Donora-Webster Bridge Gone

107-year old historic bridge brought down by explosives at 9:00 am CDT today. Fate of Webster uncertain

DONORA; WEBSTER; PITTSBURGH- The bridge once stood out over the Mongahela River as the symbol of unity between two villages located southeast of Pittsburgh. Many vehicles had crossed the 107-year old structure, at least 150 per day prior to its closing in 2009 due to structural concerns.  Six years after its closing, the bridge is now a memory, with the river now dividing the two villages. The Donora-Webster Bridge was brought down by explosives this morning at 10:00am EDT (9:00am CDT/ 4:00pm Berlin Time). Prior to the historic event, two of the four Parker through truss approach spans on the Donora side plus the steel trestle approach spans on the Webster side had been removed, leaving the Pennsylvania petit main span and the remaining Parker truss spans on each end to be set up for implosion. Here’s a video of the implosion that happened this morning:

Hundreds of people from both villages paid their last respects to the bridge, yet the removal of the bridge, without any plans for a replacement span has left both villages reeling. Especially for the village of Webster, the fate is uncertain, as the community used to feed off its commerce from its sister village Donora, thanks to the bridge. It was built in 1908 by the Toledo-Massilon Bridge Company of Toledo, Ohio, with A.N. Nelson presiding over the construction of the bridge totalling 1547 feet (471.7 meters), with its main span being 517.5 feet- one of the longest in the country. A drone film of what the bridge looked like can be seen below:

When the bridge was closed in 2009, hundreds of locals still used the bridge to cross from point A to point B, while hundreds more from all over the US and Europe paid homage to the crossing in hopes that PennDOT will repair and reopen the bridge. The author was at the bridge as part of the tour itinerary of the 2010 Historic Bridge Weekend in western Pennsylvania. The bridge was quite massive and appeared to be in pristine condition with only a few rust spots that could have been repaired easily, as well as replacing the decking. Still, to the confusion of many locals and preservationists who do not understand the logic behind PennDOT’s decisions (especially as they had a tight budget), the fate of the bridge was sealed when bids were given out at the end of last year and the contractor agreed to remove the bridge by July of this year.  No replacement has been planned yet, which is causing many businesses in Webster to either close up or relocate to the Donora side. Many residents are also moving away, which will eventually result in Webster becoming a ghost town by the end of this decade. Speaking from the experience of residents in Meadville, whose businesses were adversely affected by the closure of the Meade Avenue Bridge for seven years, this rippling effect of not having a bridge as its main link is understandable. And while the project to replace that bridge is underway, there are no plans for the Donora-Webster Bridge as of right now. And given the current situation, it appears the decision will be an indefinite one, which will be fatal for Webster and for residents being forced to drive seven miles to the nearest bridge on each end, especially for emergency crews, a true inconvenience that people will have to get used to, no matter what the cost.

Some more information about the bridge can be found via historicbridges.org here. The author took many photos of the bridge during his trip in 2010, all of which can be found via bridgehunter.com here.

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Comer Bridge Foundation to host fundraising event

Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer

Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer

Scottsboro, Alabama – The Comer Bridge Foundation has announced that it will host a car show, gospel singing, food vendors and a country music concert, headlined by Leah Seawright.  The event, Cruisin’ Comer Country, will be held at the Veteran’s Fairgrounds in Scottsboro on June 20.  The car show will begin at 10:00 a.m. with registration starting at 9:00 a.m.  The day’s activities will culminate with the Leah Seawright concert from 2-4:00 p.m.

 

Cruisin’ Comer Country’s presenting sponsor is Debbie Mathis Realty and Auction located in Scottsboro.  The car show will feature awards for the Top Ten, People’s Choice, Foundation’s Choice, and Best of Show.  Registration for the show is only $20 and cash prizes, determined by participation levels, will be awarded for People’s Choice, Foundation’s Choice, and Best of Show.

