Fire Destroys Iconic Covered Bridge in Kentucky

Photo taken by Melissa Jurgensen after its rehabilitation in 2017

.

SPRINGFIELD, KENTUCKY (USA)- Local and state officials are looking for information that can lead to the arrest and conviction of one or more persons responsible for destroying an inconic historic bridge in Kentucky. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office as well as nearby fire departments were called to the scene of a fire at the Mt. Zion Covered Bridge at around 11:30pm Tuesday night. The bridge was built by Cornelius Barnes in 1865 but was bypassed by a new bridge in 1977 and had recently been fully restored in 2017. It has been listed as a National Register site since 1976. The 211-foot long covered bridge with a Burr truss design had spanned the Beech Fork River at Mt. Zion Road and was considered the longest remaining covered bridge in the state. It also goes along the names of Beech Fork CB or even the Morseville CB.

Source: Washington County Sheriff via facebook

.

When officials arrived at the scene at 11:30pm, they saw the bridge fully engulfed in flames. It didn’t take long until the covered bridge collapsed into the river at around midnight. When the bridge was restored in 2017, flame retardant was applied to the trusses but not to the flooring itself. The bridge is considered a total loss– nothing more but a pile of rubble with only the stone pier standing. The bridge was one of only 13 covered bridges left in the state.

The fire is being investigated as arson and the case will be taken to the state fire marshal’s office. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office is looking for any leads and witnesses- anything that will be useful for the case and can lead to the arrest and possible conviction of those involved in setting the bridge ablaze. Any information should be directed to Sheriff Jerry Pinkston at 859-336-5400.

It is unknown whether the covered bridge will be rebuilt but the Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on this tragic loss.

.

Setting a property on fire, covered bridges included, with intent to destroy it and/or cause personal injury, constitutes a first degree felony by law and those found guilty of the crime could face at least 20 years in prison, plus fines in the thousands.  The longest prison sentence ever handed out was 90 years to a man who arsoned two covered bridges in Indiana, one of which was destroyed in 2002. The prison sentence took place in Parke County in 2018 and this was after the person received mental health treatment.

.

Mystery Bridge Nr. 69: H.E. Dudley and His Bridge Near Richland, Iowa

Archive Photo courtesy of Luke Harden
Archive Photo courtesy of Luke Harden

bhc forum new

No one has really known about a bridge builder that existed in Iowa for over a century ago by the name of H.E. Dudley. In fact when researching about his history, only a handful of his names emerged which would make sense- namely, a Dudley that existed between 1870 and 1920. But then again, we don’t know if his bridge building business originated from Iowa or from outside. We just know two variables that confirm of his presence in bridge building and they are located in Marshall County- at Hoy Bridge

Photo taken by John Marvig

Located three miles southwest of Rhodes and three miles north of Hwy. 330, this bridge was constructed by Dudley in 1912 for the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad (aka The Milwaukee Road) connecting Marshalltown and Des Moines. Train traffic used this bridge for 70 years until the Milwaukee Road abandoned it in 1982 as part of the plan to cut its rail lines and save its company. The railroad eventually became part of Canadian Pacific through a series of mergers and consolidations. The 212 foot arch viaduct, whose towering height of 60 feet is covered wit vegetation became part of the Heart of America bike trail in 2003, thus revitalizing the network that had been abandoned for 20 years.

Going back to this mystery bridge at Richland, fellow pontist Luke Harden brought the photo to the attention of the Chronicles recently. The design is similar to that of the Hoy Bridge- six spans of concrete arches supported by another arch bridge, located over a small creek near the town of Richland in Washington County. This means that the work was most likely that of Dudley’s. The bridge was built to serve the Milwaukee Railroad. The question is when it was built, but even more importantly: where the bridge was located!

Richland is served with one railroad going through the community of 350 inhabitants and has a creek flowing north and west (Richland Creek). When using Bing, one can see two crossings to the south and west of Richland. Neither of which would fit the estimated length of between 200 and 270 feet the bridge would have. Sources had indicated that the bridge would be located to the southwest of Richland. Going southwest, the crossings appear to be a trestle with half the length and a multiple span plate girder bridge with a length of 150 feet. Unless the Dudley arch viaduct was removed and replaced with this span, neither crossing seemed to fit.

