Mystery Bridge Nr. 49: Silent Shade Swing Bridge in Mississippi

Photo taken by Craig Hanchey in 2009

The next Mystery Bridge takes us down to Mississippi and to this bridge: the Silent Shade Swing Bridge. The bridge is difficult to find for it is located over the Yazoo River, 25 migratory miles north of Yazoo City between US Highways 49W and 49E at the Humphreys and LeFlore County border. The bridge is visible from Silent Shade Road, located to the east of the river. The reason for its lack of visibility is because of the fact that the bridge has been abandoned for at least two decades. Yet the bridge has a lot of history that needs to be excavated, especially as it has been a subject of debate among historians and pontists. According to the data provided from the state of Mississippi, the bridge has a total length of 394 feet, 274 feet of which features a swing through truss span with a Warren design. The roadway width is 14.4 feet. The NBI data indicated that the bridge was built here in 1927, and this is where the debate starts.

If one looks at the picture more closely, there are two main factors that one has to look at. The first is the connecting trusses. While the bottom connections are riveted-meaning that the beams are slid together and welded shut like one wearing a pair of gloves- much of the truss is pin-connected, meaning the beams are bolted together like the elbow connecting the upper and lower arm of the human body. Pin-connected trusses were phased out in favor of riveted trusses as part of the standardized bridge plans introduced between 1915 and 1920. This brings up the next factor, which is the bridge’s portal and strut bracings. The Silent Shade Bridge has Howe lattice portal bracings with curved heel bracings, while the strut bracings also have heel bracings. This is not typical of truss bridges built in the 1920s, for through truss bridges featured portal bracings resembling the alphabet, like the A, WV, W and even X frame portal bracings, as shown in the examples below:

Winnebago River Bridge located between Mason City and Charles City. Build date: 1925. Photo taken in July 1999
Oakland Mills Bridge over the Skunk River at Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Built in 1876. Photo taken in August 2011

With these two flaws in mind, one has to ask himself whether the Silent Shade Swing Bridge was relocated to this spot from its place of origin and if so, where. It is clear that unless the bridge builder was so stubborn that he bucked the standardized bridge plans provided by the state, that the Silent Shade Swing Bridge was built before 1900. The author’s guess is between 1880 and 1895 with the bridge builder being one of the 28 that eventually became part of the American Bridge Company Conglomerate, which was established in 1901. The question is how far from the truth is he off and therefore, your help is needed.

The bridge community would like to know the following:

1. Whether the bridge was originally built here or relocated and if the latter, where was its place of origin?

2. If the bridge was relocated, when was it originally built?

3. Who was the bridge builder who built the structure and/or relocated it to its present site?

4. When was the bridge discontinued and left abandoned?

Because the bridge is so unique because of its truss design and the use of a rare bridge type over a less-travelled river in comparison to the Mississippi, the bridge will most likely receive some accolades in the future, such as a National Register listing, and eventually be used as a bike trail crossing, assuming it can be swung back into place from its open position. But you can help by solving the mystery of this bridge. Send your comments and data to the Chronicles or post them on the Chronicles’ facebook page or the comment page of bridgehunter.com, which has some info of the bridge’s location and photos here.

Nathan Holth commented that if the bridge was built in 1927, then he was president of the US. If it actually was built in 1927, then perhaps he should be sworn in as US president. After all, the history of a bridge like the Silent Shade is full of surprises, much of which will help rewrite the history of American architecture and transportation.

Author’s Note: Special thanks to Craig Hanchey for allowing his photo to be used for this article.

Also: The bridge is located approx. 70 miles east of the Mississippi River and Greenville as well as 120 miles north of the state capital of Jackson. 

The Bridges of Des Moines Part III: The (lost) Truss Bridges

18th Street Bridge over the Raccoon River (now extant). Photo courtesy of IaDOT Archives

There are more bridge types that make Des Moines one of the most populous bridges in the Midwest. As we will see in this part, truss bridges were just as popular of a bridge design as the arch bridges that were built by James Marsh and company. As many as 30 truss bridges were reported to had been built during the time span between 1870 and 1930 along the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers as well as other tributaries, including those mentioned in the first two parts of the series. The majority of them featured two or more spans. And while more than half of them were Pratt designs, there were many exceptions to the rule. Already mentioned in part II there was the Post through truss design that had existed at Court Avenue before its replacement in 1917. But like this bridge, the majority of the structures lack the information regarding its history, including the date of construction and the bridge builder. This was in part because of the fact that they were gone prior to the urban renewal period in the 1960s and after 1993.  This is not good for many of these structures, like the 18th Avenue Bridge featured some decorative designs on the portal bracings, which were common during the period of bridge construction prior to 1920, when bridge builders could afford to leave their marks with ornaments and builders plaques. After 1920, with the standardization of truss bridges and the letter-shaped portal bracings (A, M and X-frames), these were seldomly used and can rarely be found today when travelling on Iowa’s highways.