 

CBF President Charles Holderfield and the board of directors have spent many hours working to create the best event possible.  “I believe that this is a great opportunity for the community to have fun and support our efforts to preserve the B.B. Comer Bridge as a historical treasure and quality of life destination for everyone to enjoy.  We believe that the event will be a great success and hope it can be an annual fundraiser for this project,” Holderfield said.

 

The admission for the day’s events is only $20 for adults, $10 for children ages 5-12, and free admission for children under age 5.  Pre-registration for the car show portion is underway.  You can receive a registration form or obtain more information by contacting Charles Holderfield at charles@comerbridge.org.

You can also donate online at our donation page at Comerbridge Foundation donation page or at our GuFundMe campain at www.gofundme.com/savecomerbridge.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 57: Havenga Bridge in South Africa

Havenga Bridge

Havenga Bridge over the Orange River. Photo taken by Ronel Le Roux Cilliers, used with permission

At 2,200 km in length, the Orange River, which goes by many names in different languages, is the longest river in South Africa. Starting in the Maloti Mountains in Lesotho, the river slices through the state before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean at Alexander Bay. The river is characterized by having steep valleys and wooded areas in a country that features a combination of mountains, savannas, lakes and deserts in general.

According to records, 32 crossings and three dams are reported to exist, even though the numbers may be a bit higher because of the river’s length and the towns it passes through, such as Preiske, Kakamas, Groblershoop, Hopetown, Douglas and Oranjemund. None of them have sufficient information on their length and history. This includes the Havenga Bridge, located between Vanderkloof and Orania, our mystery bridge profile.

Close-up of the portals of the outer truss spans

Close-up of the portals of the outer truss spans

Fellow pontist Ronel Le Roux Cilliers brought this bridge to the attention of the pontists in the Bridges facebook page, and with that to the attention of this author. While he has yet to visit Africa, this bridge is high on his places to visit list because of its unique features. First of all, the bridge features seven through truss spans. The center span is a Parker through truss with A-.frame portals whose bottom bracing is polygonal, like the truss design itself. The outer spans features three Pratt through trusses on each side of the center span. The weirdest feature of these spans are the portal bracings and endposts, where the top part features a trapezoidal beam design. The endposts are unusual as they are double-barreled with the inner portion featuring lattice bracing on the inner portion and the outer endposts are flat beamed. Normally for all truss bridges, endposts are single-barreled, like this bridge below:

Upper Paris Bridge in Linn County, Iowa. Photo taken in August 2011

Also more unique about the Havenga Bridge is the outer truss spans are much narrower than the center span. That span is estimated to be between five and seven meters (15 and 21 feet) wide, the outer spans a meter  (3-4 feet) narrower. It is unknown how long the bridge is total, but it is estimated that the bridge is close to 500-600 meters (1500- 1800 feet) long total with the longest span being 50- 70 meters (150- 210 feet) and each of the outer spans being 40-50 meters (120-150 feet long. Exact measurements would be needed to confirm the bridge’s dimensions. Even more important is when the bridge was constructed, for the plaque on the north end of the bridge is believed to have been built in 1934. It is unknown who the contractor was, but given the fact that South Africa was once a colony ruled first by the Dutch and later the British thanks to the Boer Wars, it is possible that the bridge builder may have come from the British Commonwealth or the Netherlands, especially because the truss design and portal features are typical in the region. More information would be needed to determine the exact date of construction, why it was needed, and who was responsible for the construction of the structure. It is possible that the original spans were Parker trusses, but the outer trusses were replaced at one point. Some are speculating the replacement dates being in the 1990s, but these are only speculations that need to be supported with pure facts. It is known that the entire bridge has riveted connections, which was typical of bridge construction at that time.

