have any ideas, here are the contact details of people with whom you can share your ideas and ask more about them.
Then you have the following contact details of the Christian County officials:
Highway Administrator – Miranda Beadles email@example.com
Christian County Commission
100 West Church St., Room 100
Ozark, MO 65721
The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest involving the three bridges and their futures, which are currently up in the air. Will they be saved and if so, how and which ones will benefit? All options are open at this point.
DRESDEN, OHIO- There are several towns in the United States that are named after the German city on the Elbe in Saxony. Dresden in Germany, with a population of 550,000 inhabitants, prides itself in the Baroque architecture, much of which was rebuilt after World War II. It has several historic bridges spanning the river which has provided commerce for as long as the city has existed, many of them are over 130 years old and survived the bombings in World War II. Four of them have been restored to their former glory and they are considered one of the places a person should visit, for there will be many stories about them.
And with that, we will look at another Dresden which has a unique suspension bridge. This village has a population of just under 1700 inhabitants and is located in Muskingum County, Ohio. It was founded in 1799 by Jonathan Cass when his family created a farmstead. By 1835, it became a small town. It profited from the Ohio and Erie Canal, which connected Lake Erie near Cleveland and the Ohio River at Portsmouth and was in use during much of the 1800s. The triple lock has been preserved as a historic monument. The Episcopal Church and the Union School, both dating back to the 19th Century have become part of Dresden’s historic town. And lastly, we have the town’s suspension bridge, which the town has taken pride in.
This suspension bridge was built in 1914 by the Bellefontaine Bridge & Steel Company based in Ohio, with Clyde T. Morris overseeing the project. It had replaced a wire suspension bridge that may have been built by Roebling because of the design. But it is unknown if he had constructed such a span, let alone when it was built. We do know that either a bridge collapse due to overweight or flooding may have warranted the replacement of the original bridge with the current span, built higher and using all steel.
The suspension bridge spans the Muskingum River at the junction of state highways 666 and 208. The bridge is built all of steel, including the towers, the eyebar suspension cables, and the steel turnbuckle beams that serve as suspenders. The decking features a continuous Warren pony truss with lattice railings. At present, the decking is all steel and pavement. The bridge is one of a handful of eyebar suspension bridges in the USA and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since its listing in 1978. The bridge has a total length of 705 feet, its main span is 443 feet.
Despite its national significance, the bridge is owned by the Ohio Department of Transportation and it is planning to tear down this historic structure. The transportation agency is working to shed off some of its historic assets because of the lack of interest in keeping the structure in tact. At a virtual meeting that took place on January 24th, 2022, officials addressed the issue with the bridge and presented the following arguments justifying the bridge’s removal:
Costs for Renovation:
According to Ohio DOT, the cost for restoring the bridge is estimated to be at around $6 million, whereas removing the bridge would cost only $1 million. Should the bridge be demolished, ODOT would salvage some of the bridge parts to erect a memorial. To add salt to the open wound, the restoration would not guarantee that the bridge would last into the later part of the century, an argument that can be countered, if we look at the success stories involving the restoration of other bridges of its kind, including and especially the Sister Bridges (Rachel Carson, Roberto Clemente and Andy Warhol) in Pittsburgh, built in the same time period as this bridge and still maintaining its original form since having been rehabilitated.
No Interest in Owning the Bridge:
Neither Muskingum nor the village of Dresden have the finances to own the bridge outright and given ODOT’s current situation with regards to historic bridges falling apart, the agency, which owns the bridge, would like to relieve itsself of the obligations of owning the bridge. That argument was countered with the county being at a disadvantage regarding receiving funding for restoring, replacing and even fixing its bridges, a problem that has been recurrent and at the online meeting, was brought up to the table. Auctioning the bridge like it was the case with the Roche de Beouf Bridge in Waterville would be possible but only through parties willing to restore it and cover the costs including liability. The Roche de Beouf Bridge is scheduled for removal as early as 2023 because the interested parties could not come up with a concept to restore and reuse the partially collapsed arch bridge.
The future of the bridge is in limbo because of its location out of the way of much of the major highways and bike routes. Still the bridge is not out yet, as there are several creative options available to save the bridge. Many of the options are being used for other historic bridges. The Roche de Beouf Bridge was an epic fail with the auction because of a pair of collapsed arch spans- one wonders what the interested parties they saw in the bridge that was doomed to failure even with the money invested in securing it as a historic monument. The Dresden Suspension Bridge is in pristine condition with the only problem being that of the roadway that is drawing weight on the lower chords causing rust and corrosion. In a conversation with fellow pontist Nathan Holth, he mentioned the removal of the decking and converting it into a monument being an option, and perhaps the only option if county and local officials want to keep people off the suspension bridge.
