Newsflyer: 28 February, 2020

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Cascade Bridge in Burlington, Iowa. Photo taken in 2013

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To listen to the podcast, click  here.

 

Headlines:

Public Opinion Survey on the Future of Cascade Bridge in Burlington, Iowa

Information on the bridge: http://bridgehunter.com/ia/des-moines/cascade/

         Public Opinion Survey (due March 1): https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BQH3CXQ?fbclid=IwAR2Pmk63tx9deQHhqJiXSkrSzs1_R4ivQ6ZMivMilCjU4OsGu0zFI-STydA

         Facebook Page “Friends of the Cascade Bridge”:   https://www.facebook.com/groups/2084856478442260/

Bismarck Railroad Bridge in ND: Photo taken by John Marvig

Public Opinion Survey on Bismarck Railroad Bridge (closed)

  Information on the bridge: http://bridgehunter.com/nd/burleigh/bh44455/

        Information on the survey: https://www.regulations.gov/docketBrowser?rpp=25&po=0&dct=PS&D=USCG-2019-0882&refD=USCG-2019-0882-0001

 

Waterloo Bridge

Photo by Virginia Department of Transportation

Rehabilitation to begin on Waterloo Bridge in Virginia:

  Information on the bridge: http://bridgehunter.com/va/culpeper/5622/

        Information on the project: https://www.fauquiernow.com/fauquier_news/entry/fauquier-3.65-million-waterloo-bridge-restoration-project-begins-2020

Photo taken by Axel Mauruszat / CC BY 3.0 DE (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/de/deed.en)

Elsen Bridge in Berlin to be Replaced.

      Information on the bridge:  https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elsenbr%C3%BCcke

         Information on the Bridge Replacement Project:  https://www.tagesspiegel.de/berlin/totalschaden-ueber-der-spree-die-bruecke-mit-dem-25-meter-riss/25500656.html

         Information on the Highway B 96 (Documentary): https://www.zdf.de/dokumentation/zdfinfo-doku/traumstrasse-der-ddr-b96-von-zittau-nach-sassnitz-102.html

Photo taken by: thinking pixels mediendesign – André M. Hünseler / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Rodenkirchen Suspension Bridge in Cologne to be Replaced:

Information on the bridge: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cologne_Rodenkirchen_Bridge

Information on the Replacement Plans: https://www.ksta.de/koeln/fussgaenger-koennten-alte-bruecke-nutzen-36335350

  Information on Motorway 4: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bundesautobahn_4

Photo by: ANKAWÜ / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Kressbronn Railroad Bridge to be Dismantled and Transported to Scrap Pile after Failed Attempt to convert it into Museum/ Snack Shop

     Newsstory: https://www.suedkurier.de/region/bodenseekreis/bodenseekreis/Gemeinderat-spricht-sich-gegen-ein-Brueckenmuseum-an-der-Argen-aus-jetzt-wird-die-Bruecke-verschrottet;art410936,10454893

 

Katrine Aqueduct being Restored:

Information on the Project: https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/local-news/see-inside-historic-160-year-21573751

Information on the Aqueduct:  https://www.lochkatrine.com/loch-katrine-aqueduct/

 

 

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Changes to two Facebook Pages:

Article:  Click here

       The Bridges of Saxony:  https://www.facebook.com/brueckensachsens/

       The Historic Bridges of Iowa: https://www.facebook.com/historic.bridges.iowa/

 

Plus a memo on the Coronavirus, which has become a pandemic, and ways to handle it.

 

BHC 10 years

 

Mystery Bridge Nr. 129: The Phantom Bridge at Moss Run

Film clip

BHC Mystery Bridge

In the second film from History in Your Backyard (HYB), we stay in Alleghany County, Virginia but look at one of six phantom bridges along the original route VA Hwy. 159. The highway was rerouted in 1928 leaving the original road, plus its bridges abandoned. The culvert found in this clip dates back to 1920. Satolli Glassmeyer explains more about this bridge and highway, but most importantly, the definition and characteristics of a “Phantom Road” and a “Phantom Bridge”

To view the bridges of Alleghany County and two of the bridge replacements on the present alignment of Hwy. 159, click here.

 

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HYB: Humpback Covered Bridge

Film clip

The next two entries are film clips from History in Your Backyard, a film series produced by Satolli Glassmeyer and Co.  Our first one looks at the Humpback Covered Bridge in Covington, Virginia. This bridge was built in 1856 and is the oldest covered bridge in Virginia, let alone one of the oldest in the country.  The bridge was one of the first to have been rehabilitated and repurposed for pedestrians, as this was done in 1957, almost 30 years since it was replaced by a truss bridge on a new alignment and later abandoned. And lastly, it was one of the first that was nominated to the National Register, as it was listed in 1969.  Take a look at the video about the bridge’s history, which includes photos and some other facts. The engineering details can be found here.

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2017 Author’s Choice Awards- Author chooses his best and worst- albeit belatedly

Lakewood Park Truss Bridge, relocated to the middle school in Salina, KS.  Best Example of a Restored HB according to the author.  Photo taken by Jack Schmidt

After a very long delay due to bridge and non-bridge related commitments that needed to be address, it is long past overdue to present the Author’s Choice Awards for 2017. Normally this would have been awarded at the same time as the winners of the Ammann Awards (see the results here). However there were some developments bridgewise that kept me from posting the results. By the time the opportunity came to do that, commitments related to my other job as teacher pushed the posting back much further. Yet, better late than never to announce my pics for 2017, with a promise to be more punctual when I announce the 2018 Author’s Choice Awards in January 2019, the same time as the winners of the 2018 Ammann Awards that will be announced simultaneously.

So without further ado, here we go…..