The bridge presents a beauty that has to be seen when visiting South Africa as a touring pontist or a tourist with an interest in history. What is lacking is the history of the bridge, and this is where your help is needed. What do you know about the bridge in terms of its history and/or features? Place your comments below or send them to Jason Smith at the Chronicles using the contact info in the About page. It is hoped that we can collect enough information to solve the mystery of the Havenga Bridge, but more so to open the can of beans and explore the Orange River and the other bridges that exist. Many of them are either just as old or even older than this bridge. May the Havenga Bridge open the stage for more bridges to be profiled in the Chronicles and beyond.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 56: The Natural Bridge at Mallorca (Spain)

Photo taken by Po Keung. Used with permission through Bridge of the Week

Photo taken by Po Keung. Used with permission through Bridge of the Week

Natural Bridges. There is something unique about them, regarding their size and form. These naturally arched structures were formed millions of years ago, thanks to volcanic eruptions combined with years of erosion due to rain and wind. As the years roll by, these structures become more unique, making them more attractive for tourists to see. Natural bridges can take the form of a simple arch standing alone, like the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. But there are others like this one that also has the function of a simple arch bridge.

This mystery bridge takes us to the island of Mallorca, located approximately 250 km off the coast of Spain, and in particular, the Pont de Cala Varques. This natural bridge is located east Manacor, according to sources, but where exactly is unknown.  As seen in the photo taken by Po Keung, the size and length of the natural bridge is huge. From the Atlantic Ocean to the keystone of the arch, it is estimated to be 40 meters high. To the path where the person is standing, add another three meters. The length of the bridge is estimated to be 40 meters long. It is unknown about the width of the bridge, but it appears to be between three and six meters wide.

Not much more information is known about the bridge, apart from the estimates, which leads to some questions about the bridge. In particular, what type of rock formation does this bridge have, how long ago was this bridge formed, how was it formed, who first discovered this bridge, and are there any exact measurements?

Any ideas?  Post your thoughts, comments and facts, so that we can find out more about this natural bridge. It is of utmost importance that a sign with some information on the formation of the natural bridge is posted for many to see and enjoy. Mallorca may be the place to party, but the island has a lot of places of natural interest to see. This bridge is one of them. It is beautiful, provides a great view of the ocean, and one can awe in its size and wonder.

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The Bridges of Zeitz, Germany

Haynsburg Bridge. Photos taken in March 2015

Haynsburg Bridge. Photos taken in March 2015

Located along the River White Elster in eastern Saxony-Anhalt, the city of Zeitz, with ist population of 29,000 inhabitants, represents one oft he dying cities in the former East Germany. High unemployment, empty buildings, abandoned industries and a crumbling infrastructure, combined with historic buildings dating back to the 1800s that are sitting empty are what a person can see when passing through the city. Most of its main traffic has been diverted away from the city, and the only rail service in Zeitz are the lines connecting the city with Weissenfels, Gera and Leipzig- all privately owned and localized.

Yet the city scape of Zeitz has, for the most part been in tact, thus making it the venue for many films produced that require an East German scene or story. Despite their emptiness, many historic buildings in the city center are worth visiting and perhaps occupying with businesses and housing. Even the Moritzburg Castle and the nearby mills and churches, built during the Baroque period, still entertain guests because of their charm. You can also try the local wine from the vineyards located along the rugged Elster Bike Trail.

And then, there are the historic bridges.

At least a dozen bridges exist along the White Elster within a 10 km radius of the city, six of which can be found directly in Zeitz. Two thirds of them are at least 70 years of age or older. Yet all but two of them have been mentioned in the history books or by the International Structure Database in Berlin (structurae.net) which is part of the Wiley and Sons Publishing Conglomerate. While much of the records have disappeared because of World War II and later the Socialist regime, the structures profiled here are unique in its design and historic value. Most of the bridges are arches, but there are a couple girders and trusses that are worth mentioning as well. Each one lacks the most basic in terms of the date of the builders, their dimensions and for the most part, the stories behind them and their affiliation with the communities and castles they serve. Henceforth, this tour will profile each of the bridges in and around the Zeitz area, starting with the bridges near Crossen to the south and ending at Elsterau to the north. All but three of the bridges profiled in this tour guide are along the Elster. One of the bridges, the Moritzburg Pavillion Bridge, has already been profiled separately in a Mystery Bridge article and will therefore be omitted from this article. A link to this bridge can be found here.

