2014 Historic Bridge Weekend in Michigan

Mackinac Bridge at night. One of the key bridges on the places to visit list for this year’s HB Weekend. Photo taken by Nathan Holth of HistoricBridges.org

Three-day Event to take place September 5-7, 2014.

Labor Day weekend usually marks the end of summer and the start of the school year throughout the US, unless you are living in some states that have already started school. Yet if you or your child is a bridge fan, like Nathan Holth, then you could consider this year’s Historic Bridge Weekend as the event to close out this summer vacation.

This year’s event, hosted by the author and columnist of HistoricBridges.org, will take place in Michigan, focusing on the creme dela creme of historic bridges. The three-day weekend will start with a tour of Historic Bridge Park on the evening of September 5th, beginning at 5:00pm. Located near Battle Creek, this park features six historic bridges that were brought in from places in southern Michigan, restored and erected as trails throughout the park. The complex received the Chronicles’ Ammann Awards for Best Kept Secret in 2011.

After touring southern Michigan and parts of northern Indiana on Saturday (including a Saturday night photo opportunity of the bridges in Grand Rapids), Sunday’s tour will feature a visit to the Big Mac. Built in 1957 under the direction of David Steinman, the five-mile long bridge, with the main span of 3,800 feet, still remains the longest single bridge in the western hemisphere. Also included in the Sunday tour are the bridges in the Sault Sainte Marie area, which will mark the first time that the HB Weekend will include some bridges outside the US. Sault Ste. Marie is located at the US-Canadian Border and features over a half dozen key structures straddling the St. Mary’s River and the international border, including the International Bridge, built by Steinman and Associates in 1962.

If you have any questions or are interested in participating in this rather informal event that will bring together pontists and bridge enthusiasts from all over the country, please contact Nathan Holth using the contact details enclosed here.    Highlights of the Historic Bridge Weekend will be provided in the Chronicles in case if it is impossible to make the event but would like to know which bridges to see while visiting Michigan. The author of the Chronicles already has a few bridges to visit on his agenda for his visit to the region in the future.

Author’s Note: A book on the Mackinac Bridge will be featured in the Chronicles’ Book of the Month soon.

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Portland Waterworks Bridge for Sale: Any Takers?

Portland Waterworks Bridge before it was dismantled in 2010. Photo taken in 2009 by Michael Goff

 

PORTLAND, OREGON-  Mail order truss  bridge- truss bridges with welded connections that are assembled at the company but taken to its final destination for installment as a pedestrian crossing- seems to be the norm nowadays. While they are easy to build and cost effective, they lack the aesthetic taste that should be characteristic for its surroundings.

Yet it does not mean you need to scrap the plan altogether. Used truss bridges- namely historic bridges that are more than 60 years old- can fit the mold, and they usually tie in together with its surroundings because of their design and appearance. The Portland Waterworks Bridge spanning the Sandy River at Dodge Park in Clackamas County, Oregon is one of those unique bridges that once fit this mold.

Built in 1893, the bridge was a product of the Bullen Bridge Company of Pueblo, Colorado and was erected under the direction of Charles Loweth. It was deemed as the oldest historic bridge that served its original function in the state of Oregon, as it carried the Bull Water Pipeline Conduits 2 and 4, two of the important conduits that provide water to a quarter of the state’s population.  For over 80 years, this Pennsylvania petit through truss bridge with Howe portal bracing (with ornamental features) and pinned connections ran parallel to the Lusted Road Bridge, another Pennsylvania Petit through truss bridge that carries vehicular traffic.

Since 2010 the Portland Waterworks has been in storage waiting for reuse somewhere else as a pedestrian bridge. After the two conduits were laid underground, running underneath the Sandy River, the bridge was rendered obsolete and was later dismantled, leaving the Lusted Road Bridge as the only historic bridge left to be seen as part of the Dodge Park complex.