2017 was an exceptionally hard year for historic bridges for dozens of them worldwide were destroyed either by mother nature in the form of wildfires, flash flooding and other storms or through really unintelligent people ignoring the weight and height restrictions for the purpose of convenience and shortcuts. With the second part we will get to later. Let’s look at my picks for 2017 as the bridges deserve the author choice for the following reasons:

Best Find of a Historic Bridge:

USA: 

While my pics go directly to the state where the government is trying profusely to destroy every single metal truss bridge in the state- namely New Hampshire, two areas with a set of historic bridges deserve to be recognized here. The first one are the bridges of Hinsdale/ Battleboro There, we have a pair of Pennsylvania through truss spans in the Anna Hunt Marsh and the Charles Dana, the Killburn Brook Stone Arch Bridge, the Chesterfield Arch Bridges and a pair of railroad bridges. A tour guide will be made soon as two of the bridges face uncertain futures for even though a replacement bridge is being built on a new alignment downstream, the public is divided between restoring the truss spans and simply demolishing them. One of the proponents of the latter had already defaced the Anna Marsh bridge by removing the planking and appears to be grabbing the city government by the balls to have them fulfill his demands. However, that person is being held at gunpoint by others who disagree.  Michael Quiet produced a pair of videos on the Anna Marsh and Charles Dana spans which you can see here:

Runner-up is a pair of former railroad truss bridges located at Pulp Mill. The older truss span is an 1868 Whipple through truss with vertical endposts featuring Phoenix columns. The 1921 truss is a pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge. While both are abandoned, they deserve a second life as a bike crossing, don’t you agree?  The two bridges received the bronze medal in the Ammann Awards competition under Bridge of the Year.

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       International:

Since the beginning of 2017, I had the priviledge to do a bridgehunting tour along the Zwickau Mulde River in the western part of the German state of Saxony. 200 kilometers and consisting of some of the Ammann Award winners of Zwickau, Glauchau, Aue and Rochlitz, plus some candidates in the Lunzenau area, the river region features a tall 150-year old concrete viaduct, several stone arch bridges, big and small, a handful of pre-1930s era truss bridges as well as cantilever and Suspension bridges. All of them are accessible via Mulde bike Trail and if Things go the way the Mayors of Glauchau, Rochlitz and Lunzenau want it to be, the former railroad line connecting Glauchau and Wurzen that runs parallel to the Zwickau Mulde may end up becoming either a Tourist rail line or a “rails-to-trails” route in the next five years. For that reason it deserves the Author’s Choice Awards as a way of motivating them to make this Project happen.

The link to the photos can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/TheBridgehuntersChronicles/photos/?tab=album&album_id=2061753800510249

 

Best Example of Preserved and Reused Historic Bridge:

USA:

Lakewood Park Truss Bridge. Built in 1877 by the Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Works Company and measured at 99.1 feet Long, this pin-connected Pratt through truss Bridge with Town Lattice Portal bracings was relocated to ist present site, which is the Lakewood Middle School in Salina, Kansas, a few blocks from where it had been originally located. The Bridge serves as living history and a park area for students wishing to relax and learn some history about the structure and ist Connection with Engineering history in the US. The Bridge Looks just like new with ist decking and benches. It is definitely worth a visit and for sure receiving this Award.

International:

While this Bridge received third place in the Ammann Awards under the category Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge, the Ponte Pensil Sao Vicente Suspension Bridge near Santos, Brazil is getting the Author’s Choice Awards for its in-kind restoration of the Suspension Bridge, with new decking and cables, but being able to retain ist structural integrity. This was a masterpiece that is worth the recognition. The Suspension Bridge can now carry vehicles and pedestrians across the river without the fear of collapse.

Most Spectacular Bridge Disasters

USA:

Mother nature has not been kind to mankind this year and has shown ist distaste because of the ignorance of the effects of industrialization, wasting non-renewable resources and too many cars and housing. This includes massive forest fires, die-offs of fish, and especially widespread flash-flooding. For this year’s most Spectacular Bridge Disaster Story, we have two examples from the US, one of which Mother Nature redid a piece of artwork that was perceived as wrong.

The James Bridge in Ozark County was one of four key bridges that were wiped out by flash-floods during the first weekend of May, which also took out the Hammond Mills and Bruns Bridges– the former of which was only 30 years old and a concrete slab bridge; the latter a 130-year-old historic truss bridge. The James Bridge featured a two-span polygonal Warren pony truss bridge with riveted connections that was built in 1958. The flood not only knocked it off ist foundations but it flipped over upside down, thus converting the span into a deck truss. Workers removing the “makeshift deck truss bridge” as well as reporters on the scene were quite impressed with the artwork Mother Nature had left behind as a result. Yet this is the second time in six years this conversion from a pony truss into a deck truss has happened- all in Missouri.

The runner-up was a tight one between another bridge collapse due to flooding and mudslides in California, and this bridge in Atlanta, the I-85 Bridge. This structure fell victim to a blazing inferno on 30 March, causing a 28 meter (92 foot) section to collapse. Investigators later concluded that a combination of improper storage of materials underneath the concrete viaduct and arson resulted in this unfortunate event. Still, this disaster became the new Minneapolis Bridge disaster, for the collapse showed that even potentially dangerous flaws in concrete beam bridges can exist.

 

International:

There were over a dozen well-known bridge disasters in Europe and Africa in 2017, yet there are two stories that stand out and deserve recognition.

The first place winner goes to a bridge in the Indian state of Goa. There, a Whipple pony truss bridge spanning the River Sanvordem at Curchorem collapsed under the weight of people on 18 May. Official reports put the casualty totals of two dead, dozens injured and 30 people missing; many of those missing were presumed dead as the river was infested with crocodiles, which made rescue attempts difficult. Spectators had been on the bridge to watch efforts to rescue someone who wanted to commit suicide by jumping off the bridge. The bridge goes back to the 1800s during the time the Portuguese had control of the Goa Region. As of right now, the bridge, abandoned for many years, is scheduled to be removed. This is the second bridge disaster in two years that included the Goa Region.

The runner-up in this category is the collapse of the Troja Bridge. This bridge goes back to the Communist era and used to span the River Vlatava near the Zoo in Prague. On 2 December, the entire concrete beam structure collapsed, injuring four- two of them seriously. The causes of the collapse stemmed from age and structural deficiency to its weakening as a result of the Great Flood of 2002, forcing officials to monitor the bridge more closely while introducing plans to replace it with a newer, more stable structure.