A map of the bridges can be found via Google Map, by clicking here:

https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zE70H-hBCaFg.kBi4SDJUWfjk

The rest of the tour of the historic bridges conducted most recently by the author you can click on the Chronicles’ symbol, which will lead you to the website and the tour in its entirety:

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The Wrong Picture

Photo taken by Nathan Holth

Photo taken by Nathan Holth

Over the holiday season, as I was celebrating with family and getting some photo opportunities of some bridges in Iowa and Minnesota, one of my fellow pontists brought this painting up to the attention of the historic bridge community. It was a sketch of low quality showing a tall suspension bridge, trying to go along the lines of the Golden Gate Bridge but it is unknown whether it is the Golden Girl or the Big Mac Bridge (aka Mackinac Bridge) in Michigan because it was too blurry to tell. To an art teacher, the “artist” portraying this bridge would have received a failing grade for its lack of quality. However, both the teacher as well as a historian would have gotten grey hair and wrinkly had they seen that the title of this “pseudo-drawing” been touted as The Brooklyn Bridge!

I think I feel the tremble of the ground as a result of the Roebling family coming out of their graves for that!

While this person had good intentions of making money, and Wal-mart (where the drawing was spotted) was the place to sell the artwork, little did he realize that with the help of the internet and some photos from books and other sources, he would have found out that there is a stark contrast between the Brooklyn, Mackinac and the Golden Gate Bridges. How stark? The photos below speak for themselves…..

Golden Gate Brifdge. Photo taken by Nathan Holth

Golden Gate Brifdge. Photo taken by Nathan Holth

Mackinac Bridge in Michigan. Photo taken by Nathan Holth

Mackinac Bridge in Michigan. Photo taken by Nathan Holth

 

Transversal view of the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo by Nathan Holth

The problem with this misperception of this drawing is that many people do not know what the bridges look like and will take drawings like this one to mislead them into knowing that it is this bridge, when in all reality the actual appearance is anything but that. Furthermore, both the aforementioned bridges have been seen in books and movies, so the differences between them should be obvious. Yet with our total embrace with electronic games and technology as if we are swimming in a pool of water is causing us to lose sight on our surroundings, let along our basic knowledge of history and other core subjects that they all seem to be placed in the backburner. We become disillusioned to what we see, and the younger the generation, the more likely they will identify with the wrong items and have them stick to a point where it becomes more difficult to unglue.

So in order to avoid this type of misunderstanding and misleading identification, here is a word of advice to give to the next person who attempts to draw or paint a picture of something as iconic as a historic bridge: Get it right the first time!

Look at the photos and films, visualize in your head what it looks like and how it should look on paper, and allow yourself an ample amount of time to do the artwork correctly. And don’t worry about the issues of copyright laws. If you do the artwork differently than the one before that, yours will turn out just as well, if not better.

As Gaudenz Assenza, former professor of political science at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany and now professor at the Catholic University of Rozemborok in Slovakia once quoted: Quality trumps quantity in all aspects of life.  While this may refer to aspects on the level of academia, it also applies to all aspects in life, especially when it comes to something like artwork. Think about this before putting the lead to the leaf, no matter how you do it.

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Green Bridge Update: Mayor’s Run and Fundraisers

Side view of the Jackson Street Bridge.

Side view of the Jackson Street Bridge. Photo taken in 2013

DES MOINES- While work will eventually be underway to replace the Grand Avenue Bridge over the Des Moines River in Iowa’s state capital, with a faux pas arch bridge design that is presenting a controversy among the city’s population, work on preserving the Green Bridge over the Raccoon River at 5th Avenue near the junction of the major river is ongoing and very tirelessly.  Already decided, apart from renovating the three-span Pratt through truss bridge built by George E. King, is to narrow the roadway and include observation decks on the bridge, fundraising for the bridge is already underway with a pair of options to choose from:

  1. The Des Moines Parks and Recreation Department, together with the Des Moines Register newspaper and Bike World Bike Store in Des Moines are sponsoring the 28th annual Mayor’s Bike and Run this Saturday, April 18th beginning at 8:00am. The race will start and end at City Hall and will go along the trails through downtown Des Moines. To participate in the competition, it is $5 for children ages 5-18 and $25 for adults. You can pre-register before April 17th. Otherwise at the gate, it is $35 per person. A raffle drawing will be included in the race. All proceeds will go towards the restoration of the bridge. For more information and to register, please click here.