Bridge parts waiting to be reassembled at a new home. Photo taken by Michael Goff in December 2010

The Portland Waterworks Bureau (PWB) and the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) are working together to give the bridge away to a known party that is willing to use it for recreational use. As the bridge is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the bridge must not be destroyed or used for anything other than as a pedestrian crossing, even if the length of the bridge is 300 feet, very unusual for a Pennsylvania truss bridge built small enough to be used as a pedestrian or bike bridge. The deck width is 14 feet.  The PWB and SHPO has a handbook guide with information about the bridge, how it is assembled and its historic significance, just to name a few items. They can be found on the PWB website by clicking here.  Any party interested in the bridge will receive the structure in parts (as seen in the picture), making it easier to haul, plus some information on how to reassemble the truss bridge at its new location. Yet additional help in terms of funding for the relocation of the bridge as well as expertise from the historic bridge and preservation communities are available upon request.

If you are interested in purchasing the Portland Waterworks Bridge for reuse as a recreational bridge, please contact Kevin Larson of the Engineering Services Group. The contact information can be found on the same website by clicking here.  The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you up to date as to when and where the Portland Waterworks Bridge will find its new home. It is possible that it could find a new home inside Oregon- a plus for many preservationists living in the state as well as those interested in seeing it reused again. Yet as has been seen in many cases, the Waterworks Bridge may end up out of state, like in Colorado, where a party in interested in bringing in bridges for recreational use. More on that in the Chronicles as the information comes in.

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Linz Railroad Bridge Update: Aktionstag at Donaupark Urfahr on September 12

The Railway Bridge at night but in black and white. Photo courtesy of Madeleine Schneider

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark the date on your calendar: 12 September, 2014 at 6:00pm (Central European Time) at Donaupark Urfahr in Linz, Austria. The Group Initiative Save the Linz Railway Bridge (Rettet die Eisenbahnbrücke) is hosting the bridge festival Aktionstag, featuring the Austrian bands of Attwenger and Folkshilfe. There are no entry fees but you can donate to the cause. The festival brings together people with close ties to the bridge who want to see the 114-year old bridge saved and reused for pedestrian use.

This includes the political parties of the Free Democrats, the Volkspartei and Greens, who are making up the majority who are pressing the mayor of Linz, Klaus Luger, to reconsider plans to demolish the bridge. Luger, along with supporters of the party SPO (the Social Democrats), are pushing to see the bridge replaced with a modern structure, despite growing opposition from the majority of Linz’s population, preservationists, and even engineers who have expertise in preserving historic bridges, including Erhardt Kargel, whose invitation to speak with Luger was rejected, according to interview with the city magazine, Linzider (see article here for more details).  A new design is expected to be revealed in September, yet with the mayoral elections scheduled for next year, the topic of this bridge and its future will be one of the top themes of the election campaign.

For more information about this bridge festival on 12 September and/or on how to contribute to saving the bridge, click here for more details. The initiative is also on facebook, where as many as 8,250 likes have been posted. There is a potential that the 10,000 mark will be reached between now and then, and the numbers will double by year’s end.  Join in on the action in saving the Railroad Bridge by attending the concert and being actively engaged in pushing the city to support preserving the bridge.

The Chronicles interviewed Robert Ritter, who is one of the leading organizers in saving the bridge. You can click here to read the information behind the initiative to save the bridge. The Chronicles, which is throwing its support behind the bridge, will keep you posted on the latest developments as they come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LINZ, AUSTRIA-

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Linz Railroad Bridge Preservation: Interview

Obique view of the bridge. Image courtesy of Thomas Nemcsek.

The next Chronicles entry takes us back to Linz in central Austria, and in particular, this bridge over the Danube. Two years ago, the Chronicles published an article about the future of this three-span hybrid Parker-Whipple through truss span that used to carry rail and vehicular traffic and features a pedestrian boardwalk. At that time, public sentiment favored replacing the bridge with a modern one, which would fit the modern landscape but leave the Styregg Bridge in the northern part of the city as the lone historic bridge left. As seen in the article here, the Office of Historic Preservation was the last barrier to be taken down before demolition could proceed, which was backed by the city government and the Austrian Railways.