Today, eight bridges are known to exist in Des Moines that have a truss design, at least two thirds of the number that had existed prior to 1970. This does not include the CGW Railroad Bridge, which was demolished in its entirety last month. While some of the structures have already been mentioned earlier, the tour of Des Moines’ truss bridges will feature the ones not mentioned. Each one will feature a location, when they were built (and replaced), what they looked like and if there is no concrete information on the bridge builder, some assumptions will be made. As they will mentioned in the Iowa Truss Bridge Book project that is being compiled by the author, any information on the bridges will be useful.

Without further ado, here are the bridges worth mentioning on the tour:

UP (Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific) Railroad Bridge at Hartford Avenue. Photo taken by John Marvig in 2012

Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Bridge at Hartford Avenue:  This bridge can be seen from Hartford Avenue on the southeast end of Des Moines. The three-span subdivided Warren through truss bridge with X-frame portal bracings is the fourth bridge to be located at this crossing, for the earliest crossing was dated 1871. It was rebuilt in 1890 and again in 1915 with a four-span through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings and pinned connections. While it can be assumed that the reconstruction in 1890 and 1915 may have to do with either flooding that damaged the spans or the increase in rail traffic, the current span was built in 1920 by the American Bridge Company and it most probably had to do with the destruction of the 1915 bridge, albeit more research and information is needed to confirm that claim. The bridge is 469 feet long and is owned by Union Pacific Railroad. However, it was part of the Rock Island Railroad with had a line connecting Indianola and Kansas City to the south, going through Des Moines enroute north to Albert Lea and Minneapolis. When the railroad company was liquidated in 1981, the line was acquired by Chicago and Northwestern, which in turn was bought by Union Pacific in 1995. 20 trains a day use this bridge.

18th Street Bridge: As seen in the picture at the very top of the article, this bridge crossed the Raccoon River at what is now Fleur Drive, southeast of the Central Academy. Before its demolition in 1936, the bridge featured four Camelback truss spans and was one of the most ornate bridges in Des Moines, let alone along the Des Moines River. More information is needed as to when the bridge was built (and by who) and why it was demolished. It is known that today’s Fleur Drive Bridge serves four-lane traffic and serves as a key link to Martin Luther King Drive and all points south of downtown Des Moines.

Inter-Rail Bridge Photo taken by John Marvig in 2012

Inter-Urban Trail Bridge:     Built in 1902, this bridge spans the Des Moines River south of the Euclid Avenue Bridge. The structure features four spans of Pratt with pinned connections, yet three of the spans feature lattice portal bracings with curved heel bracings, while the fourth and easternmost span features V-laced portal bracings with a 45° angle heel bracing- quite possibly a span that was either brought in or built on-site to replace an earlier span destroyed. This bridge used to serve the Inter-Urban Rail Line, one of eight in Iowa accomodated commuters through the 1950s. This route connected Des Moines with Colfax in Poweshiek County, a length of 23 miles. Service continued until 1949, when the freight railroads took over and people resorted to the car or bus. 33 years later, the railroad line and bridge was abandoned, but the City bought both of them to be converted into a bike trail, which was opened in 1998. With the exception of the replacement of the approach spans in 2012, the bridge today retains its integrity and still serves bike traffic, while providing access to the Neal Smith Bike Trail, which combs the Des Moines River.

Commerce Bridge: Spanning the Raccoon River, this bridge featured four truss spans which included three Camelbacks with Howe Lattice portal bracings with subdivided heels and a Pratt through truss with M-frame portal bracings. The latter was built at a later time, whereas the three Camelbacks were reportedly to had been built by the Clinton Bridge and Iron Works Company, one of many Iowa bridge builders that existed during the period between 1890 and 1930. It is unknown when they were built, let alone rebuilt, but records had it that the bridge was destroyed during the Flood of 1965. The bridge was later removed, and Commerce Street was rerouted to run along the Raccoon. All that remains are the abutments and the rapids where the bridge once stood. They can be seen as 105th Street southwest curves to the south.