  2. The Des Moines Community Foundation is also collecting money for the project. If you are interested in donating for the project, you can send money to the following address:

Des Moines Community Foundation, 1915 Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50309.

When submitting a check for the amount, please place in the subject line: “Friends of the Jackson Street Bridge” (That’s the original name of the Green Bridge). All donations are tax deductable and all the money collected will go towards the project.

  1. The Ray Gun Site is also chipping in on the donation by selling the Jackson Street Bridge t-shirts. They are $21 per shirt and are available in various sizes. To order, please click here. The design of the shirt is similar to some of the photos submitted to the Green Bridge’s facebook website.

At the present time, $2.5 million is needed for the restoration efforts, and every cent matters, no matter where it comes from (within the US or even outside the country). There are many other options open as to raise money for preserving the bridge. If you have an idea worth sharing, please post it on the Save the Jackson Street- Fifth Street Pedestrian Bridge’s facebook website or contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles using the contact form below.  The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will continue to keep you posted on the developments involving the Green Bridge and results of the fundraising that is going on even as the article is posted.

 

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 54: The Moritzburg Pavilion Bridge in Zeitz, Germany

Author’s Note: This Mystery Bridge is part of the bridgehunting tour through the small town of Zeitz, located along the River White Elster in the eastern part of the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. A tour guide of the town that has “Rather stood still in time” will follow here in the Chronicles.

 

All photos were taken by the author in March 2015

All photos were taken by the author in March 2015

Our next mystery bridge takes us back to Germany and specifically, to Saxony-Anhalt. Despite being the most sparsely populated state in the Bundesrepublik based on population versus land size ratio, the state is an attraction as far as nature, historic buildings (many of them sitting abandoned since 1990) and historic bridges are concerned (especially if we look at the bridges in Halle (Saale), Magdeburg and Quedlinburg).

Zeitz is no exception to the rule. Located along the River White Elster between the cities of Gera and Leipzig, and east of Weissenfels and Naumburg, the town of 29,000 was once an industrial community dominated by the rail, steel and agricultural industries. Today, the town is a poster boy of a typical East German community that has stood still in time. Many historic buildings dating back to the late 1800s to 1930s are sitting empty, but have retained its original charm.   The city has been used as a platform for films focusing on the GDR. And as far as historic bridges are concerned, it competes with Halle and Quedlinburg in terms of numbers and appearance.

IMGP6278

This includes this pavilion-style bridge located east of the community at Moritzburg Castle. Spanning a canal, just 40 meters from its mouth at the White Elster, the bridge appears to date back to the Baroque Period because of the features that are typical for this era. The bridge span itself is a closed spandrel brick arch with a span of 15 meters at the most, long enough to span the canal. The total length appears to be close to 30 meters in length, counting the approach spans. As for the architecture that is on the bridge, it features the following going from center outwards:

For more, click on the symbol below, which will lead you to the Chronicles’ website and with that, more information in detail about this bridge:

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Valley View Trail Bridge to be Relocated

Portal view of the bridge. Photo taken by Mitch Nicholson of Abandoned Iowa

Portal view of the bridge. Photo taken by Mitch Nicholson of Abandoned Iowa

Bridge to become part of a city bike trail. Potential for other steel truss bridges to follow suit?

WINTERSET, IOWA- The Bridges of Madison County: Home of its covered bridges, one of a handful counties in the United States that has at least a half dozen of them. Built between 1867 and 1885, there were once 19 of these wooden housed structures spanning the North, Middle and South Rivers as well as numerous streams. Today only six of them remain, all of which are considered nationally significant, and each one has its own park and rest area to allow people to enjoy the bridge and the natural surroundings.