Fast-forward to the present, and we see a somewhat different scenario involving the bridge. The Austrian Railways has relinquished its responsibility of the bridge to the organization Linz AG, public support for the bridge has increased to the majority, but attempts to destroy efforts to preserve the bridge including one agency changing sides and producing one of the biggest scandals in the city’s history, are still there.

The organization Rettet die Eisenbahnbrücke (EN: Save the Linz Railway Bridge) was formed and started several initiatives to convince the city to change its mind. Despite its infancy, the support for the bridge has been enormous, with almost 8,000 likes on facebook and tens of thousands of signatures that prompted the city to involve the public about the plans for the bridge. Even the Chronicles has thrown in its support for this unique bridge that has been considered a historic jewel for the city, the Danube River and central Europe.

Underneath the bridge in black and white. Photo courtesy of Arno Schröckenfux

I had an opportunity to interview Robert Ritter, one of the organizers who is spearheading efforts to get the bridge saved, asking him about the current situation of the bridge and what the group wants to do with the bridge. Despite a long battle ahead of them, he remains optimistic that the public will have a say towards what they want to do with the bridge, which is restore the structure and convert it into a bike and pedestrian crossing with an option to include streetcar service in the future. Here is the Chronicles’ Q&A with Herrn Ritter:

1. What got you started with saving the Linz Railroad Bridge?
It was initially press reports saying that the demolition of the bridge had been enacted in the municipal council. We were wondering that nobody in public seemed to take notice of this incredible act let alone stand up against it. We learned that there were numerous initiatives campaigning for the preservation of the monument, all more or less remaining unnoticed or unsuccessful. So we decided to try the same through Facebook. Some weeks before we started a Facebook campaign demanding a beach cafe at the river Danube had led to a round table involving politicians and Facebook activists to realize the project.
2. In the past three years, political support has been mounting to replace the railroad bridge with a more modern one because of claims that the bridge cannot be restored. Is the political pressure there and if so, how have you been combating it?
It’s more ignorance than pressure we are fighting against. We are detecting massive economical interests in destroying the bridge and a network of actors that are very close to corruption the way they have been pushing their concerns. However, we have strong support by most of the political opposition to the government and even by members of the governing parties (which are the social democrats and the green party).
3. The bridge is now privately owned, from what I understand. Is it right?   If so, what are your plans for the bridge?
That is correct although the “private” owner is a company that is owned by the city. The company is a result of sourcing-out services provided by the city. Our plans are to preserve the monument as a bridge for cyclists and pedestrians and – if necessary – for a tramway. A new bridge for cars can easily be built beside the railroad bridge unless it should turn out that another position for the new bridge is a better option in terms of traffic concepts.
4. How much support have you received so far?
Well, we almost have 8000 supporters on Facebook. Even 7000 were enough to make the mayor invite the Facebook activists for “Linz braucht einen Strand” to a round table. We notice that there is also very much popular demand for a preservation of the bridge by persons that are not on Facebook. And we do not detect much open opposition against our concern.
5. Is it true about the Denkmalamt removing the historic status of the bridge (as seen in one of the fb postings)?  If so, how will you go about in convincing the agency to reinstate this status?
The permission to demolish the monument (so the official term) was politically motivated and is a scandal on its own. Some history: in the 1960ies the municipal government of Linz destroyed a textile manufactory of the 17th century in face of grim protest of the public. As a result an independent advisory board for issues concerning historical monuments (Unabhängiger Denkmalbeirat) was established by law to never let anything like that happen again. Well, the advisory board argued by majority vote FOR a preservation of the railroad bridge. For the first time in the history of the advisory board the Denkmalamt ignored its recommendation. Notice that the Denkmalamt is subordinated to the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture headed by a social democrat minister. Coincidence?
6. If plans for restoring the bridge are approved, what is the timeline for the project? How will the bridge be maintained?
Well, we are far away from speaking of timelines. We are preparing to utilize all democratic means to fight for a participation of the population in the decision. At the moment the city government is planning a timeline for the demolition of the bridge. The demolition has to be executed within 3 years after the permission of the Denkmalamt which means a lot of pressure for the destroyers. There are detailed offers by steel building companies to restore the bridge. It is possible and it is by far cheaper to restore AND build a new bridge than to tear down the monument and build a new one.
7. Any advice to anyone who is working on saving a historic bridge, especially one over such a large river like the Danube? Do you know of other similar bridges that are being restored that are worth mentioning?
There are more best practice examples for restoring historic bridges than can be mentioned here. Some of them are the bridges Baltoji Voke  and Kaunas (both Lithuania), Eglisau (Switzerland) and The Hef in Rotterdam. To anyone who is working on saving a bridge: fear nobody, don’t give up, involve the public! And utilize social media – they have an incredible potential for reaching lots of people within a short time.

