Mystery Bridge Nr. 97: The Unknown Truss Bridge at Westword (Iowa)

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The best historic bridges are the ones that are unknown, undocumented and undiscovered, for they are the ones itching to be researched by those who are interested.

A couple weeks ago, as I was looking for some information on another bridge, I happened to stumble on this rather unknown historic bridge by accident. And while this bridge was filed by, this historic Iowa structure is very unknown. No historian, like the late James Hippen has touched it. No agency like IowaDOT and Henry County has mentioned it, yet. No information was ever recorded in any historic bridge or building survey. However when this gets out, many historians and bridge lovers will flock to it for pictures to be posted in the social media, the portal that is the most appropriate location to share information and discuss this.

The bridge at hand is a through truss bridge spanning the old channel of the Skunk River. Its exact location is in the Westwood district, a mile west of Mount Pleasant. It is a quarter mile south of the old Hwy. 34, a quarter mile east of Franklin Avenue (County Highway W55) and a half mile northwest of the Henry County Quarry. It used to carry what is now Graham Avenue, which ends 500 feet east of the bridge. Judging by the bird’s eye perspective via Google Map, the bridge appears to have 5-8 panels and pinned connections. Looking at it more closely, it appears to be a Pratt truss. It has been abandoned for many years but may have been fenced off to keep people from approaching the structure (and crossing private property), which would explain why the bridge has been untouched for that long of time.

And that is all we know of the bridge. We have no further information about its appearance up-close, meaning its portal view, truss type, its connections, builder’s plaques and even its total dimensions. Furthermore, we have no information about its history, which is very important as we would like to know whether or not it is elgible for the National Register of Historic Places. We basically know absolutely nothing about the bridge, except for its location. We just know that the river was channeled a century ago to straighten it out and protect the area from flooding. But the rest is completely open for research.

What do we know about the bridge? What does it look like? What about its history?

Comment via mail, in the comment section both here or on the Chronicles’ facebook page. A photo folder will be made for photos of this bridge should you decide to visit the bridge. The main thing is whether the bridge is historically significant to join Oakland Mills Bridge on the National Register of Historic Places.

Can you answer any of these questions and provide some stories and photos? If so, we are ready to read them. Thank you for your help. 🙂



Contributors Wanted for the Chronicles and its Social Media Pages


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Elimination of Internet Neutrality and Introduction of European Privacy Guidelines plus American counter-guidelines hampering news coverage of the Chronicles and other historic bridges sites.  Volunteer Contributors Wanted.

SCHNEEBERG (SAXONY), GERMANY- Since the Facebook scandal and the Trump administration’s campaign to eliminate internet neutrality to benefit the select few, regulations and counter-regulations on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean are making things very difficult to access any type of news coverage, be it TV, newspaper or the internet. Since 25th of May, new guidelines from the European Union have been in effect, which require all companies to inform readers of their rights to access the sites, which includes granting them rights to use only their personal data that is apropriate to their websites only and not giving them away to third parties without their consent. As a counter-measure, many news agencies in the United States have raised their guard on the rights to access their news from overseas. While some, like USA Today have provided the “lite” version with only the essential information, others have blocked access altogether. That means, readers from Europe who access information on news in their area of interest have been seeing this on their screen when trying to access their website:


Imagine an American expatriate from Hamburg trying to access news from his/her hometown of Des Moines, Iowa and cannot because of this. Believe it or not, Des Moines is one of many examples of cities and regions throughout the country implementing these counter-measures, as a “Red Alert! Shields Up! The Klingons are coming!” paranoia.

Given this situation, how does this affect the way the Chronicles does news coverage, especially with regards to social media?  It has a huge, negative impact indeed.

Since 2010 with facebook and 2013 with Twitter, the Chronicles has been providing news coverage on historic bridges on social media to provide readers with an opportunity to read up on them and if the chance arises, take action. This includes posting news articles on the social media sites, which have garnered followers by an average of 20% yearly for both sites. Almost 1000 followers are on the facebook website and group pages and 110 for twitter. The trend is skyrocketing as the Chronicles has been back in action lately after a brief absence to reorganize its wordpress site due to the shutdown of its areavoices website last May, and if it continues to pick up more support, it is possible to break the 1500 mark for facebook and 150 for twitter, respectively, by the end of the year.