Biggest Bonehead Story:

In the final category, we look at the Biggest Bonehead Story and this is where we look at stupid people destroying historic bridges for unjustified reasons. We have a lot of good stories that go along with this topic, all of which in the United States. And with that, we will look at Judge Marilyn Milian, the judge for the TV-series The People’s Court.  Since taking over for Judge Wappner in 2005, Ms. Milian has used her sassy commentary and rhetoric to put people in their places for their actions that are both legally and morally wrong. At the same time, she has a zero-tolerance to people doing stupid things as well as making unintelligent comments, sometimes embarassing them on TV. Some classic examples of how the Lady Judge does her work can be seen here:

Back in January 2018, when the Ammann Award winners were being announced, I tried to contact Ms. Milian to see if and how she would react to the following bridge disasters that were caused by stupidity at its finest- all of which will share the Author’s Choice Award for 2017 because of their bizarre nature. That is, had the courts not decided and the cases had been sent to the People’s Court 😉  :

1. Gilliecie Bridge (aka Murtha and Daley): This 130-foot long bowstring arch bridge, built by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company in 1874, spans the Upper Iowa River at Cattle Creek Road. It had the weight of three tons before the driver of a grain truck, weighing five times as much as the weight allowed on the bridge, tried to cross it on 5th May. After hitting the eastern portal, the truck and the bridge fell right into the water! The driver wasn’t injured. He later claimed that his GPS device led him to the bridge and afraid that he could cause an accident while backing up, he chanced it. Another Mary Laimbright slash “My GPS made me do it” story but sadly unlike the incident and its after-effects at the bridge where she downed it with a semi-truck in 2015, this bridge in Iowa may have seen its last days before being scrapped. Its future is uncertain.

2. Cedar Covered Bridge: Spanning Cedar Creek near Winterset, this bridge was built in 2004 as a replica of the original 1883 span that was destroyed by arson in 2002. This bridge was torched again, this time by three high school teenagers on 15 April, 2017. There, two of them poured gasoline on the decking while the third one set it ablaze. The bridge was left with a charred Town Lattice truss skeleton after the fire was put out. The person who had set the fire to the bridge was upset after breaking up with his girlfriend, with whom he had spent time on the bridge. Before his sentencing in June, the person wanted to get out on bail so that he could graduate from high school. He was later arrested for setting a car ablaze in March in West Des Moines. For the bridge he torched, he received a deferred sentence of 10 years in prison and five years probation. His two other accomplices also received suspended sentences and probation. Yet this incident is a reminder of another incident at McBride Bridge in 1984, which was caused by heartbreak. That person, who destroyed the bridge, had to help with rebuilding the bridge as part of the sentence. Sometimes hard labor helps shape a man.  By the way, the Cedar Bridge is being rebuilt again, for the third time. Opening date remains open.

3. Longwood Lane Pony Truss Bridge: Spanning Cedar Run in Fauquier County, Virginia, this pony truss bridge had a very quiet life until a UPS Delivery Truck crossed it on July 17th- or should I say the driver tried to cross it, but it fell in the water. So much for the delivery, not to mention the job as a delivery person. The fastest sometimes had the worst.

This leads to the question of how Judge Milian would handle this, had she seen these three cases in the People’s Court? Would she handle them like above, or even in a case below? What examples an be used? And who would win the case: the owners of the bridges (all of them had been owned a the county) or the defendant? And if the plaintiff, how much would the defendant have to pay- financially and timewise in jail?

This is where the forum is open to the judge, but also to the followers of the People’s Court. 😉

And this wraps up the 2017 Author’s Choice Awards for some of the most bizarre bridge stories. There will be much more for the 2018 Author’s Choice Awards, as there are enough stories to go around there. They will be posted when the winners of the 2018 Ammann Awards come out in January. This time the author means it when he says it will come very timely next time around. So stay tuned! 🙂

 

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Mystery Bridge 44: Fink Truss Bridge in San Antonio

Houston Street Bridge in San Antonio Photo courtesy of Texas Transportation Museum

The Fink Truss: one of the most unusual of truss bridge types ever designed and built.  Invented and patented in 1854 by Albert Fink, the truss design features a combination of Warren and Bollmann trusses, and with the diagonal beams criss-crossing the panels, especially the deck trusses resembled a triangle with many subdivided beams. Many trusses built with this design were in the name of the German bridge engineer, who was born in Lauterbach in Hesse and emigrated to New York after completing his engineering degree in Darmstadt. This included the following Fink deck truss bridges: the Appomatox High Bridge in Virginia– built in 1869 and featured 21 Fink deck truss spans, the Verrugas Viaduct in Peru– named after the virus that inflicted the workers who constructed the highest bridge in Peru with three Fink deck truss spans in 1869, the Lynchburg Bridge in Virginia– built in 1870 and is the last of its kind in the US and one of two known bridges left in the world. The other Fink deck truss remaining is the Puenta Bolivar in Arequipa, Peru, built in 1882 by Gustav Eifel.  Fink trusses were found in through truss designs as well, as was seen with the Hamden (New Jersey) Bridge– built in 1857 and was known to be the oldest metal bridge in the US at the time of its collapse by a car accident in 1978, and the Zoarville Station Bridge at Camp Tuscazoar in Ohio- built in 1868 and is still the remaining truss bridge of its standing in the US.

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Flemington Fink Bridge in New Jersey before its collapse. Source: HABS/HAER

While it is unknown how popular Fink Trusses were during its heyday of construction between 1860 and 1880, one of the through variants was brought to the author’s attention via one of the pontists. This bridge was located over the river in San Antonio, Texas at Houston Street. Built in 1871, this Fink through truss span, similar to the Zoarville Station Bridge in Ohio in its appearance, replaced a wooden bridge built in the 1850s but was washed away by flooding six years earlier. Sources have indicated that the iron span was imported from as far away as St. Louis. Yet as the first bridge building companies were not established before 1890, according to Darnell Plus, one has to assume that the span originated from places further eastward, perhaps in Ohio or Maryland, were the Zoarville Station Bridge was built by the likes of Smith, Latrop and Company of Baltimore. But there is no current to support claims of the span’s origin. It was from the eastern part of the US, where the iron bridge parts were transported by train to St. Louis and then to Indianola, Texas- most likely by ship as the town was situated on the Gulf of Mexico. From there, it was transported by horse and wagon for more than 150 miles northwest to San Antonio. With fourteen of the largest wagons in the area hauling bridge parts that were forty feet long and weighing tens of tons, this effort of transporting the bridge for over 100 miles to its destination was one of the largest feats ever accomplished in Texas.