Iowa Interstate Railroad Bridge. Photo taken in August 2013

Iowa Interstate Railroad Bridge:   Spanning the Des Moines River south of the Red Bridge and once part of the Rock Island Railroad, the Iowa Interstate Railroad Bridge was built in 1901 by the American Bridge Company and featured eight spans of pony girders totalling 625 feet. While it used to be a double-tracked bridge, the eastbound track was abandoned and fenced off in the 1980s and today, only one track is used. It replaced a four-span lattice through truss bridge, which had served one-lane of rail traffic and was built 30 years earlier. The future of this bridge is in doubt due to its sparse use, combined with the city’s plans to raise the dikes. Already the Red Bridge was raised four feet and the CGW Railroad Bridge were removed as part of the city flood planning. It would not be surprising that the bridge’s owner, Iowa Interstate Railroad would abandon the bridge altogether, making it the target for scrap metal. But it is unknown if and when that would happen.

SW 63rd Street Bridge: Located over the Raccoon River between Brown’s Woods and Water Works Parks on 63rd Street in West Des Moines, this three-span truss bridge featured two pin-connected Pratt through truss bridges with portal bracings similar to the 5th Street Pedestrian Bridge, located downstream. It is possible that either George E. King or Clinton Bridge and Iron Works (because of the plaque on the portal bracing) had built the original span. Its northernmost span featured a Pratt through truss bridge with riveted connections and A-frame portal bracing. That bridge was most likely brought in to replace one of the original spans that was destroyed either through flooding or an accident. Little information was gathered about the bridge prior to its demolition and replacement in 1964, due to lack of interest in the history of the structure. Had the historic preservation movement started 10-15 years earlier, it would most likely have been one of the first bridges eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The National Historic Preservation Law was passed in 1966, one year after the replacement of this bridge was open to traffic.

Waterworks Park Bridge. Photo taken by John Marvig in August 2013

Waterworks Park Bridge:    Built in 1922, this Raccoon River crossing is one of the key attractions of Waterworks Park on the south end of Des Moines, as well as the city’s bike trail network. The crossing is 320 feet long and features two 98 foot riveted Pratt pony trusses that used to carry vehicular traffic until its closure in the 1990s. In 1999, the City converted the crossing into a bike trail bridge and has remained in that fashion ever since.

SW Ninth Street Bridge: This Raccoon River crossing is perhaps one of two bridges on this tour that has the least amount of information on its history, despite the fact that it was replaced with the current bridge in 1967. The structure featured three spans of pin-connected Pratt through trusses with Howe lattice portal bracings. Yet that is about it as far as further information is concerned…..

Old Highway 46 Bridge:    This is the second of the two bridges that is missing information (including dimensions) and even more detailed photos than what is shown in the link. No information was found in the historic bridge survey conducted in the early 1990s.  Located southeast of Des Moines, this multiple-span polygonal through truss bridge was built in 1938 and was removed 60 years later when the Hwy. 65 freeway opened. Other than that, there was no information as to whether a previous structure had existed before that, let alone who the bridge builder was that built the 1938 structure. It is known though that the removal of the bridge came despite protests from farmers, who wanted the bridge open so that they can haul farm equipment across it. Yet because the valley where the bridge was located was flood prone, safety precautions were taken and the bridge was removed. Today, portions of the highway exist on its original path from Avon to the river and from there to Des Moines, terminating at Hwy. 163.  Interestingly enough, a railroad bridge located adjacent to the bridge was removed in 1968 after the railroad decided to reroute the line through Indianola enroute to Knoxville. A section of the railroad line exists but makes a dead-end at the power plant located on the north side of the river.

Two Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad Bridges: Located south of the Iowa Interstate Railroad Bridge over the Des Moines River, the crossings featured two four-span through truss bridges. The northern crossing was a quadrangular through truss bridge with Howe lattice portal bracings. The southern crossing featured Warren through trusses with A-frame portal bracings. Both of them disappeared before 1970.

Ashworth Park Truss Bridge:  This is one of three bridges that straddle Walnut Creek carrying Iowa Interstate Railroad through Des Moines (the other two are Pratt pony trusses). The 1897 Warren through truss bridge with Howe lattice portal bracings and riveted connections used to serve dual track rail traffic until the 1990s when it was reduced to only one track. The bridge still serves traffic and can be seen up close from the bike trail while passing through Waterworks Park.