Madison County also has numerous truss bridges made of steel, and one of them is about to become part of a bike trail. The Valley View Trail Bridge, located four miles west of I-35 and two miles southwest of Bevington,has been closed since 2008 and has sustained significant damage to the approaches thanks to flooding that occurred in 2008, 2011 and 2013. The banks of one of the approach spans was washed away to a point where it resembled a diving board. Yet the 120-foot long bridge, constructed in 1911 by the Iowa Bridge Company and features a pinned connected Pratt through truss span with M-frame portal bracings and V-laced overhead strut bracings is seen by many locals as a rarity nowadays. Therefore the county is expanding its historic bridge heritage by including this bridge as part of a recreational complex. The plan is to place the bridge over a spillway being constructed at Cedar Lake in Winterset, which it will serve as a bike trail surrounding the lake. While costs are being calculated even as this gets posted, the county has already received funding from Iowa Dept. of Transportation (DOT) which will cover the cost for relocating the bridge.

Close-up of the approach span resembling a diving board. Photo by Mitch Nicholson

Close-up of the approach span resembling a diving board. Photo by Mitch Nicholson

The reuse of the Valley View Trail Bridge for recreational purposes has started a question about the possible use of other steel truss bridges in the county. There are as many steel truss bridges in the county as they are the covered bridges when their numbers reached its peak with 19 in 1920. Some of them have already been decommissioned and taken off the road system, yet there are some others that are approaching the end of their service, despite most of them being built during the Depression era.  The relocation and reuse of the Valley View Bridge may serve as an incentive for the county to consider reusing these bridges and bring their histories to the forefront, making the county not only the place of covered bridges, but also the place of bridges built of steel with the help of bridge builders, steel welders and railroaders responsible for molding the bridge parts in the mills, transporting them by rail and erecting them on site. With the number of truss bridges becoming a rarity, the county might have to consider this option once the Valley View Bridge is relocated and reopened for cyclists and pedestrians.

There are seven bridges worth considering for reuse apart from the successful plan involving the Valley View Bridge. These bridges are as follows:

Hatley Bridge:

Located over North Fork Clanton Creek a mile south of Limestone Rd. between US Hwy. 169 and Clark-Tower Road, this bridge is one of the shortest of the through truss bridges in Madison County, as well as Iowa. The 80-foot long Pratt through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings was built in 1909 by local bridge builder SG Hunter Iron Works Company of Atlantic, Iowa, the bridge is perhaps the last example of its kind. Yet since its abandonment in the late 1980s, the bridge has become derelict. Relocation is possible, yet it would require dismantling the structure and doing some major sandblasting before reerecting it at its new home.

Huston Bridge over Clancy Creek. Photo taken by Mitch Nicholson

Huston Bridge over Clancy Creek. Photo taken by Mitch Nicholson

Huston Bridge:

Located over Clanton Creek at 282nd Trail, this bridge is a classic example of a series of truss bridges built by the King Bridge Company because of its portal bracings, as well as the inscriptions on the diagonal and vertical beams and the builder’s plaque. The bridge was relocated to this spot in 1952 and has been here ever since. The bridge has seen its better days as the decking has been removed to keep everyone off the bridge. Yet the bridge appears stable enough to be relocated without disassembly.

Fox Trail Bridge. Photo taken by James Baughn in 2013

Fox Trail Bridge

Located over Middle River at Fox Trail (CSAH G-47), five miles southwest of Winterset, this 157-foot long riveted Camelback through truss with West Virginia portal bracings represents a great example of a truss bridge built using Iowa state highway standards introduced in 1914. The bridge was built by another Iowa firm, the A. Olson Construction Company based in Waterloo. Two dates of construction make this bridge a controversial topic: 1935 according to the National Transportation Records and 1951 according to records by Iowa DOT. The hunch is that this bridge was built in 1935 somewhere else and was relocated here in 1951. Still in use, this bridge has potential to become a National Register landmark in the next 15 years because of its unique design that is becoming rare to find.