Oblique and close-up view of the Lynchburg Bridge. Photo taken by Royce and Bobette Haley in 2017

The mastermind behind this task was freighter and pioneer, August Santleben. Born on 28 February, 1845 in Hannover, Germany, he and his family emigrated to Medina County, Texas when he was four months old and settled at Castro’s Corner, along the Medina River near Castroville. His life began from there, where he became the youngest mailman at the age of 14, running a carrier route between Castroville and Bandera, and became involved in the Civil War on the side of the Union. Yet his biggest success was a freighter and stage coach driver, establishing routes between Texas and Mexico, including the first ever line between San Antonio and Monterrey established in 1867. The service later included destinations of Satillo and Chihuahua, the latter of which was the basis for establishing the Chihuahua Trail several years later. After 10+ years in the business of freighter, Santleben and his family (his wife Mary and his nine children (two were adopted) moved to San Antonio, where he ran a transfer company and later became a politician, serving the city for several year. Before his death on 18 September, 1911, Santleben had written his memoir about his life and successes entitled A Texas Pioneer, published in 1910, and still widely known as one of the best of its genres of that time. The book has been published most recently, according to the Texas Transportation Museum, but can be view online, by clicking here.

In his memoir, Santleben described the hauling  of the Houston Street Bridge from Indianola to San Antonio, citing that the iron bridge was the first of its kind in Texas, when the mayor ordered the truss bridge from an undisclosed bridge company, and one that garnered public attention for quite some time because of its aesthetic appearance. Gustav Schleicher oversaw the construction of the bridge in 1871. He later became a member of the US Congress, representing his district. According to Santleben, the bridge, which was a considered a novelty because of its unique appearance, served traffic for 20 years before it was relocated to the site known as “Passo de los Trejas” at Grand Avenue near the Lonestar Brewery. According to the museum, the bridge continued to serve traffic at Grand Avenue for over 40 years. It is unknown what happened to the iron structure afterwards, for no further information on the bridge has been found to date. Yet, as Santleben had mentioned in his memoir, the bridge was the forerunner to numerous iron structures that populated the streets of San Antonio shortly after its erection at the Houston Street site, replacing the wooden structures that were considered unsafe because of their short life spans.

While the Houston Street Bridge became the first iron bridge crossing to span the river at San Antonio, let alone the first iron bridge to be constructed in Texas, it is unknown whether the bridge was brand new, or if it was a used structure, having been constructed somewhere in the eastern half of the country before it was dismantled and transported out west. What is definitely excluded from the equation is the fact that the span came from the three-span crossing at Camp Dover, Ohio, where the Zoarville Station Bridge originated from. That bridge remained in service until 1905, when it was replaced by a newer structure made of steel, with one of the iron spans being relocated to its present location at Camp Tuscazoar. What could be mentioned though is that the Houston Street Bridge may have been fabricated by Smith and Latrop, which had built the Zoarville Station Bridge two years before. This is because of the portal bracing that is similar to the one at Camp Tuscazoar. It was then transported by train and ship to Indianola, where Santleben led the caravan to haul the bridge parts to San Antonio, where Schleicher oversaw the efforts in building it at Houston Street.  While Santleben stated in his memoir that there was no reason for the iron bridge (which had been relocated from Houston Street to the location at Grand Avenue) to not be there for another hundred years, it is unknown when exactly and whether the iron bridge was relocated, or  if it was scrapped. Therefore it is important to find out how long the iron bridge was in service at both locations in San Antonio before it was dismantled.

To summarize the questions regarding the bridge, we need to know the following:

  1. Was the bridge fabricated before being transported to Texas, or was the truss span a used one, which had originated from somewhere out East?
  2. Was it Smith and Latrop that fabricated the truss bridge?
  3. How was the bridge transported to Texas?
  4. How long was the bridge in service at both Houston Street and Grand Avenue? Who was responsible for the relocation of the bridge from Houston Street to Grand Avenue?
  5. What happened to the bridge after its 40+ year service at Grand Avenue?

 

Three channels are open for you to help contribute to the information. You can post your comments either on this page or on the Chronicles’ facebook page. There is also the contact information through Hugh Hemphill at the Texas Transportation Museum, using the contact form enclosed here. And lastly there’s Jason Smith at the Chronicles, whose contact information can be found here.

Texas takes pride in its history- in particular, with historic bridges as they tie in with the local history, as seen here with the Houston Street Bridge. Yet each bridge has its missing pieces to fill- some big, some small. It is up to the reader (us) to provide these missing pieces and make the communities, like San Antonio proud of its heritage.

Interesting note to close: Located on Matagorda Bay near the Gulf of Mexico in Calhoun County, Indianola was founded in 1844 by Sam Addison White and William M. Cook. It was once the county seat of Calhoun County and at its peak, had over 5,000 inhabitants. It was the easternmost terminus of the Chihuahua Trail. Yet the town was devastated by two powerful hurricanes- one in 1875 and another in 1886. The latter, combined with a massive fire, obliterated the entire town, resulting in its abandonment. The county seat was moved inland to Port Lavaca. Today a marker is located at the site where it once existed. More information can be found here.

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Clarendon Bridge in Monroe County, Arkansas

Side view of the Clarendon Bridge. Photos taken by John Moore IV, used with permission

Sister Bridges. They may look alike in structural appearance. They may be built at the same time. They may have been built by the same bridge builder. The difference though is where they are located, how each of the structures are maintained and how they are honored and appreciated by locals and passers-by. There are many sister bridges that exist in the US, Europe and other places. One of the most common sister bridges can be found in Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania, where three self-anchored eyebar suspension bridges spanning the Allegheny River are located. All three yellow-colored crossings were built by the same bridge builder (American Bridge Company) at the same time (between 1926 and 1928), and each one was named in honor of the prominent people originating from Pittsburgh: Roberto Clemente, Rachel Carson and Andy Warhol.