Auctioning the bridge to a party that is willing to invest in restoring the bridge as a monument may be the best option to relieve ODOT of its duties in keeping the bridge. It would stay in Dresden and people can still enjoy the structure. If the option is chosen, it would have to include not only the local parties but also those from outside who have an interest in restoring the bridge to its original glory. As a park is next to the bridge, the bridge could be integrated into the area with information on its history.
Despite the aforementioned proposals, there are many other options available but with little time to spare. ODOT would like to demolish the bridge at the earliest in 2025/26 and has already stated that it would use its own funding and not contact federal authorities for permission. Already there is a growing opposition to the plan and given its National Register status, there may be some unknown bureaucratic red tape and other mines and traps that ODOT will have to go through in order to make its plan a reality. It will be interesting to see what proposals will be open to save the bridge- whether it can be auctioned off, converted into a park using state funds or even the craziest idea yet- relocate the bridge to Dresden, Saxony, Germany- where it would make the best company with the city’s finiest bridges spanning the Elbe and other rivers. All roads are open and ODOT will have to acknowledge that the story of the suspension bridge is not over with- not without a fight.
After a couple weeks away from the computer, we return to our weekly Pic of the Week, paying tribute to the late James Baughn. Our next pic, where he visited and photographed is one that is very dear because it is the only one of its kind along the longest river in the state.
We know that the Des Moines River, with a total length of 526 miles (845 kilometers), slices through the state of Iowa, including the state capital of Iowa that bears the same name. Even if the river forks into the east and west branches and starts in southern Minnesota, the river is loaded with unique bridges- both past and present, that bridge builders from as many as ten states have left their marks, six of which come from Iowa, including Iowa Bridge Company, A.H. Austin, Clinton Bridge and Iron Company, George E. King, Marsh Engineering, just to name a few. The most notable bridges one can find along the river include the Murray and Berkheimer Bridges in Humboldt County, Ellsworth Ranch Bridge in Emmet County, the Kate Shelley Viaduct in Boone County, the arch bridges in Des Moines,…..
…..and this bridge in St. Francisville, in Missouri!
The St. Francisville Bridge spans the river at the Iowa/Missouri border. It’s a Warren-style cantilever through truss bridge with MA-portal bracings. The connections are riveted. It was built in 1937 by Sverdrup and Parcel of St. Louis, with FW Whitehead overseeing the constructon of the bridge. The bridge was formerly a toll bridge until they were eliminated in 2003. It used to serve the Avenue of the Saints and Jefferson Highway (Highway 27) until it was bypassed by an expressway bridge in 2004. It later served as a frontage road crossing until 2016, when the bridge was closed to vehicular traffic. Since then, the bridge has been sitting usused, awaiting its future.
The photo was taken by Mr. Baughn in 2013, when the bridge was still open to traffic. Given the bridge’s proximity to the nearby park and boat ramp on the Missouri side, combined with the nearby communities, the structure is a great asset and with some repairs and renovations done with the superstructure, the bridge could continue as a local street crossing, sharing the road with a bike route. What is needed is money to strengthen and renovate the structure to a point where it can be reused again. The bridge is eligible for the National Register, which if listed, could open the door for grants and other amenities that will help with the cause. The bridge would be a perfect rest stop for commuters traveling in both directions and St. Francesville would benefit from a newly restored bridge.
The St. Francisville Bridge is unique because of its design as a cantilever truss bridge, something that has become a rarity these days. It is the only crossing along the Des Moines of this kind and one of a few examples of a bridge built by Sverdrup and Parcel, the same company that contributed to numerous major bridge projects in five states between 1920 and 1960. It is time that the bridge is given the tender loving care it deserves.
The question is are you willing to help with the cause?
LONE ROCK, WISCONSIN- Three historic truss bridges in and around the Lone Rock area are being marketed off to those who are interested in purchasing a piece of history and repurposing it for recreational use.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is replacing three truss bridges in 2024, yet they would like to give the structures away with hopes their historical integrity are maintained under the care of the new owner(s). They are all located along Wisconsin State Highways 130 and 133, two of them span the Wisconsin River and feature multiple-span through truss spans, one of them is a pony truss span. They date back to the 1930s. All are within two miles (4km) of each other. The details are below:
Location: Wisconsin River at the junction WI Hwy. 130 & 133
Year of Construction: 1942
Bridge Type: Three-span polygonal Warren through truss with subdivided vertical beams, riveted connections and W-frame portal bracing
Dimensions: 682.4 feet long (212 feet per truss span); 24 feet wide
Location: Small Branch Wisconsin River on WI Hwys. 130 & 133
Bridge type: Four-span Warren through truss with riveted connections, W-frame portal bracing and X-frame strut bracings.