This sums up the tour through Des Moines. The truss bridge portion of the tour is rather the most interesting, but the most challenging if one wants to find information and photos of the structure. As some of the structures will be included in the Iowa Truss Bridge Book project, if you have any information that is useful for the project, or for other people who are interested in bridges in general, you can leave a comment here, or you can contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.  Aside from that, it is hoped that people will have an opportunity to visit the bridges while in Des Moines and listen (or read) the stories involved with each of them, for the bridges span a total of 160 years and three periods, both in terms of materials (wood-iron/steel- concrete) as well as the period of bridge building (trusses-arch-modern bridges). Through the interest in history, you are doing more than just collect stories, you are sharing them with others as well, for there is no such thing as no interest in history. Without history, we are ignorant and a group of people with no identity, no pride and no soul. We take pride in history to ensure we know who we are and bridges are an integral part of our history.

 

Author’s Note: More info can be obtained by clicking on the links marked in the heading and text. Special thanks to John Marvig for photographing the bridges and allowing usage in this article.

 

Twin Spans in Minnesota: The Answer

Photo courtesy of Minnesota Dept. of Transportation

And now to the answer to the question of Twin Spans in Minnesota, which is in connection with the recently published article on the Winona Bridge (see here). Some people may contest to the fact that there are three such twin spans- consisting of the original span and a sister span built alongside it to alleviate traffic. It is true that there is another pair of bridges located 60+ miles down south along the Mississippi River in LaCrosse, Wisconsin with a cantilever truss bridge (built in 1939) and a tied arch bridge (built in 2001), the latter of which carries eastbound traffic featuring US Hwys. 14 and 61 and Wisconsin Hwy. 16.  However, the crossing is only a mile southeast of the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, ironically crossed by another pair of bridges built in the 1970s. Technically, when speaking of borders, the LaCrosse Bridges do not count.

The first crossing that featured an original bridge which later had a sibling span to serve traffic is the Hudson Bridge, spanning the St. Croix River at the Minnesota-Wisconsin Border, west of Hudson.  Originally carrying US Hwy. 12, which was later superseded by I-94, the Hudson Bridge’s history dates as far back as 1911, when the first crossing was built and christened The Hudson Toll Bridge. A product of the Central States Bridge Company of Indianapolis, the 1051-foot long bridge was built on a causeway which started from the business district and ended with the driver making a 10° incline up the Warren deck truss approach spans, before crossing the 136-foot long polygonal Warren through truss span with Lattice portal bracings and riveted connections.  After that and crossing the approach span the driver ended up in Minnesota. Tolls were collected on the causeway on the Hudson side.

Photo courtesy of MnDOT

Yet because of the increase in boat and auto traffic and the coming of the freeways that would later shape the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area, it necessitated the construction of a new bridge, located a half mile south of the Toll Bridge. When completed in 1951, the truss span was relocated to LeFarge, Wisconsin, where it spanned the Kickapoo River before its removal for safety concerns in 1986. The causeway itself was retained and now serves as an observation point with many piers from the old bridge to be seen on both sides of the river.

The Hudson Interstate Bridge was completed in 1951 and featured two lanes of traffic encased in seven spans of Warren through truss bridges with riveted connections and X-frame portal and strut bracings. The main spans, featuring a cantilever through truss span totalled over 700 feet with the entire structure totalling 1,700 feet. The Interstate Bridge served as a single entity until 1973, when a girder span was built to the south of the bridge and accomodated eastbound traffic of US Hwy. 12. The truss span served westbound traffic. Both spans were reconstructed in the 1980s when US 12 was converted to I-94.

Person crossing the Interstate Bridge. Photo taken by MnDOT

Unfortunately when flooding occurred in 1993, both states made haste to build a new span to replace the truss structure for floodwaters damaged the structure to a point where it not only could no longer carry heavy traffic, but it was literally falling apart, with cracks appearing in the steel. In fact the situation was so dire that an emergency lane on the newer structure was made for heavier vehicles going westbound was created. Officials claimed that had this not been done, the bridge would literally have fallen into the waters of the St. Croix, taking many lives with. When the new span opened in 1995, little effort was need to push the 1951 truss spans into the water and cut them up unto scrap metal. The truss spans did not last even a half century because of the wear and tear that had occurred on the structure. Yet had the flooding not occurred in 1993, chances are likely that the bridge would still have been retained even though plans would have been in the making for a new bridge anyway because of the high volume of traffic combined with the events that happened on the I-35W Bridge in 2007. How long the bridge would actually have survived remains unclear.