In Arkansas, there are sister bridges as well- in the form of Warren cantilever through truss bridges. Located over the White River, the bridges at Augusta, Newport and Clarendon were built in 1930-1 by Ira G. Hedrick, a prominent bridge builder for the state. To build these gigantic structures, Hedrick worked together with six different bridge companies from five states, including Texas, Missouri, Virginia and Kansas.  Each of the bridges had a center span of 400 feet but a total length of between 3,000 and 4,000 feet.

All three sisters are facing demolition. Already gone is the Augusta Bridge through replacement in 2001, replacement and imminent demolition are in the works for the Newport and Clarendon Bridges. However, private groups are working together with the state and local governments to ensure that when their replacement bridges open to traffic, their prized works by Ira Hedrick are saved and reused for recreational purposes.

The Clarendon Bridge is the longest of the sister bridges. Spanning the White River at Clarendon, the bridge was designed by Hedrick and built by three bridge companies in 1931. It carries US Hwy. 79 and has a total length of 4,200 feet, counting its concrete approach spans that glide into Clarendon. At the moment, a replacement bridge is being constructed down stream, and plans are in the making to demolish the historic bridge by the end of 2015, after the new bridge is built. Yet a local group is trying to purchase the bridge for reuse, integrating the crossing into the nationwide bike trail network, while at the same time, bring the history of the bridge and its surrounding area- the White River Delta- to life.

Approach span to the east, spanning the Bayou. Photo taken by John Moore IV

The Chronicles had an opportunity to interview John Moore IV, who is one of the organizers of the Save the Big White River Bridge group. The author wanted to know how significant the bridge is and what they are trying to do to save the bridge from its untimely end. Here are the answers to the questions provided below:

1. What is so special about the Clarendon Bridge? How is the bridge tied in with the community in terms of history and significance?

The Big White River Bridge in Clarendon, Arkansas isn’t just a bridge spanning a body of water. As it twists and turns two and a quarter miles through the upper boughs of the river bottom hardwoods it’s not just a bridge going through the woods. This bridge is a symbol. Before it’s 1931 construction the folks of Monroe County relied only on a ferry to cross the river, which left the miles of untamed, flood ridden river bottoms to cross on foot and hoof. The Big White River Bridge became a road of progress. What was once a sleepy little town, stuck somewhere in the late 1800s was suddenly projected into the 20th Century. Highway 79 became one of America’s premier roads across the country. The day the bridge was opened there was two-day celebration including a circus, parachute jumper, high divers, boat races, pageant, and parade. The Big White River Bridge is near and dear the heart of Monroe County.

2. The Clarendon Bridge is one of the sister bridges over the White River. Can you tell us more about it?

The Big White River Bridge was built as one of a set of three double-cantilever bridges in Arkansas. These bridges were built in Clarendon, Newport, and Augusta. After the 2001 demolition of the Augusta bridge, only the Clarendon and Newport bridges remain. Both Clarendon and Newport are working to save their respective bridges since being scheduled for replacement.

3. What is the current situation with the bridge? Is construction of its replacement underway?

The current situation for the bridge is that it is scheduled to be demolished in mid to late 2015. The replacement bridge is currently being built and will be open for traffic around May of 2015.

4.  According to a recent posting in bridgehunter.com, the city of Clarendon was not willing to take ownership of the bridge. Does this hold true still? If so, what attempts are being made to either convince the city to reconsider or have another party take ownership?

            The City of Clarendon is willing to take the bridge only in a responsible manner. We are pursuing different means of long-term upkeep, but none of this can be set in stone until the powers that be approve the bridge to still stand.

5. What plans do you have for the bridge? Will there be some restoration work in store and if so, how?

If all goes well, we plan to keep the entire two and a quarter miles of the bridge to use as a cycling and pedestrian bridge. The national cycling group, Adventure Cycling Association, wants to designate the bridge as part of a national cycling interstate as U.S. Bike Route 80. The bridge will serve as an integral part of the system by being a safe route across the largest contiguous bottomland hardwood forest in North America.

6. Have you done some fundraising for the bridge? What other support are you receiving for the project?

We have not done any fundraising so far as the bridge has not yet been approved to remain standing. We have, however, garnered an incredible amount of support from individuals across the nation and the State of Arkansas. Our Congressional and Senate offices are in full support. Virtually every cycling group in the state has given us their approval. The U.S. Coast Guard, Arkansas Water Ways Commission and the National Register of Historic Places all have given support and/or approval. The Harahan Bridge project in Memphis has also given us their best whishes.

7. It is mentioned in the website that a historic bridge will provide some revenue for tourism. How do you want to make the bridge attractive for the tourists?

As mentioned earlier, if the bridge is saved, it will become part of U.S. Bike Route 80. It will also serve as a cycling route from Memphis to Little Rock. The Harahan Bridge project is creating a cycling and pedestrian bridge crossing the Mississippi River at Memphis. Going through Clarendon would serve as a no-brainer route for crossing the central part of the state on a bike. Also the natural landscape and the extraordinary nature of the bridge is a testament unto itself. There are few bridges of this mass that run through a forest of this size.

8. Based on your experience so far, what advice would you give to a group or organization working to save a historic bridge?

First of all one should start early. One shouldn’t try to save a bridge once the decision has been made to tear it down, but when the talk of replacement begins. Secondly, the most important part of gaining traction when trying to save something so momentous as a bridge is building relationships. Saving a bridge is not just a matter of one person’s hard work. It’s a matter of motivating hundreds of people to get behind your cause and say, “Yes. We must save this bridge.” If you do begin the preservation process late in the game, much like we have done, the hill becomes a steeper climb, but as we have learned, it may not yet be too late. It is not just about cutting ones way through red tape but finding the right people who know the right people and building trust and relationship.

9. How would you handle the issue of liability for the bridge?

To prevent liability lawsuits we will use appropriate signs and guardrails. Also while a municipality can be sued, those running the municipality cannot be personally sued for their roles in the government. There is the possibility of a lawsuit in nearly any venture that one may propose, but that should not fetter progress.