Construction Date/ Builder: 1933 by the Clinton Bridge Company of Clinton, Iowa
According to a press release provided by WIDOT, recipients must agree to relocate the structure (or structures) to a suitable spot and assume all obligations and responsibilities for maintaining it. Funding is available for relocating the structure, yet the transfer of ownership will be made once the structures are dismantled and loaded onto the truck beds for transport to their new homes, at no additional cost. Further information on the bridges on the market can be found in the link by clicking here.
The company Michael Baker International is overseeing the project of replacing the three crossings and giving the historic structures away to the new owners. If you are interested in obtaining a package and providing proposals for relocating one or all of the crossings mentioned here, please contact Sue Barker via e-mail at: Susan.Barker@mbakerintl.com or via phone at 608-821-8712. She is your contact for additional questions and other items you may have about the bridge project. Deadline for obtaining the informational packages is October 31, 2021. Further information on the procedures to nominate parties willing to take the bridge(s) will be made available after the deadline.
Wisconsin has already had an attempt to relocate the historic Cobban Bridge in Chipewa County, only to be met with failure and the two-span Pennsylvania through truss spans being doomed to demolition. It’s scheduled to come down next year. It is hoped that something can be done with the Lone Rock crossings between now and 2024 in terms of preserving them for future use. All it takes is the will of the public and all parties involved to make it happen.
All photos courtesy of the late JR Manning. He took the pics in 2012.
We’ve heard of a lot of ghost stories involving bridges in our lifetimes. However the next film documentary presented here in the Chronicles has to do with one of the worst in its history. The story takes us to Statesville, in Iradell County, North Carolina and to one of the most haunted bridges in the state- Bostian’s Bridge. The bridge features five concrete closed spandrel arch spans, spanning Third Creek carrying the Norfolk and Southern Railroad. The bridge is 260 feet long and the deepest point oft he ravine is approximately 60 meters. It is unknown when the bridge was built or who built it, the bridge is infamous for a tragedy that happened 130 years ago. On August 27th, 1891, a train disaster happened on the bridge which was so gruelsome, the historians have pegged it as one of the worst train-bridge disasters in the history of American railroad, sometimes comparing it tot he Ashtabula Railroad Bridge disaster of 1876. The disaster, as will be told in this documentary presented here, eventually produced supernatural encounters that have lingered to the present, eventually causing another train-bridge disatser 119 years later. Have a look at the story:
This is what the bridge looks like today, the photo courtesy of Royce and Bobette Haley:
The train still serves traffic to this day, yet should the line be discontinued at some point, there will definitely be some hesitancy in repurposing the bridge because of its haunted past. Chances are likely that it will eventually succumb to nature, which will take over, and allow the ghosts to be at peace. For some haunted bridges, they are best if left as is without altering or even destroying it.
LITTLETON, MAINE- One of Maine’s handful of century-old bridges was incinerated and the state fire marshal is looking into the possible causes. The Watson Settlement Bridge was a covered bridge featuring a Howe through truss design. It spanned the Meduxnekeag Stream on Former Carson Road in Littleton in Aroostook County, located between US Hwy 1 and the US-Canada border. It was built in 1911 and had served traffic until 1984 when the current concrete structure was built on a new alignment and the historic bridge was converted to a pedestrian crossing. Listed on the National Register since 1970, the 170 foot long bridge was named after the nearby Watson Settlement and was a magnet for photo opportunities including graduation photos.
Fire Crews were called to the scene of a fire on Monday afternoon at 2:45pm Eastern Time only to find the covered bridge engulfed in flames. Three different fire departments from Littleton, Houghton and Monticello were at the scene to put down the blaze. The State Fire Marshal Office arrived at the scene an hour later to investigate. The entire structure, consisting of charred beams and a partially collapsed roof, has been considered a total loss and will have to be torn down. It is unknown at this point whether a replica will be constructed. The area has been barracaded off to keep people from going on the bridge due to its structural instability. The State Fire Marshal is looking into any information to determine the cause of the fire, including finding any potential arsonists. People with information on the fire should contact their office at 1-888-870-6162.
The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest involving the bridge, the fire and what happens next.