The Railway Bridge at night but in black and white. Photo courtesy of Madeleine Schneider

If you are interested in taking part in any efforts to save the Linz Railway Bridge, go to their facebook page to like (here) and follow up on the updates and photos provided on the page. There is also a website, where you can sign the petition and subscribe to updates on the current situation with the bridge so that you have an opportunity to participate in the efforts to save the structure. You can click on the link here for more details.
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest developments involving the bridge, as things are heating up between those wanting to save the bridge and those wanting to demolish and replace it. The Chronicles is also on facebook and twitter which you can subscribe to follow the updates on that and other bridges in Europe and the US.  As you can see in the interview, the battle is brewing, but in the end, the people of Linz will have the final say as to what will be done to the bridge. It is hoped that a compromise- a historic bridge as a bike and pedestrian trail and a new bridge alongside it for vehicular traffic will serve to the liking of both parties. But it will all depend on the number of votes needed to realize this project.
The author would like to thank Robert Ritter for the interview and wish him and the rest of the group best of luck. Also a round of thanks to the photographers who were willing to share their pics of the bridge for this article. Their names have been noted on each one. 
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Mystery Bridge 46: The Disappearing Bridge in Nicollet County, Minnesota

Photo courtesy of MnDOT

Just recently, as I was looking for some information on some historic bridges for a book on one of the rivers in Minnesota, I happened to stumble across this bridge by chance. Located over the Minnesota River south of Fort Ridgely State Park, the only information gathered from an inventory of all bridges constructed in Minnesota revealed that the bridge was built in 1905, carried a township road, and was 259 feet long.  I bundled that bridge (known to locals as the Hinderman Bridge) in with my other bridge inquiries to MnDOT, only to receive this black and white picture from 1941. As you can see in the picture, the bridge was a two-span Pratt pony truss with pinned and eyebar connections.  According to information from MnDOT, with the construction of the MN Hwy. 4 Bridge to the northwest and a new bridgeat County Highway 13 in 1987, it was determined that the truss structure was rendered useless and was therefore abandoned, taken off the road system and most likely ended up in the back yard of a private farmstead.  Using Googlemap, it is revealed that the bridge no longer exists, as it was removed at a certain date, even though it is unknown when that took place, let alone why it happened to begin with.

The Minnesota River is laden with lots of information on bridges, both past and present, much of which have been documented for public availability at local museums, the state historical society and even online. Yet there are many questions that have yet to be answered with regards to this bridge. First and foremost, we have the issue of location. Many historic maps in the early 1900s had revealed that the bridge no longer existed with the exception of the canoe map provided by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, leading to the question of what type of service the road served before it was closed along with the bridge.  This was one of the findings that fellow pontist John Weeks III thought was odd, during his visit to the bridge in 2008. Yet the Hinderman Bridge does have some history behind it as Weeks discovered while researching about this bridge:

The bridge was named after Captain Hinderman and was once a popular ferry, connecting Ridgely Township in Nicollet County and the village of Home in Brown County. In 1905 the state appropriated $1,800 for a new crossing to replace the ferry, and the bridge was later built under the direction of Captain Hinderman and William LaFlamboy on the Nicollet side and Hans Moe from Sleepy Eye on the Brown side.  It is unknown where the steel was fabricated and who the bridge builder was, but it is likely that Hinderman and local residents may have ordered the structure from the bridge builder and it was shipped to the location to be assembled.  Information from a source with relation to the Hinderman family revealed that the bridge was washed out by flooding in 1951 but was later rebuilt at the exact location. But more concrete information came from the great-granddaughter of Captain Hinderman in 2012, who revealed that the bridge had been in service for 82 years before it became a liability for Brown County (which had own the bridge) because of a weight limit of three tons and was later closed to traffic in the fall of 1987.  More information about the bridge can be found through John Weeks’ website here.