Tracing the rail line going northeast, there are several crossings along the creek, even going past the next community of Rubio. However all of them have a span of up to 75-100 feet total. This would refut claims made by another pontist that the bridge is/was northeast of Richland. However, recent discoveries might pinpoint this structure over a creek between Fir and Gingko Avenues northeast of Rubio, five miles east of the Skunk River Bridge. Looking at the map carefully, one can see a trough and a sizeably large creek which is crossed by a long bridge. Covered in massive vegetation, it is difficult to tell whether this crossing is indeed the Dudley bridge we are looking for. One would need to wait until the winter for a photographer to walk the railroad track and get a close-up of the bridge to confirm. The line is still operated by Iowa, Chicago and Eastern Railroad, despite being owned by seven different companies over the past three decades. Should a person happen to be at this crossing, he/she is due for a surprise, whether the bridge matches the black and white photo or not.

Little is known about this bridge, let alone H.E. Dudley and his work as a bridge builder, let alone his affiliation with the Milwaukee Road. While research is being conducted at the time of this press release, the Chronicles needs your help. What we would like to know about is when and where he lived, how long did he build bridges in his lifetime, where was his bridge building business located, and lastly, how many other bridges were credited to his name and where were they located? This is in addition to determining whether and where the Richland Viaduct is located exactly- whether it is still extant or if it has been replaced. Your thoughts on the Richland Bridge and/or H.E. Dudley? Please use the contact form and provide the author with some information that will be useful. Eventually if there is sufficient information, an article on Dudley’s life and works will be put together to provide the readers with an overview of this rather unknown bridge builder, whose two bridges (so far) have contributed a great deal to the Milwaukee Road and the history of America’s infrasturcture.

Map with the possible locations of Dudley’s Richland Bridge can be accessed here.

 

bhc logo short new

 

Bunker Mill Bridge (almost) Completed

The Bunker Mill Bridge at the end of its completed restoration project. Photo courtesy of Scott Allen
The Bunker Mill Bridge at its Endspurt of the restoration project. Photo courtesy of Scott Allen

With New Decking installed, Bridge can be crossed again- Final Phase of work to begin; More financial help needed to complete the final touches.

KALONA, IOWA-  On 13 August, 2013, the same weekend as the Historic Bridge Weekend, a group of people set fire to a unique historic truss bridge spanning the English River southeast of Kalona, a product of the King Bridge and Iron Company. When Julie Bowers and members of the Friends of the Bunker Mill Bridge purchased the structure from the county, the bridge was a mere steel skeleton with no where to cross. Fast forward to March of this year, the new decking has been added to the bridge and one can cross it once again for the first time in a nearly three year absence. A pair of videos by Julie Bowers shows you how the bridge has come a long way from almost being condemned to the wrecking ball to one that will soon become part of a bigger recreational project, including all the fine print involving owning such a historic landmark:

Despite the decking being added, there is still work left to be done with the bridge. A press release by the group shows you the details of the progress, what is next with the project, how much money is needed to complete the last phases and how you can help put the final touches on the project. The press release includes some photos and a cool video provided by Nels Raynor of BACH Steel showing how the new decking is being added. Here’s the release as of 4 April 2016:

Photo by Scott Allen
Photo by Scott Allen

In a stunning development, the Friends of Bunker Mill Bridge® newly appointed officers decided on April 1, 2016 to leave the group managed and funded by NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges. Julie Bowers, Executive Director of NSRGA, was informed of their decision on Saturday at Bunker Mill Bridge by Henry Swantz. While we applaud their efforts to start a new non profit company to work with the bridge, under advise of counsel, until they are recognized as such, with the solid financial and insurance backing that they need, their efforts with the bridge ownership are over, and the representatives to our board from FBMB – Doris Park and Scott Allen gave up their rights as board members”, stated Julie Bowers. “I’m not sure they realized what they were doing when they decided to leave but we’ve seen this before when people that are working together get a title. However, the executive director needed more official help and it seemed to be a good time for that change. The new officers appointed were Travis Yeggy, President and Scott Allen, Executive Director, Mike Riddle, VP, Doris Park, Secretary and Irma Altenhofen, Treasurer. With the consent of the core group they decided to go rogue. They didn’t want to stand behind the binding legal agreements and promises held by NSRGA and FBMB. NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges (W’B) is the legal owner and contractor for the project and will continue to work the bridge project as money and scheduling permit.