If you want to know more about the bridge, or are willing to help in the preservation efforts, please click on the link with the contact details, and write to the organization. Every little support and effort will count a long way towards saving the Clarendon Bridge, one of the two remaining sister bridges over the White River and one of the last remaining works of Ira Hendrick.

Mystery Bridge Nr. 28: Unusual Swing Bridge in Virginia

Photo submitted by Nathan Holth. Source: History of Nansemond County

Swing bridges have become a rare commodity on our roads today. Built using a center pier designed to turn the span at a 90° angle, most of them were built using mostly Howe, Lattice, Baltimore or even Warren trusses. There are many examples of such bridges that used to exist but have long become a distant memory, like the Hojack Swing Bridge in Rochester, New York, The Willis Avenue Bridge in New York City, The Inver Grove Heights Swing Bridge south of Bloomington and the Burlington Railroad Bridge. The engineers who built these bridges during the heyday of industrialization (1870- 1920) went out of their way to make the swing bridges not only functional for horse and buggy to use and to allow ships to pass, but also appealing to tourists and later historians and preservationists.

This bridge in the city-state of Suffolk, Virginia is another example of an appealing swing bridge that has long since been demolished. Judging by the picture submitted by Nathan Holth, this bridge appears to have been built of iron and has one of two designs: 1. A pair of kingpost truss spans supported by a central panel consisting of two pairs of vertical towers with light weight diagonal beams holding the trusses made of heavier iron together or 2. a Camelback truss bridge whose center panel is thinner and lighter than the two outer panels. In either case, the bridge was a hand-powered swing bridge, used to allow boats to pass. It is similar to another photo that was submitted by the same person but located at Reed’s Ferry in Virginia.

Photo submitted by Nathan Holth

The problem with both bridges is threefold. First of all, while the designs are similar to each other, it is unknown who designed and built the bridges, let alone when they were constructed, except to say that for the last question, it appears that the period between 1875 and 1895 would best fit for iron was used often for bridge construction before it was supplanted by steel after 1890.

Also unknown is the location of the swing bridge, for in the top picture, it was claimed that it was located in Everet’s, whereas in the bottom photo, it was located at Reed’s Ferry. It should be confirmed that Everet’s was located in Nansemond County, which was subsequentially absorbed into the city-state of Suffolk in 1974. While Suffolk has a total population of 1.7 million inhabitants as of present (including 87,000 in the city itself), its land size is the largest in the United States and is larger than the German states of Hamburg, Berlin and Bremen, as well as the Vatican City and Monaco combined! Given the village’s absorption, it is unknown whereabouts it was located when it existed prior to the 1970s.

Perhaps it may have something to do with the fact that many streams in the city-state were dammed and henceforth, lakes were created as a result. While the Nansemond River flows through Suffolk, as many as five lakes and reservoirs were created, which meant that bridges like this one were either removed before the projects commenced, or were inundated and the bridge parts have long since rusted away. In either case, there are many questions that need to be resolved for this unique bridge, namely:

1. When did Everet’s and Reed’s Ferry exist?

2. When were the bridges in their respective communities were built and who built them?  When were they removed?

3. When was the Nansemond River dammed and the lakes created?

All information on the two bridges should be directed in the Comments section of James Baughn’s Bridgehunter.com website by clicking on the name Everet’s Bridge. You can also add any information on Reed’s Ferry Bridge in the Comment section if you have any that will be helpful.

 

Fast Fact:

The Nansemond County portion of the city-state of Suffolk has a unique history of its own, as it was named after Nansemond, a native American tribe who lived along the river at the time of the arrival of the English colonists in Jamestown in 1607. Under the name of New Norfolk County, it became one of the oldest counties in the US, having been established in 1636. After being divided into Upper and Lower Norfolk in 1637, the Upper portion became Nansemond County in 1646 with the county seat later being Suffolk (it was established in 1742 and was a county seat eight years later). It remained a county seat until Suffolk and Nansemond became a city-states in 1972. Interesting note was the fact that Suffolk had been an independent city from 1910 up to then. Subsequentially Nansemond became part of the city-state Suffolk two years later. A city-state in this case means that even though it is part of the Commonwealth of Virginia, it is an independent city, having its own government and laws as well as responsibilities for its infrastructure, education system, and the like. Virginia still supports Suffolk with funding, but has little influence on the activities of the city-state, making it similar to the aforementioned city-states, as well as the Spanish state of Catalonia, which is much larger than Suffolk.

 

 

Name that bridge type: The answer to question 1

 

 

 

 

 

And now the answer to the question of naming the bridge type. As you will recall, in a posting from last Thursday, there was a post card of a bridge that spanned the Wapsipinicon River near Independence in Buchanan County, located in the northeastern part of Iowa.  While some people may have found the answer through James Baughn’s website, there are some who are not familiar with that, nor the picture, as it was posted most recently and readers have not yet had a look at the picture until now.

I can tell you that I had written about this bridge type a few years ago as part of an essay for a history class at the university here in Germany, and there are some examples of this bridge type that still exist today, even though there are two different types of this truss type that three bridge builders had used during their days.

The answer: The Thacher Truss. In 1881, Edwin Thacher (1840-1920), an engineering graduate of Renesselaer Polytechnic Institute,  invented and patented this unusual truss type. It is a mixture of four truss types: the Warren, Pratt, Whipple and Kellogg. While the Kellogg is a Pratt truss design featuring a subdivided panel supporting the original diagonal beams that connect the vertical beams, the Thacher features two sets of diagonal beams starting at each end of the truss bridge at the upper chord- one creates a panel similar to the Pratt truss, while the other crosses two or three panels before meeting the center panel, which forms an elusive A-frame. The bridge at Independence was the very first bridge that was built using this truss design. It was built in 1881 and was in service for over 40 years. Yet after having the design patented in 1885, Thacher went on to build numerous bridges of this type, most of which were built between 1885 and 1910. He later invented other bridge designs, some of which will be mentioned here later on.