Sadly though, the progress to make the Chronicles a key news source for historic bridges in the US, Europe and elsewhere has been hampered greatly by the limited access to American media because of these unnecessary restrictions, for attempts to even forward the posts to the social media pages from its headquarters in Germany have in many cases been denied.  While it is bad enough for readers outside the United States to not have any more access to the news media outlets, it is worse if the possibilities to even post them on twitter are no longer valid.  The new regulations fall into the same category as Google’s plan to introduce pricing schemes for their maps and streetviews, which has caused the Chronicles’ Missouri-based colleague to remove all of its streetviews and consider replacing the maps with those from other, less-known map-making websites- as being complicated, an example of greedy, short-sightedness that will eventually fail miserably in the end.

While the Chronicles’ itself is not affected by all of the guidelines, as it runs a wordpress platform that operates universally, the twitter and facebook sites will see either fewer posts because of limited access to American media outlets or if they are posted, some of the viewers (especially outside the United States, including Canada, the EU, Mexico, Russia, Australia and Japan) will not be able to see them. And this is where your help is needed.



We need bridgehunters, historians, enthusiasts and locals to come together and help feed and water the two plants that are growing and bearing fruit. If you see any articles pertaining to historic bridges, bridge rehabilitation, bridge replacement or any events involving a historic bridge in the United States and its affiliated islands, please use the following social media websites to post them, followed by a brief summary in 1-2 sentences about the article if possible:

BHC on Facebook

BHC on Twitter (FLBHAVSmith)

You are encouraged to like and follow the Chronicles if you want to keep up to date on the latest coverage of historic bridges in the US, Europe, Asia and other places in the world. By reaching the aforementioned goals and even beyond, we are providing a statement that media is for all and for free- not for the select few who are disinterested to begin with.

Note that the Chronicles has an Instagram app and is not affected by these restrictions. You can access (and follow) this page by clicking here.

If you know of a historic bridge that deserves attention because of a news event, you are encouraged to write a guest column and include 1-2 pictures to be sent to the author of the Chronicles, Jason Smith, at: It will be posted in the Chronicles with your famed credit which will look good on your résumé if you wish to proceed in a career in media, history, etc.

This request is only for the US bridges as the regulations affect news coverage of many media outlets. The Canadian, European and other international outlets are not affected and coverage will be provided by its office here in Schneeberg.

The situation is awkward and disappointing, but it does not mean the show is over. The show must go on and it will go on, stronger than ever, because of people like you who love historic bridges. Therefore we will proceed as planned and the Chronicles thanks you with an open heart, mind and soul for your support. It is much appreciated. 🙂




BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 6


This BHC Pic of the Week is also a throwback, going back eight years to August 2010. Here, in the Minnesota town of Wabasha, on the Mississippi River, one can get a brillant pic of this bridge with the statue of the Dakota native American chief Wabasha in the foreground. The Chief Wabasha, whom the town was named after, had signed a treaty in 1852, ceding land to the United States which is today the southern third of Minnesota. It was the same Wabasha who fought on the side of the Dakota tribe during the War of 1862, which started the process of rounding up and designating them to reservations in the western half of the country. Wabasha was exiled to Nebraska, where he died in 1876. After 28 years of warfare, the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 ended the conquest of freedom for native Americans and the closing of the American frontier. Much of the history can be found at the Native American Museum in Wabasha, where the statue stands.

The bridge itself was built in 1987, and is the youngest through truss bridge on the Mississippi. The polygonal Warren truss span connects the community of 2300 with Nelson (Wisconsin) and is a half mile long from shore to shore. It has recently been renamed in memory of Michael Duane Clickner, a local resident who fought and died in the Vietnam War.