We are hopeful that the new non profit will work to find collaborators within the county and region to build a bigger and better park for northern Washington County. NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges will donate $1000 to help get them started. We will not use any of the $1680 in donations that recently came in for bridge construction for that. W’B is really geared to be interim owners of bridges, and our insurance is realized because of the experts that we use to engineer and restore our bridges. This bridge was to be the first to become one of our bridge parks. Once the Bunker Mill Project is complete, we hope to have many conversations on it’s future. We’ve found, especially with this project, that we need to keep construction separate from the friends groups and local politics. Most friends groups don’t have the expertise to pull off such large and expensive projects, that is why the county allowed us to take on what they didn’t want, because we had those credentials. This is our mission, to preserve historic bridges and greenbelts, and with our growth we are pleased to be able to help an Iowa bridge.

Workin’ Bridges, in an effort to move the project forward in January, encouraged the group to reach out for donors. W’B invested $21,000 in materials and roughly $20,000 in labor for BACH Steel to bring the bridge this far, after their donated time installing stringers. Bowers wants people to understand that while we have come a very long way towards our goal of “Crossing the English”, we are not there yet. Another $30,000 will be required for repair of rail on the approach and the new railing system on the bridge. A wing wall for the south approach is being designed and engineered, and once ready we will bid that work. The north approach, while it held the weight of the JCB, has more spongy planks now. Funding will drive the schedule for completion. Portal gates will be installed on the bridge in order to keep those interested in the project safe until it is finished. We don’t want anyone falling off the bridge in their excitement. The bridge was engineered for recreational use, a maintenance truck, horses and buggies and people for the future, but it is limited in what it can do. The easements were acquired for the preservation and protection of the bridge only.

Each of the easements, Miller, Ehrenfeldt and Stumpf have different requirements. The Millers wanted nothing on their side, the Ehrenfeldt’s wanted no trespassing signs posted but no fence to keep folks out of their land. In the Stumpf easement, the area was vacated by the county in 2013 to Mr. Stumpf in order to grant us that last easement. At the time and in a meeting, the area was staked out and none of our easement touched Nutmeg Avenue. He has asked us to limit the access of folks coming from the north directly onto his property. Just yesterday someone came out at 5 am to try to walk over the bridge and that made us realize that the bridge park must be controlled more, and that was one of the areas that FBMB was to be working on before they voted to leave the services that we have provided behind. Stumpf has put an offer on the table for a purchase the “Catholic 40” as it is commonly known. Our binding agreement with Stumpf allows for a gated fence that will help us define the park boundaries on the south side. He would also allow the gates open for our regular Tuesday events (that won’t take place this summer) and for special events or visiting Sundays for the Amish. There is no further road vacation needed which only came out on discussions with Stumpf that should have happened years ago. Our south side friends that have enjoyed the bridge and the road will be able to continue to do so. We hope to see them in the middle soon, but in the meantime we have to go back to work to make more money to finish the job. Donations made to FBMB will continue to be tax deductible and if they flood in the schedule will move up. NSRGA has reached out to the Natural Heritage Foundation of Iowa, part of the Land Trust Alliance to help us define what a park would look like and what signage and posted hours need to be. Other groups would also be interested in a collaboration and if partners can be found for a REAP grant, the area could be managed the state DNR as we know the County Conservation Board is not interested in managing a park near Kalona.

Questions can be directed to Julie Bowers, Executive Director of NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges at jbowerz1@gmail.com or 641.260.1262.

And when the Sixth Day was completed, came the Seventh Day, the Day of Rest. And Life was good and the People were happy. Photo by Scott Allen
And when the Sixth Day was completed, came the Seventh Day, the Day of Rest. And Life was good and the People were happy. Photo by Scott Allen

bhc new logo newsflyer

Selling a Historic Bridge on Craigslist: Unusual Concept, But…..

Oblique view of entire structure. Photos taken by Calvin Sneed, used with permission.

 

Bridge for sale. A two-span steel through truss bridge built of Pratt design that includes a Queenpost approach span, which curves at 15°  to the left towards the house on the hill. Built in 1901 by the Southern States Bridge Company of Birmingham, Alabama, the bridge is located two miles from the site of Davy Crockett’s birthplace in Washington County, Tennessee at Glaze’s Ford. Last used 31 years ago but is now privately owned with the structure fenced off to all people. The bridge is available for reuse, but get this: The bridge and the house is availeable on the most improbable platform- Craigslist!