Since 1995 there has not been a double-span arrangement similar to the Hudson Bridge in Minnesota, but with plans in the making for a sibling span in Winona, we will have the second such arrangement ever built in the state, but the first one in 21 years when completed in 2016. Given the height of the 1940 cantilever truss span combined with the scheduled rehabilitation to follow, it is highly doubtful that the Winona Bridge will suffer the same fate as the bridge in Hudson, but that depends on how the structure handles traffic both on the highway as well as those in the water when passing underneath. If people treat the bridge with care, the bridge will perhaps last a generation or two longer than expected.

Some information and write-ups can be found by clicking on the links marked in the text, including those by John Weeks III.  Special thanks to Minnesota DOT for the information and photos provided for this article.

St. Anthony Parkway Bridge spans for sale

Side view of the Warren trusses and its skewed configuration. Photo taken in August 2010

Meeting on Bridge Project scheduled for 29 October at River East in Minneapolis.

The St. Anthony Parkway Bridge, spanning the railroad yard in the Minneapolis suburb of Columbia Heights, has been a focus of concern for transportation officials, historians and locals alike, for although the bridge is historically significant, rust and corrosion was revealed on the bridge, prompting measures to ensure that the bridge is replaced as soon as possible.

Over five months after the article was written (see link here), the project appears to have moved forward. Plans have been approved to replace the five-span Warren through truss bridge, built in 1925 and features a set of skewed portal bracings, with a crossing featuring a through truss span and girder spans. The original trusses are being offered for sale by the City to be used for several purposes. The lone exception is one of the spans will be salvaged and used as an interpretive memorial located on the western end of the bridge. That means four spans are available for grabs to be reused on a local road or bike trail.

If interested, there is an informational meeting on Monday 29 October, 2013 from 6:00- 8:00pm at the River Village East, Community Room, located at 2919 Randolph St NE in Monneapolis. There, the public can discuss about the project and express their interest in the purchase of the old bridge. There will be more meetings to come between now and the time construction actually starts, which is next fall. The new bridge is expected to be open to traffic by the end of 2015.  More information about the project can be found here. This includes the contact details in case of any questions.

The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest involving the St. Anthony Parkway Bridge, but in case you know someone who wants a historic bridge for a bike trail, park or road, there are four spans available for you to get while they are still there…

Newsflyer 10 September 2013 Part 1

Bunker Mill Bridge southeast of Kalona, Iowa- victim of arson that occurred on 11 August, 2013 and whose future is in doubt. Photo taken in August 2011

Historic bridge burned with scrappers drooling for money. Another set of historic bridges  destined for scrap metal. Historic icon receives a new icon. A replica of a lost bridge to be built. A pair of historic bridges to be focus of restoration campaign.

While away on hiatus for three weeks, which included the four-day long Historic Bridge Weekend in Iowa, a lot of events unfolded which involved historic bridges. This include a tragedy involving a historic bridge in Iowa whose future is now in doubt. Keeping all this in mind, the Chronicles will feature a summary of the events that are non-related to the Historic Bridge Weekend with the author’s feedback on each of the themes. Links are provided in the text, as usual.

North trestle span in the foreground with the truss span in the background. Photo taken in August 2011

Bunker Mill Bridge burns. Future in doubt.

Spanning the English River southeast of Kalona, this bridge is unique in terms of its appearance. It was built in 1887 by the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio and featured a six-panel iron Pratt through truss bridge with Town Lattice portal bracing with a span of 120 feet long. With the north trestle span being 170 feet long- enough to fit another through truss span- the total length of the bridge is 290 feet. In 1913, the Iowa Bridge Company reinforced the bridge which included the addition of M-frame portal bracing. Closed since 2003, plans were in the making to convert this bridge into a bike trail connecting Richmond and Kalona in Washington County. Sadly, the bridge, which was visited during the Historic Bridge Weekend, was burned on the morning of 12 August, destroying the entire bridge deck. The truss span is still in tact but it is unknown how much damage was done to the superstructure. At the present time, work is being undertaken to determine whether the bridge can be salvaged and relocated. At the same time however, sources have informed the Chronicles and the pontist community that the scrappers are making a bid to obtain the bridge for scrap metal. Police and fire officials are determining the cause of the fire, which is suspected to be caused by arson. The Chronicles has a separate article on this bridge based on the author’s visit to the bridge which will be posted after an interview with organizers trying to save the bridge is done.