Philips Mill and Crossing in Floyd County. Photo courtesy of the Floyd County Historical Society

While it was unknown how many of these types were actually built between 1881 and 1920, sources have indicated that Iowa may have been the breeding ground for experimenting with this truss type. Apart from the railroad bridge at Independence, the very first structure that was built using the Thacher, as many as four Thacher truss bridges were reported to have been built in the state. Among them include the longest single span truss bridge ever built in the state, the Philips Mill Bridge, spanning the Winnebago River outside Rockford, in Floyd County. Built in 1891, this 250 foot long bridge, dubbed as one of the most unusual truss bridges built in the country, was the successor to a two-span bowstring through arch bridge and served traffic until it was replaced in 1958. Other Thacher truss bridges built included one over the Shell Rock River north of Northwood (in Worth County), the Ellsworth Ranch Bridge over the Des Moines River in Emmet County and the Okoboji Bridge over the Little Sioux River in Dickinson County. Of which only the Ellsworth Ranch and Okoboji Bridges still exist today.

Ellsworth
Ellsworth Ranch Bridge in Emmet County. One of many Thacher trusses built in Iowa. Photo taken in August 2011

On a national scale, if one counts the two remaining Iowa bridges, there are five bridges of this kind left, which include the Costilla Bridge in Colorado, Linville Creek Bridge in Virginia, and the Yellow Bank Creek Bridge in Minnesota. Two additional bridges, the Parshallburg Bridge (2009) and the Big Sioux River bridge in Hamlin County (2009) have long since disappeared due to flooding/ice jams and structural instability, respectively.  While the majority of the bridges mentioned here were constructed by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company in Canton, Ohio, the King Bridge Company in Cleveland constructed the Ellsworth Ranch, Yellow Bank and Hamlin County bridges, using a different hybrid of Thacher truss that was modified during James King’s reign as president of the bridge company (1892-1922).  The Clinton Bridge and Iron Company in Clinton, Iowa built the only Thacher pony truss bridge in the Okoboji Bridge, the bridge that is featured in the next article.  While the Ellsworth Ranch Bridge remains closed to traffic and seems to be abandoned, the Yellow Bank Bridge was relocated to Hastings, Minnesota in 2007 to serve as a replica of the Hastings Spiral Bridge at the Little Log Cabin Historic Village.

Oko3
Okoboji Bridge over the Little Sioux River in Dickinson County- washed out after flooding. Photo taken in August 2011

And that is the answer to the pop quiz, even though for some experts in the field, the answer was obvious. Yet perhaps the next bridge type quiz may be even more challenging than the first one. As for the ones who didn’t know, this one should get you acquainted to the questions that are yet to come that will require some research. So let’s go to the next question, shall we?

Author’s Note: If you know of other Thacher Truss Bridges that existed in Iowa or any part of the US and would like to bring it to his attention (and that of the readers), you know where to reach him: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com or via facebook under The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. He’ll be happy to add it in any future columns, and for his project on Iowa’s Truss Bridges, it will make an excellent addition.

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Massacre of Historic Bridges in the USA Underway?

Nine-span Bridge in Hammond, Indiana- one of over a dozen historic bridges that are coming down. Photo taken by Nathan Holth

At the beginning of this year, fellow pontist James Baughn predicted in his website, the Historic and Notable Bridges of the US, that there would be fewer demolitions for 2013, providing hope for many people wanting to save their historic bridges that are threatened with demolition and replacement.

Perhaps this prediction should be retracted.

While some well known bridges, like the Fort Keogh Bridge were removed last year and a few others have been slated for replacement for this year, the most recent reports by many pontists believe that 2013 may be a record-setting year for replacement of bridges built in 1945 and earlier. Many of them are being taken off the map with little or no input from the public, let alone regard to the policies protecting the ones listed or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The claim: liability, safety and the end of its useful life as many officials and engineers have claimed with these bridges.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles has compiled a list of historic bridges that are scheduled to come down within the next 2-3 months or are threatened with demolition.  A couple of bridges are being reported on by the Chronicles and will be presented in separate articles. It is hoped that this list of bridges will serve as a wake-up call for change in terms of policies protecting historic bridges in the US while finding more constructive ways to better inform the public about the future of these structures, and to encourage them to take action to save what is left of American history for generations to come. Links to the bridges are provided when clicking onto the underlines titles and phrases.  Without further ado, here are the list of bridges that one should see before they are gone forever- falling victims of the wrecking ball:

Portal view of the Harvey Dowell Bridge in Arkansas. Photo taken by David Backlin in 2005.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harvey Dowell Bridge in Washington County, Arkansas:

Built in 1926, this bridge is one of the rarest in the state whose top chord of the riveted Pratt through truss bridge has an H-beam shape. The bridge has taken a beating by overhead trucks and tractors and is one of the reasons why county crews are going to remove it in favor of a wider bridge. Demolition will commence at the end of January, and the replacement bridge should be finished by this summer.

Mill Street Bridge in New Castle, PA. Photo taken by Nathan Holth

Mill Street Bridge in New Castle, Pennsylvania

Spanning the Neshannock Creek carrying Mill Street, this Parker through truss bridge, built in 1917 by Thomas Gilkey, features a rather unique skewed portal bracing, where at each entrance one end post is vertical and the other is slanted at 50°. While this bridge is the last of its kind in Pennsylvania and one of the rarest to find in the US, Lawrence County officials signed it off to be converted into scrap metal in favor of a steel beam bridge with a goal of making it conform with the town’s business district. Demolition will begin in the spring and should be finished by the end of this year.

Tunnel view of the Nine-Span Bridge in Hammond, Indiana. Photo taken by Nathan Holth
Close-up of the skewed portal bracings on the Nine-Span Bridge in Hammond, Indiana. Photo taken by Nathan Holth

Hamond (Nine-Span) Bridge in Hammond (Lake County), Indiana

This story will surely be in the running for Worst Example to Preserve a Historic Bridge for 2013. This 1935 bridge, featuring ten Parker through truss spans with skews and unusual portal bracings, spans a railroad year and with a total length of 2,137 feet, it is the longest bridge of its kind in Indiana. Although this bridge has been on the state’s historic bridge market page for five years, the IndianaDOT has decided to demolish the entire structure in favor of a longer and wider beam bridge. One of the spans however will be dismantled, put in storage and made available for purchase between now and 2023! Any takers for the lone span? Demolition has begun with the removal of light posts, utility poles and roadbed, which will be followed by a series of implosion taking place in the spring. The new bridge should be completed by the end of this year, perhaps into next year.