This was all the information that was found about the Hinderman Bridge. All that is left of the bridge is wood pilings and the road approaching what is left of the bridge from both sides. A center pier in the middle of the Minnesota River, which revealed a two-span structure was knocked into the river by flooding in the 2000s. Yet it still does not answer the following questions:

1. Who provided the steel and was contracted to build the bridge?

2. When was the bridge removed and why?

3. When was Hinderman’s Ferry in service, and how long did the village of Home exist?

Any information about the bridge would be much appreciated, so that we can close the book on the story of this bridge that had once been an important crossing but became an unknown memory after 1987. The article and information about the bridge are available through bridgehunter.com, where you can place your comments in the section by clicking here. Yet, you can contact the Chronicles and John Weeks III using the contact details provided both in the Chronicles page here as well as here.

The author wishes to thank Peter Wilson at Minnesota DOT for providing some important information and photos of this bridge. 

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 45: The Disappearing Bridge at Schoolfield Road

Schoolfield Road Bridge in Clay County, Missouri Photo taken by Clark Vance in November 2013

How long does it take for an abandoned bridge to be ignored before it becomes an important agenda on the desk of the local government? And what actions are usually taken when the issue comes about and why?

It is very hard to tell, really. Some bridges are usually left in place for pedestrian use for many years before they are closed off and eventually either renovated, replaced or even removed. But they can take many years- at least seven to ten. But why ignore the bridge before it becomes an issue?  Could be for money reasons. However, it could also be a question of political tactics where the structure deteriorates to a point where it becomes a liability and then they apply for state and federal aid.

The Schoolfield Road Bridge presents a rather peculiar scenario that justifies a mystery article to find out what exactly happened to the structure. Spanning Williams Creek at Rocky Hollow Lake west of Excelsior Springs in Clay County, Missouri, this double-intersecting Pratt pony truss bridge was built in the 1930s and featured riveted connections. The truss span was 60 feet long, whereas the total length was 91 feet. The bridge was last photographed by Clark Vance in November 2013. As of July of this year, the new bridge has taken its place and is open to traffic.

Is this normal?

If we look at the situation and compare, it is anything but that. According to satellite findings, the bridge was intact with a deck in 2009, damaged by flooding in 2010, stripped of its decking and approach spans in 2011, and was last seen in this manner in November 2013. Judging by the overgrowth that had covered the road approaching the bridge, the truss bridge had to have been closed to all traffic for five to six years, which is also less than the normal time needed to ignore the bridge before it is eventually removed and/or replaced.  Apart from one theory that it may have been destroyed by flooding earlier this year, it is possible that attempts had been made in 2011 to remove the bridge, yet it failed due to either the county lacking funds for the project or the contractor going bankrupt and not finishing the job. In either case, it was rather weird to strip the bridge down to its truss structure and leave it as is, unless the county wanted to make sure that everyone stayed off of it until there was enough funding and a contractor to finish the job of replacing the bridge. Yet logically speaking, it would have made sense to remove the entire structure as is and left the road abandoned until there was a chance to bridge it again.  In either case, there was a motive behind rapidly swapping the steel truss for a slab of concrete, given its proximity to the lake and the potential to redevelop the area.

So what was the story behind the bridge at Schoolfield Road? How did it go from a normal bridge that was safe enough for crossing or even fishing to one that was partially demolished but was left sitting in place, to a hunk of concrete in a span of four years? And for the latter part, how did the bridge be replaced in such a quick time? Any ideas, post your comments here at the Chronicles or through James Baughn’s bridgehunter.com website.