Rulo Bridge in Nebraska. Photo taken in August 2011

Two Missouri River Bridges to be demolished. Two to be replaced soon.


If the rate continues its course, there will no longer be any pre-1960 bridges along the Missouri River by the year 2030. Two continuous truss bridges built in 1938 have been replaced and are closed to traffic, despite the 2-year delay because of the Great Flood of 2011 which turned the Missouri River into the Red Sea for 3/4 of the year. Already one of the bridges, the Amelia Earhart Memorial Bridge in Fort Atchinson, Kansas, built at the time of the disappearance of the first female pilot to cross the Atlantic Ocean, is scheduled to come down beginning 23 September after the tied arch bridge was opened to traffic. The demolition is scheduled to take two months to complete. The Rulo Bridge, which carries US Highway 159 through the Nebraska town of Rulo was rerouted to the new bridge and is now closed awaiting demolition. This may happen at the earliest in the fall but most likely in 2014. The Centennial Bridge in Leavenworth, a two-span tied arch bridge most likely to follow as Missouri and Kansas DOTs are planning on its replacement which will happen in a few years. And finally, a pair of duo continuous Warren truss bridges, the Fairfax Bridge (built in 1935 by the Kansas City Bridge Company) and the Platte Purchase Bridge (built in 1957) in Kansas City are planned to be replaced beginning in 2015. The reason for replacing the US Highway 69 crossing was because of its narrowness.  To know more about the Missouri River Bridges, it will be mentioned in detail in a presentation provided by James Baughn during the Missouri Preservation Conference, which takes place 18-20 September in Booneville. More information can be found here.

Another slab bridge collapses- this time in Illinois

Engineers and politicians are running out of bridge types to condemn in favor of modern bridges. Reason: another concrete bridge has collapsed after a truck rolled across it! This happened near Woodlawn, Illinois on 6 September. Woodlawn is near Mt. Vernon in Jefferson County. The bridge is over 200 feet long and was built in 1977. Fortunately, nobody was hurt when it happened for the structure collapsed right after the truck went across it. Investigators are trying to determine whether the weight of the loaded truck was too much and if a weight limit should have been imposed. This is the second post 1970 bridge that collapsed this year (a 1987 bridge in Missouri collapsed this past July) and has raised questions of whether weight limits should be imposed on all bridges and highways to ensure their prolongitivity and driver safety. But despite the “less is more” mentality that is becoming the norm in society, it will most likely take a few more collapses of modern slab before it get through the heads of the engineers and government agencies that are responsibility for the infrastructure in the US.

Bay Bridge Replacement opens to traffic.

When the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge first opened to traffic in 1936, the eight mile long bridge spanning San Francisco Bay was the longest in the world, with two sets of suspension bridges connecting Yerba Buena Island with San Francisco and a cantilever truss bridge and beam bridge between that island and Oakland. Since 3 September, the Oakland portion of the bridge has been replaced with a cable-stayed suspension bridge and closed to all traffic while cars are travelling on the new span. For those who are not familiar with this portion of the bridge, it was that particular bridge which partially collapsed during the Earthquake of 1989, the one that killed over 300 people, caused the double-decker Nemitz Freeway in Oakland to collapse and brought the World Series at Candlestick Park to a halt. A person videotaped the bridge and a car falling into the collapsed portion of the bridge. A link can be found here.  The bridge collapse prompted notions to replace that portion of the Bay Bridge and bring the suspension bridge portion up to earthquake proof standards, together with the Golden Gate Bridge. 24 years later, they got their wish with a cable-stayed suspension bridge made using steel made in China. This is still sparking a debate on whether Chinese steel has as high quality as American steel, especially as several flaws were discovered while building the Oakland portion of the bridge, which included broken bolts and anchors holding the stayed cables. Despite the bridge being a remarkable landmark that will surely be documented in 50 year’s time, especially with the statue found at the island, it is questionable of whether $4 billion was necessary to build the bridge or if it would have made sense to rehabilitate the cantilever bridge. This includes the cost and time it will be needed to demolish that bridge, which will commence sometime next year.