On the day of blue skies and warm temperatures, an afternoon shot was just right for the occasion. However, sometimes morning shots are even better too, if one takes the time to do that- especially in the summer, when the days are much longer and the sun is towards the north- in the direction of the bridge and statue.  🙂



Mystery Bridge Nr. 96: The Milford Lake Kingpost Truss Bridge in Kansas

Photo taken by Forrest Stewart

Our 96th mystery bridge takes us to the central part of the US; specifically to Wakefield, in Clay County, Kansas. The Milford Lake Truss Bridge is one of two bridges that used to be located along a path on the western side of the lake. The truss span is a Kingpost pony truss, which features cruciform outriggers on the outer edge on the verticle post. The truss connections are riveted, however, the trusses are supported by V-laced lally columns, entrenched into the stream bed. Its decking is held by concrete wingwalls. The bridge is between 45 and 50 feet long between abutments; between 30 and 40 if focusing on the trusses. Judging by the age of the trusses and its connections, the bridge must’ve been built between 1900 and 1915 as riveted connections were being introduced at that time to replace the pinned connections. Furthermore, many of these riveted trusses included cruciform outriggers, designed to keep the trusses vertical and attached to the lower chord. Many local bridge builders used kingposts for small stream crossings, including those in Kansas, where this bridge is located. They include the Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Works, Stupp Brothers (both of St. Louis), the Hewett families of bridge builders in Minneapolis (MN), RD Wheaton and Company in Chicago and Seevers Bridge Company in Oskaloosa (IA), just to name a few. This bridge was most likely built by a bridge contractor in Kansas or Missouri, given its approximate location near the border. But more information is needed to prove this.

As for Milford Lake itself, the lake was created by the US Corps. of Engineers in 1967, which included the damming of the Republican River. It was part of the project to control flooding and create recreational areas in and around Junction City. The lake has 15,700 acres of water and over 33,000 acres of land used for natural habitat. It is the largest lake in Kansas with a length of 20 miles and a width of five miles on average. When the lake was formed, this bridge was partially submerged along with a culvert, 200 feet away. Yet because of the drought, much of the lake has decreased in size and depth, thus revealing this beauty.

This presents a grand opportunity to save this bridge by restoring it, relocating it to a community that may need it and reuse it as a bike crossing.  Given its location right next to the water, leaving it as is may not be an option, for water levels may rise and the bridge may disappear- even for good. According to Forrest Stewart, who submitted this photo on Interesting Places in Kansas’ facebook site, and confirmed by many bridge enthusiasts, damage to the trusses has been reported which includes bends in the cruciform and bottom chords. Although it is not severe enough that the bridge is in immediate danger of collapse, some repairs are needed, nonetheless before it is repurposed.

To sum up: The bridge was rebuilt between 1900 and 1915 by a local bridge builder, but is in need of a new home before it is re-inundated again, possibly disappearing together. Can you help with the history and or the efforts? A map is enclosed to show its location. All you need to do is call for help.

So go help and good luck! 🙂



Mystery Bridge Nr. 94: A Stone Arch Bridge that was once a Pony Express Route and a Major Highway

Stone arch bridge. Photo and youtube film courtesy of Trey Pitsenberger

The next mystery bridge takes us out to eastern California in the vicinity of Lake Tahoe and along the Lincoln Highway. This stone arch bridge is located off US Highway 50 west of the town of Strawberry in the Eldorado State Forest, approximately 35 miles west of Lake Tahoe. One of the highway and bridge enthusiasts, Trey Pitsenberger, had to pull off due to a flat tire and found this one by chance. The most unique is that despite its connection with the Lincoln Highway and along with that, the Pony Express Route, this bridge has absolutely no historic background- who built the structure and even when it was built, even though it has been estimated to have been constructed at the turn of the century (1900).  Mr. Pitsenberger has produced a YouTube Video to show you the structure and some facts he has found so far. Check it out! 🙂

Sometimes fate presents itself in beautiful ways, even if it is a flat tire. 😉

For those who don’t know about it, the Pony Express Service was founded by William H. Russell, Alexander Majors, and William B. Waddell in 1860 and it featured mail service by horseback, connecting St. Joseph, Missouri and Oakland, with 186 mail stops every 10 miles, including the cities of Salt Lake City and Carson City, and going  through the treacherous Sierra Nevada Mountains. The service ceased with the telegraph line connecting St. Louis and San Francisco by 1862 and later the railroad service that followed in the 1870s and 80s. The Lincoln Highway, connecting San Francisco and New York via Chicago, Cleveland and Pittsburgh would follow with its opening in 1913.

And as for the bridge itself, please feel free to comment below or via E-Mail. Whatever information that can be added to this bridge will be added. 🙂



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.