Founded by Craig Newmark in 1995, Craigslist features a list of items available for purchase by others wanting to part ways with them. This not only includes personal items, such as clothing, office supplies, and cars, but also buildings and other property. Since its introduction in San Francisco, Craigslist has spread throughout the US and the rest of the world, where there is a Craigslist for the big city with an area of up to 200 square miles. That means if one lives in Potsdam, Germany, then the nearest Craigslist is in neighboring Berlin. If you live in Breckinridge/Wahpeton in North Dakota, the nearest List can be found in Fargo-Moorhead. Having bridges on Craigslist is not as surprising as having a Mansion available because of their face value in comparison to what the seller is asking for. Yet unlike eBay, there is no bidding for the product. That’s why one will not find such a large piece of property on eBay- at least not yet. But bartering is also possible through Craigslist, where one can bid to the lowest to obtain the product.  In addition, job and dating services can also be found on Craigslist, thus making the platform the electronic version of the classified ads, but on a larger scale than the coverage you get when reading the local newspaper.  Yet despite the advantages of selling items through Craigslist, there has been an increase in crime involving people doing business with Craigslist. This includes an increase in murders through Craigslist since 2000, as well as complaints involving the sales and bartering practices, which have become numerous in the last decade.

Nevertheless, Craigslist has become the last resort to rid the items big or small, without having to run into problems with bureaucracy. In the case involving this bridge, the structure was given to the property owner by the local government for free because of liability purposes. Now the owner is selling her house and property, and assuming the bridge is on her property, that structure as well. The bridge appears to be in excellent shape, in comparison with many abandoned bridges that deteriorate to a point of collapse and subsequent removal. Given the proximity of the bridge near the site of one of the brave soldiers who fought and died for the Alamo in 1836, the bridge has the potential of becoming a key bike trail link. And even not, the bridge can be relocated elsewhere for reuse using funds from the state and national government for the project.

But is Craigslist the right platform for selling a historic bridge? Or should the bridge be sold through other entities, like the county or state? What are the reasons for your argument? Click on the sources below and comment on them here as well as in the Chronicles’ LinkedIn and Facebook pages. You can also add the question of how you would try and sell the bridge if you were in the shoes of the property owner.

More on Craig’s List and its history can be found here, as well as the problems involving purchasing large items through them (here).

Special thanks to Calvin Sneed for the use of his photos in this article. These are only a fraction of the ones you can find via bridgehunter.com, which you can click here. The history of Davy Crockett is also found here.  Note that the bridge is only used as an example while in reality, there is no confirmation as to whether the bridge is included on Craigslist. It is stated that it is on the homeowner’s property, which is on Craigslist.

 

 

 

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.

Bunker Mill Bridge sold to private organization

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

Washington County sells bridge to private organization for $1 plus donates funds for restoration.

Kalona, Iowa-  Efforts to save and restore the 1887 Bunker Mill Bridge took two gigantic steps towards reality yesterday, as Washington County officials voted unanimously to sell the King Bridge Company structure to the Friends of Bunker Mill Bridge and the North Skunk River Greenbelt Association for $1. In addition to that, the county commissioners voted to appropriate the $80,000, originally set aside for demolishing the bridge, for restoring it to its original form.  With $80,000 from the county, plus the funds raised by the organization itself, the group will be able to proceed with the plans to restore the bridge, which includes determining what is needed for the bridge and carrying out the work.

The 290 foot long bridge, which spans English River southeast of Kalona, was severely damaged by arson on August 12th with the wooden decking destroyed. The Pratt through truss structure appeared to be unscathed in the blaze. There’s still no word on who started the blaze but those with information on the arson are asked to contact the county authorities.

The cost for a full restoration of the bridge is estimated at $460,000 with fund-raising efforts to continue together with applying for grants on the county and state level. Yet that sum may be reduced as the project progresses, according to Julie Bowers, Executive Director of NSRGA which is helping FBMB with the project.  FBMB with Suzanne Micheau as Managing Director and NSRGA, with Julie Bowers as Executive Director will be overseeing the project with plans to restore and reopen the bridge to pedestrians and cyclists. There is hope that the plan to use the bridge as part of the bike trail connecting Kalona and Richmond will be realized once the bridge is restored. But when that will be done remains open.

  If you are interested in donating money or expertise to this project or would like more information, please contact Suzanne Micheau, Managing Director at suzanne@kctc.com or (319) 936-6339 or Executive Director, Julie Bowers, jbowerz1@gmail.com (641) 260-1262.

The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest developments on this project and congratulates all parties on a job well done. Purchasing the bridge is half the battle. The second half is doing the actual work, which has received enormous backing from the county and elsewhere. Best of luck! 🙂

Bunker Mill Bridge Update 16 September 2013

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

Board of Supervisor Meeting tomorrow in Washington. First fundraiser event on Thursday the 19th in Kalona

As mentioned previously in the Newsflyer on 10 September, the Bunker Mill Bridge was severely damaged by arson in August, even though the 1887 bridge (which was rehabilitated in 1913) was scheduled to be part of the bike trail connecting Richmond and Kalona, where it is located over the English River.