With all the bad news involving bridges in the US, there are some drives to save historic bridges with one being replicated after a 70 year absence. More in part 2 of the Chronicles’ Newsflyer.

 

What to do with a HB: St. Anthony Parkway Bridge in Minneapolis

Tunnel view of the bridge. All photos taken by the author in Sept. 2010

The St. Anthony Parkway Bridge, also known as the Northtown Bridge, is one of Minnesota’s historic bridges that deserves some recognition in itself. Located in the western part of Minneapolis near Columbia Height, this five span Warren through truss bridge with riveted connections is one of the last bridges of its kind to span the railroad yard in the Midwest. Built in 1925, the 530 foot long bridge is built in a 40° skew, another rarity one can find in the region, if not the country!  Despite the lack of information about the bridge- thanks largely in part to missing plaques on the end posts of the bridge- the Northtown Bridge is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as it is located on the Grand Rounds of Parkways and crosses a historic railyard owned by Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railways- all of which have been considered nationally historic!

Yet this unique structure is in serious trouble. Both the City of Minneapolis and the Federal Highway Administration want the bridge removed and replaced, despite opposition from residents and the Minnesota Historical Society. Yet the decision to replace the bridge took many years to make due to series of studies conducted plus the debate over the cost between rehabilitation versus replacement.

In the meantime, the bridge has suffered a great deal, both in its outer appearance as well as with the decking. Officials at BNSF and the City of Minneapolis revealed in their surveys that the bridge is corroding, especially in the decking because of the trains passing underneath the structure combined with the use of salt in the winter time. Furthermore, the upper part of the bridge has sustained substantial damage to the portal bracing and upper chord, probably caused by trucks trying to cross the bridge despite height restrictions. A pair of photos in this article combined with a link to more photos (shown here) reveal a close-up view of the damage to the bridge.

As the city is actively pursuing a replacement bridge, pondering between a basket arch bridge similar to the Mississippi River Crossing at Lowry Avenue and a cable-stayed bridge similar to the Sabo Bridge, the question is what to do with the present structure, for even though one or two of the damaged spans are most likely going to be scrapped, the remaining spans have the potential to be reused, either along a bike trail in or around the Twin Cities area, or somewhere on a rural road for light vehicles, as has been done before. It may be possible that because of its historic status, the city may save only one of the spans, relocate it and reuse, as was the case with the Broadway Avenue Bridge in 1987, when one of the spans was relocated to its Merriam Street location, which still serves traffic to this day.

While the replacement plans are in the starting phase, the plans regarding the future of the present  St. Anthony Parkway Bridge is still open. So let’s take a look at the bridge and ask ourselves this question:

What would you do with the current St. Anthony Parkway Bridge?

a. Relocate the remaining truss spans to rural locations- and if so, which areas would be potential candidates?

b. Relocate the trusses to the bike trail in and around the Twin Cities area- and if so, which bike trails could use a historic bridge?

c. Relocate the trusses to the bike trails elsewhere in Minnesota and the surrounding states- and if so, which ones need a historic bridge?

d. Relocate one of the trusses to a street location, like the Merriam Street Bridge- if so, which street in Minneapolis would be a candidate

e. Keep one of the trusses and relocate it to a nearby park

f. Other options

Please place your comments here, on the facebook pages or send your comments via e-mail. However, just as important as replacing the bridge is addressing the importance of saving the truss bridge to the state historical society and other state agencies, as well as organizations that specialize in bridge rehabilitation so that they have a chance to think about the options and support your decision. A link to MNHS is enclosed here, if you want to talk to the personnel about it.

When there is a will, there is a way to save a historic landmark that is part of a bigger district. While the city parks administrator would like a new crossing that is a signature for the City of Minneapolis, would it not be better to have a relict of history be saved that is just as big a signature for the city and its historic district as the new bridge? Minneapolis has a lot of history that can be reached by bike, foot or car and St. Anthony Parkway Bridge is one of those that deserves its place in history, live and in person…

Photos:

Side view of the Warren trusses and its skewed configuration
Close-up of the damage to the easternmost span of the bridge. Look closely at the portal and sway bracing. This span will surely be scrapped regardless of the outcome of the entire bridge.