St. Charles Bridge. Photo taken by the author in 2007

St. Charles/ North River Trail Bridge

Located three miles north of Winterset and one mile east of US Hwy. 169 over the North River at North River Trail, this 122-foot long riveted Pratt through truss bridge features an M-frame portal bracing similar to many structures built by a bridge company Wickes Engineering from Des Moines. Yet this structure was built in 1932 by Ben Cole and Son, located in Ames, just 25 miles north of the state capital along Interstate 35. The question is whether Ben Cole did business with Wickes prior to 1932. This will require some research to find out. Yet the Wickes style of bridge is becoming rare today, for despite having an average of three of these bridges in each county, the numbers have dwindled down to just above 10% remaining in Iowa. The bridge is still in use but has some potential of being reused once its time as a full-service bridge runs out. The bridge is located six miles west of another covered bridge, the McBride Bridge, which was destroyed by arson in 1983. The instigator, who confessed to the act as response to losing his true love, eventually did social work to make up for the incident- working as a bridge inspector at a county highway department!

Clanton Creek Bridge at Bevington Park Rd. Photo taken by the author in 2007

Bevington Park Road Bridges

Located along Bevington Park Road between Bevington and St. Charles, this stretch of highway features two nearly identical trusses, located only three miles apart. Both feature riveted Pratt through trusses with M-frame portals. Both were built in 1932 by Ben Cole. Both have similar lengths of the main spans- ca. 125 feet. And both have the same color of a rustic brown. The only difference: One is located over the Middle River just outside Bevington and south of Iowa Hwy. 92;  the other is over Clanton Creek, two miles north of St. Charles. They’re still open to traffic but once their service ends, they are potential candidates for reuse as they exemplify as early modern truss bridges built during the Depression era, using Iowa State Highway standards, which were later used in bridge building, especially during this difficult era.

 

Mystery Bridge next to Holliwell Covered Bridge. Photo taken by James Baughn in 2013

Mystery Bridge at Holliwell Covered Bridge

There are as many pony truss bridges in Madison County as they are through truss bridges. This bridge is located just east of the Holliwell Covered Bridge, southeast of Winterset. Given the eyebar connections as seen in the photos taken by James Baughn, this bridge may be one of the oldest in Madison County, let alone in western Iowa. Yet as written as a mystery bridge in the Chronicles in 2011, there is a lot to learn about this bridge (see article here).  As there are three pony truss bridges already preserved as bike trails in Madison County, like the Cunningham, Miller and Morgan Bridges, this bridge would be a perfect candidate for trail use, regardless of whether it is in place at the Holliwell Covered Bridge (which would make much sense given the bridge’s value and location from Winterset), or if it was relocated to Winterset, as was the case with the Morgan and Miller Bridges. In either case, the bridge serves as a historical compliment to an even more popular Holliwell Bridge.

If these examples are not enough for people to take action and make the county an even bigger and more popular tourist attraction, then they should visit the county. After visiting historic Winterset, the John Wayne Birth Place and Museum and the six covered bridges, plus the site of the former McBride Covered Bridge, they should click on the links to the above-mentioned bridges, plan a trip to these structures, armed with a camera and some paper and have a look at them. Then start a movement to save the remaining truss bridges and repurpose them for recreational purposes. While covered bridges are one of the key symbols of American heritage, bridges like the ones mentioned here are just as valuable because of their contribution to the development of the US as a whole, and in this case, Madison County on the local level. The Valley View Trail Bridge project is just the beginning of a potentially bigger project to preserve what is left of these truss bridges. And if the county and state work together with private groups and those interested in these artefacts, then there will be another reason to visit Madison County in the coming summer months. Furthermore, Iowa just might have another completed preservation project on its long and storied resumé of preserved bridges, whose movement started with James Hippen in the 1970s and has been very successful since then.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on the Valley View Bridge project as well as any other developments involving the historic truss bridges in Madison County. The author would like to thank Mitch Nicholson of Abandoned Iowa and James Baughn of bridgehunter.com for allowing use of the photos. All information are courtesy of IowaDOT, whose director, Matt Donovan is to thank for his help.