Despite the tragic event, the organization Friends of the Bunker Mill Bridge (FBMB) has launched efforts to save and restore the bridge for reuse.  Fundraisers have started and more than 120 people have joined the facebook group with more providing support in one way or another. While over 100 people attended the inauguration meeting on September 11th, including the Washington County Board of Supervisors, another key meeting is scheduled for tomorrow September 17th at 9:30 at the Washington County Courthouse in Washington. There a resolution on how funding can be used for restoring the bridge instead of demolishing it will be created and it is hoped that there will be enough support to inspect the damaged structure, repair and restore it and reuse it again. People with a strong interest in this bridge are asked to attend this meeting. If unable, then letters and petitions to the county board of supervisors and the conservation board are strongly encouraged.

As for the fundraising attempts, while T-shirts are being sold with proceeds going to the bridge, the first key fundraising event will take place this Thursday, 19 September at Tuscan Moon Grill on Fifth in Kalona beginning at 5:00pm. A percentage of the proceeds will go to the consultants who will oversee the needs for the bridge. For more information on this event or if you want to buy the shirt, please contact Suzanne Michaeu or David Finley of the FBMB. Easiest way is through the organization’s facebook page, which you can click here to access.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest involving the bridge. A detailed article on the bridge is in the works but it will be released in October once the interviews are finished and more details are presented.

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.

 

Tracking Down a Bridge’s History Part 2: Examples

Silverdale Bridge at its new location: over Manning Avenue on the Gateway Recreation Trail, east of Mahtomedi in Washington County, Minnesota. Photo taken in August 2011, three months prior to its opening to traffic.

Note: This is part II of the series on tracking down the history of a historic bridge. To view part I, please click here.

After going through some useful tips on info-tracking a historic bridge (similar to that of genealogical research), part II looks at a pair of success stories of how a historic bridge’s life was tracked down through research. Both historic bridges mentioned here were relocated at least once, yet thanks to the research conducted by historians and members of the state agencies, they were able to determine the origin of the bridge’s history, tracing its life from start to present.  One of the bridges is now enjoying its third life in service, even though it was close to becoming a pile of scrap metal, whereas the other no longer exists as attempts to relocate it a third time failed due to a tragedy. In either case, they are both worth mentioning and serving as poster boys for other bridges, whose lifespan remains to be researched.

Hansen’s Ford Bridge at Ellingson Bridge Road prior to its failed relocation attempt. Photo courtesy of Allamakee County Highway Department.

Example 1: Hansen’s Ford Bridge in Allamakee County

Location: Upper Iowa River at Ellingson Bridge Road just east of the Winneshiek/Allamakee County Border

Type: Two-span Whipple through truss bridge with Wrought Iron Bridge Company-style Town lattice portal bracing

Dimension: 278 feet long (Each span was 138 feet); 15.8 feet wide

Status: No longer exists. Destroyed during a relocation attempt in 1994 and later scrapped.

Also known as Ellingson Bridge due to its proximity to the family farmstead, the Hansen’s Ford Bridge was one of only a handful of bridges that featured two spans of a Whipple through truss bridge. The portal bracing is a textbook resemblance of the one used by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company in Canton, Ohio, the one that built the bridge. Research done by the late James Hippen of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and later followed up by other pontists (including yours truly) revealed that the bridge was relocated once in its lifetime. It was known as the Pierce Bridge and was originally constructed in 1878 over the Cedar River west of Osage in Mitchell County. It was one of three bridges that served the county seat. When officials wanted to grade the main highway (now known as Iowa Hwy. 9) and with that build a wider bridge, the bridge was dismantled and transported three counties over towards the east, while a new bridge was built in its place. The truss spans were constructed over the Upper Iowa River east of the county border with neighboring Winneshiek County, replacing a wooden trestle bridge. This all happened in 1939. Apart from newspaper articles and post cards, like this one, the key evidence proving its relocation was found in the blue print provided by the Allamakee County Highway Department.

Sadly though attempts to relocate the bridge for the second time failed. The bridge was supposed to be given over to a private group to be erected over the Yellow River in the southern part of the county, yet as the spans were being hoisted from the river, they fell apart and collapsed. The decision was made to scrap the bridge. It is unknown what caused the disaster, but it is assumed that age combined with lack of maintenance may have played a role in the failed attempt to give the bridge a new life off the public road system.