Overview of the Ghost Bridge in Lauderdale County, Alabama. Photo taken by Ben Tate

Ghost Bridge in Lauderdale County, Alabama

This story will be followed up here at the Chronicles, as the struggle to stop the bulldozers and wrecking balls by a bunch of bridge lovers and local residents has heated up. The Ghost Bridge, a pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge with Howe lattice portal bracing, was built in 1912 by the Virginia Bridge and Iron Works Company, replacing a wooden covered bridge built during the Civil War. The bridge has a lot of history and ghost stories. Yet since its abandonment in 1996, it fell into disarray with the deck being partially removed or damaged and people using drugs and falling through the deck into Cypress Creek. Most recently, county officials let out the contract to remove the bridge within 30 days, despite it being listed on the National Register. Yet the preservation group and other residents are currently pursuing an injunction to stop the process, claiming that there was no formal hearing and there is a potential that some regulations involving protecting this bridge may be illegally circumvented. Already, crews are beginning to remove the roadway and railings and plans are in the making to remove the structure before the end of this month. However, protests to stop the process will begin this week both at the county courthouse as well as at the bridge itself. The Chronicles has a separate article on the developments and will be posted after the release of this article.

Hammond Pennsylvania Truss Bridge in Humboldt County, CA

Humboldt County, located in northwestern California, has a wide array of bridges built using many bridge types and dating as far back as the late 1800s. However, the county cannot seem to maintain this bridge, a Pennsylvania petit through truss bridge over the Mad River connecting McKinleyville to the north and Pacific to the south. Brought in from Washington state in 1941, the 1905 bridge used to serve rail traffic until it was converted to a pedestrian trail in the 1960s. Yet thanks to no maintenance work since that time, the bridge has fallen into disarray to a point where the decision was made to demolish the structure in favor of a concrete beam bridge for safety reasons. A classic example of a bridge that could have been rehabilitated for a fraction of the cost of a new bridge. Demolition will commence sometime this year.

Goose Creek Bridge in Leesburg, Virginia

Located at Keep Londoun Beautiful Park south of Leesburg, this two-span steel Warren pony truss was built in 1932 replacing an iron through truss bridge that was relocated to Featherbed Lane over Caoctin Creek south of Lovettsville. While the bridge served as a look-out point at the park since it was made obsolete by a beam bridge in the 1980s, it fell into disarray to a point where the county decided that instead of providing funding to rehabilitate the structure, it would be removed. While the contract was let out recently, the cost for the project will be more than expected, raising questions of whether the decision not to take on funding by the state to restore the bridge in 2006/7 was a mistake that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars more for its removal than for its restoration. The removal of the bridge will commence in the spring.

Side view of the abandoned Boscawen Bridge in New Hampshire. Photo taken by Nathan Holth

Two Merrimack County (New Hampshire) Bridges:

New Hampshire, as mentioned on a pair of occasions in October, has a reputation of treating and demolishing historic bridges to a point where even state representatives have recommended people visiting neighboring Vermont if they want to visit any historic bridges made of concrete and metal. Add two more reasons to avoid the state with a pair of through truss bridges in Merrimack County scheduled to be demolished before the Spring thaw. The Depot Street Bridge in Boscawen, a two-span Parker through truss bridge built in 1907, has been abandoned since 1965 and residents are looking forward to seeing the safety hazard removed as a contract was let out to have the bridge dismantled. It will be lowered onto the icy Merrimack River, dismantled and hauled away as scrap metal. The Sewell Falls Bridge over the same river at Concord was written off as unsalvageable through an engineering survey and county officials are inquiring about its removal. Fortunately, while the demolition will not commence before 2014, the public will still have  a chance to voice their opinion about the bridge and the options available between preservation and demolition and replacement. The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest.

Photo taken by the author while on a bike tour in 1999. Note, this was taken underneath the McKennan Hospital Car Park Complex

McKennan Pedestrian Bridge in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

The City of Sioux Falls has been undertaking a beautification of its downtown area, along the Big Sioux River, which includes establishing parks and recreation areas and expanding the bike trail. However, it will come at the cost of this two-span Howe pony truss bridge, located between the 8th Street and 10th Street crossings. It was converted to a bike trail in the 1970s when the railroad abandoned it and can be seen together with the McKennan Hospital Car Park from the 10th Street Bridge. Together with the parking garage (which occurred last year), the bridge will be demolished in favor of a newer truss bridge, the second one built in two years, which will raise questions about its conformity to the rest of the cityscape. Unless the bridge is saved in the last minute, demolition will most likely begin in the spring.

Washington Street Bridge in Sedalia, Missouri

Spanning the railroad in Sedalia’s business district, this pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge with Howe lattice portal bracing, built in 1911 by the Midland Bridge Company in Kansas City, is one of the landmarks serving the county seat of Pettis County and is one of two bridges of its type left in the county. Sadly, this bridge has been closed to traffic and is scheduled to be replaced this year, even though it is unknown when the demolition will commence….

Fitch’s Bridge in Groton, Massachusetts

Located west of Lowell in the town of Groton, little has been known about the double-intersecting Warren through truss spanning the Nashua River, except that it was built in the late 19th century by the Berlin Iron Bridge Company of Berlin, Conn., and has been abandoned since the 1960s, with the bridge being used as a diving board into the river. Plans are in the making to either remove or remove and replace the bridge. According to an organization wanting to save and rehabilitate the bridge, there is an option three which has yet to be presented with persuasion. More on the developments to come here at the Chronicles.

Lifetime Legacy Post Humous: Howard Newlon Jr.

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

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

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

From Ann Miller with regards to his historic achievements:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Dan Deibler with regard to working with him:

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

 

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