Mystery Bridge 13: A bridge named after a politician

Photo courtesy of Nathan Holth

 

This mystery bridge article starts off with a pop quiz- three questions to be exact:

1. What bridges do you know that are named after a politician?

2. Which was the very first bridge that was named after a politician?

3. Who was Henry Clay?

It has become a trend in the last decade to name new bridges after renowned politicians either on a local or a national level, while questioning the credibility of these politicians because of patchy records that dismayed the public and thus forcing many to question the validity of the named bridges. The first name that comes to mind is Christopher ‘Kit’ Bond, former Senator and Two-time governor of Missouri who was scrutinized for his anti-environment and anti-homosexual and multiple marriage policies and was accused of stealing moon rocks from the Apollo 17 mission, but was lauded for his free trade agreements producing jobs for Missouri. There are two Missouri River bridges named after him: one in Kansas City (open in 2010) and the other in Hermann (open in 2007). Here, one has to ask whether naming more than one structure after a politicians that was disliked by many was really necessary. But that is for Missourians to decide.

But this mystery bridge, located in Kentucky, was named after another famous politician; this one more colorful and can be found in most US History books. Henry Clay was the voice for the state of Kentucky for 41 years, serving as Senator, House Representative, Speaker of the House (on three separate occasions) and Secretary of State under President John Quincy Adams. He was the presidential candidate for the Whig Party, one of three parties he was associated with during his political career, during the 1844 elections, which he lost to James Polk. He was one of the war hawks, who voted in favor of war with the British Empire, leading to the War of 1812, and later favored to settle the northern border dispute with Canada (which was part of the Empire). Furthermore, he favored the emancipation of slaves and worked to establish a border between North and South, resulting in the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and Compromise of 1850, yet he opposed the annexation of states like Texas, for it would have provoked a major debate over slavery as well as war with Mexico, which occurred during the years 1846-48.  Together with Daniel Webster and John Calhoun, the they became the three musketeers and represented the interests of at least the northern half of the US, fostering the development of industry and infrastructure as well as freedom for minorities.

There are many institutions and buildings throughout the US and other places that have been named after him, including the Clay Dormitory at Transylvania University, and an educational institution in Venezuela, as well as streets, counties and even towns bearing the name Clay or Ashland for his estate, which his surviving sons inherited after his death in 1852. But it is unknown how many bridges were or are named after this famous politicians, except this bridge in Kentucky, as depicted in a black and white photo submitted by Nathan Holth. According to the description, the bridge was named after Henry Clay, yet it is located in a town bearing the name Valley. According to maps provided by Google, there is no town or city in Kentucky with just the name Valley, but there are two communities that carry the name Valley: Renfro Valley and Peewee Valley. Renfro Valley is located on the eastern end of Lake Linville north of Mount Vernon, and is connected by US Hwy. 25 and Interstate Highway 75 linking Lexington and Knoxville, Tennessee. Peewee Valley is located northeast of Louisville.  Given the proximity of the Ohio River, the author would favor the bridge being located near Peewee Valley, for the community is located 10-15 kilometers from the major waterway. Yet, one has to look more closely at the bridge and its surroundings to see that the third variable is possible.

Close-up of the same bridge, zoomed in by the author.

The Bridge features two long Warren through truss spans with no vertical beams. Judging by the width of the river crossing, it would not fit the width of the Ohio River, which is between a half mile and one mile in many areas, including a width of a mile in Louisville. In order to fulfill the length of the bridge, one would need at least eight or nine more through truss spans similar to the 200-250 foot long truss spans the Henry Clay Bridge offers. Therefore, it is possible that a town bearing the name Valley may have existed between 70 and 130 years ago but died off because of economic reasons and competition from nearby communities.  Judging by the trusses seen in the picture, it appears that the bridge may have existed between 1880 and 1890, which would fit the time of the existence of the town of Valley. As wide as the two-span bridge was, it seems that it was a wagon bridge used to carry horse and buggy and later cars across this river.

So despite the fact that a Henry Clay Bridge did exist in Kentucky, the question remains where exactly was this bridge located? Was it located in or near Renfro Valley over a segment of Linville Lake? Was it located near Peewee Valley, north of Louisville? Or was it located over another major valley in a small town that once existed, and if so, where?

There are two ways to send the information: one to Nathan Holth, who is doing some work on this bridge, the other here to the Chronicles. Both contact details are enclosed below. Once the mystery has been solved, the Chronicles will post the results in a posting of its own.  Happy History Hunting and read up on Henry Clay and his Three Musketeers of Capitol Hill, for their policies had an influence on how America is today.

Contact info:

Nathan Holth: http://www.historicbridges.org/contact/index.htm

Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com