Silverdale Bridge shortly before being hoisted onto the foundations above Manning Avenue. Photo taken in December 2010

Example 2: Silverdale Bridge

Location: Manning Avenue on Gateway Trail east of Mahtomedi in Washington County, Minnesota

Type: Wrought iron pin-connected Camelback Pratt through truss bridge with Town lattice portal bracing

Dimension: 162 feet long and 17 feet wide

Status: In use as a recreational trail

The Silverdale Bridge has a very unique history for not only was it relocated four times- untypical of any truss bridge on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean- but it was a mystery bridge that took many years of research to solve. In particular, the question that was on the minds of personnel at the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) was where it originated from and who built the bridge?

The bridge was built in 1877, using wrought iron instead of steel. The evidence was through a laboratory study conducted in 2002. Yet visual studies concluded that the bridge was first built over Sauk Lake in Sauk Centre, in Stearns County. This was based on collaboration between MnDOT, the Historical Society in Sauk Centre and locals affiliated with the bridge.  While a plaque was located on the top part of the portal bracing, up until now, it has not been identified as to who constructed the bridge, let alone whether the plaque still exists or if it has long since been destroyed. It is unknown whether any information from newspapers as to who built it would have helped.

The bridge’s life almost came to an untimely end, when it was replaced in 1935 with a steel stringer bridge and the truss bridge was relocated to a storage yard. Interestingly enough, the stringer span survived only 65 years before being replaced with a concrete span, which still serves main traffic today. It was salvaged two years later and was relocated over 500 kilometers northeast to Koochiching County in northern Minnesota. After replacing the strut bracings with one consisting of an X-laced strut bracings with 45° heels and trimming the curved heel bracings off the bridge’s portals, the truss bridge was re-erected over the Little Fork River between the villages of Rauch and Silverdale, serving Minnesota Hwy. 65. The portal bracings were replaced in 1964 after a truck damaged the northern entrance. Upon its removal from the highway system in 2008, the bridge remained in tact with the portal bracings that were a sixth of its height. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998 and when it was scheduled to be replaced, MnDOT placed the bridge on the “most valuable historic bridge to preserve” list with hopes that someone will take the bridge and use it for recreational purposes. Fortunately, Washington County stepped up to purchase the bridge to be used as part of the Gateway Trail, connecting Mahtomedi and Stillwater. The bridge was dismantled and transported to the Manning Avenue site, where it was refurbished and reassembled. Portal bracings resemble the ones used at Sauk Centre and at the Little Fork crossing prior to 1964. Before it was erected over Manning Avenue, it was painted black. Governmental shutdown in July 2011 delayed the opening of the bridge by six months. But since November 2011, the bridge has been serving the bike trail, its third life but one that will last another 150+ years if maintained properly and if the story of how the bridge was built, transported and rebuilt, let alone how its history was researched, is passed down to the next generations.

Photos:

The bridge while serving main traffic in Sauk Centre. This photo was taken ca. 1902. Courtesy of MnDOT

The Sauk Centre Bridge after its opening in 1935. It was in service for 65 years. Photo courtesy of MnDOT

The Silverdale Bridge prior to its relocation. Photo taken by MnDOT in 2003

Damage to the portal bracing in 1964. Photo by MnDOT

The replacement portal bracing. Photo taken by MnDOT in 2003

The duplicate of the original portal bracings installed prior to its re-erection over Manning Avenue. Photo taken in August 2011

Fast Fact:

1. Sauk Centre was the birth place of author Sinclair Lewis, the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930. He is famous for the Fabulous Four, four novels dealing with the flaws of American society: Main Street, Babbitt, Elmer Gantry and Arrowsmith.    He also wrote over 100 short stories and other novels. His birthplace is now a museum and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

2. Minnesota Highway 65 used to be part of US Hwy. 65 from 1926 until the portion was handed over to the state in 1934. The highway starts near International Falls and terminates in Minneapolis with half the highway being an expressway between Cambridge and Minneapolis. US Hwy. 65, which used to run through Minneapolis and St. Paul from its southern terminus of the state of Louisiana, now terminates in Albert Lea, Minnesota. Parts of it was integrated into the Jefferson Highway.

Author’s Note: The author wishes to thank Pete Wilson at MnDOT and Brian Ridenour of the Allamakee County Highway Department as well as the Ellingson family for help with this information.