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Update on the BB Comer Bridge: 31 March, 2015

Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer

Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer

A new breath of life has been given to the B B Comer Bridge Foundation (CBF) in Alabama and in particular, the North Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSGRA), located in Iowa, pertaining to the future of the BB Comer Bridge near Scottsboro. A $5,000 grant was awarded to NSGRA to be used for an independent economic impact study on the use of the bridge as a tourist attraction. An additional $5,000 will be needed to hire an independent contractor to conduct the study of the steel Warren cantilever through truss bridge, whose replacement span is being constructed and is close to completion. While traffic will be shifted to the new bridge once completed later this spring, there is still a chance that the bridge will remain, should the survey be completed and state and local officials can agree with a proposal with the CBF and NSGRA. The grant is one step in the right direction and if more people contribute, the second step will open that key door to the possibilities of saving the bridge.

Here’s the latest press release by the CBF with information on how to contribute to the study and preserving the bridge:

 

SCOTTSBORO, AL, March 31, 2015 — The National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) awarded The N. Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSRGA) a $5,000 grant to support the group’s pursuit of an independent economic impact study on behalf of the Comer Bridge Foundation (CBF). An additional $5,000 must be raised to hire Dr. Anthony Dixon of Troy University to complete the study. Dr. Dixon prepared a similar study for the Eufaula Heritage Association to assist with preserving Eufaula’s main historic streetscape from construction by the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), which also owns Comer Bridge.

The B.B. Comer Bridge crosses the Tennessee River near Scottsboro, Alabama. NSRGA applied for the grant in early February and received notification on March 30.

David J. Brown, NTHP’s executive vice president and chief preservation officer in Washington, DC, stated, “The National Trust is very supportive of this worthwhile preservation initiative and we hope that this financial commitment will assist your organization in raising any additional funds needed for this effort.”

“We have determined that such a study is essential to show local citizens and governmental bodies how much the bridge can bring to the area, which in turn will help NSRGA/CBF gain eventual ownership of the bridge and prevent the bridge’s demolition. The timeline for demolition is not as tight as we anticipated, and we have time to explore how to lessen risks while growing the rewards of keeping the bridge intact,” explained CBF President Charles Holderfield.

“The study will solidify NSRGA/CBF’s commitment to saving, preserving and repurposing the bridge not only as a local asset but as a national treasure for everyone,” said Holderfield.

In March 2014, CBF entered into a collaborative agreement with NSRGA. Local attorneys Bill Tally and Justin Lackey represent CBF and NSRGA, respectively.

“The study will provide real numbers that support our plans to provide jobs, training and education in areas from hospitality, event management, security and maintenance,” shared Julie Bowers, executive director of Workin’ Bridges, the consulting arm of NSRGA. “The bridge can become a place to go for wellness and serenity, and a place where wildlife and human life are celebrated. Food, fun, music and historic preservation go hand-in-hand.”

In September 2014, after extensive work with relevant policy and with approvals by the Federal Highway Administration, Alabama Historical Commission and environmental requirements, ALDOT Director John Cooper interpreted the policy and demanded that the bridge could be sold only to a governmental entity.

NSRGA and CBF will now move forward to raise the remaining $5,000 needed for the study, which in turn will attract more support and funding for the effort to save the bridge.

Donations may be contributed toward the remaining $5,000 needed to fund the study online at http://www.gofundme.com/savecomerbridge. Contributions can be mailed to CBF at P.O. Box 609, Scottsboro, AL 35768-0609.

Comer Bridge, completed in 1930, is the last of the 15 memorial toll bridges enacted by legislation in 1927 that were built by the Kansas City Bridge Company but contracted through the Alabama State Bridge Corporation. Selected for the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in October 2013, the historic bridge will now be submitted for national recognition by the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

For more information about the CBF and efforts to save the bridge, visit the CBF website at www.comerbridge.org and consider liking CBF’s Friends of B.B. Comer Bridge at https://www.facebook.com/comerbridgefoundation.

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