Eventually the truth will be revealed as to what happened to this rather normal truss bridge, and with that, consequences will come about as to how to take better care of bridges and to a certain degree, our infrastructure, for after discussing this topic for many years since the I-35W Bridge disaster in Minneapolis in 2007, we still have some problems to be solved which deals with our inability to maintain even the basic aspects.

The author wishes to thank Clark Vance for the use of this photo. More photos of the bridge can be found in the bridgehunter.com website, by clicking here.

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Mystery Bridge 44: Fink Truss Bridge in San Antonio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Old Red Bridge in Columbia Falls, Montana

Overview of the Red Bridge. Photos courtesy of Greg Fortin, used with permission

 

Montana: its mountainous landscape, its lucious vegetation, its gorgeous bridges. In the state about the size of France with 2 million inhabitants, it holds a vast array of historic bridges, many of them built between 1890 and 1930 and made of steel. Most of them were built by the bridge builders originating from the Minneapolis School of Bridge Builders. Featuring the likes of Commodore Jones, The Hewett Family, Lawrence Johnson, and Alexander Bayne, these were men who owned and operated bridge building companies in Minneapolis and became the counterweight to the American Bridge Company when it was created out of 28 well-known bridge companies located in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania in 1901, dominating the western landscape with hundreds of truss bridges built using several truss types.

The Old Red Bridge, spanning the Flathead River near Columbia Falls is one of several bridges that came from the Minneapolis School of Bridge Builders. Constructed in 1912 by disciple Alexander Bayne, the bridge features two Pennsylvania petit spans, with each one being over 200 feet in length, totalling 442 feet. The bridge withstood the test of time, including flooding, which was a common problem for residents of Columbia Falls at the time of the bridge’s opening. One of the floods in 1913 caused the center pier to erode and the bridge spans to tilt. While that was corrected, the bridge served traffic until it was closed off to vehicles in 1989 and to pedestrians three years later. To ensure that no one crossed the bridge, workers removed the approach spans and fenced off the bridge from both ends after the decision was made to close the structure to all traffic.

Workers removing the approach spans to the bridge to ensure that the pedestrians stay off the structure. Photo from the facebook site Old Red Bridge

The current situation with the bridge is as follows: The bridge is the last bridge in Montana featuring two Pennsylvania petit spans- this after the demolition of the Fort Keogh Bridge in 2012. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2010 because of its association with Alexander Bayne and his contributions to bridge building in Montana and points to the west.  And lastly, since 2010, attempts have been volleyed between restoring the structure or removing it altogether. This included a proposal to restore the bridge and convert it into a bike trail, featuring a park complex, as proposed in the link.  County officials have been adamant about doing anything with the bridge because it has become an issue of liability, especially in light of the recent floods in 2011 and 2012.

Already proposals to dismantle the bridge were brought up, which they claim to be the most viable issue as other measures to keep people off the bridge would be futile. The county, which owns the bridge, is fully aware of the historical significance of the bridge and the paperwork that is required before tearing it down, which includes informing the state historical preservation office (SHPO) about it. Yet as many in the community are attached to the bridge and its history, plus due to its potential to be preserved as a recreational bridge, both the residents of Columbia Falls as well as Flathead County are not ready to let go of the bridge until all options to preserve and restore the bridge are exhausted.

The current state of the bridge without its approach span, but with lots of graffiti

At the present time, efforts are being rekindled to restore the Red Bridge, although at a snail’s pace, which is slower than in 2010. The main factor that is keeping the bridge from being restored is money. Cost for restoring the structure is estimated at $2.5 million, not including plans for a bed and breakfast, restaurant, kayak landing and boat ramp near the bridge as possible sources of funding for the project. Originally, $500,000 had been earmarked for the bridge restoration by the county through a federal grant, but was shifted towards other projects because of the lack of commitment towards providing funding for the bridge from other groups. “I see it more as an issue of show me the money,” stated city manager Susan Nicosia, who brought the issue of restoring the bridge to the attention of the Columbia Falls City Council in May.  It has led to the questions of how much it will cost for restoring the bridge, how should the bridge be restored, how much money will be garnered from the public and private sectors to restore the bridge and through which means.

Greg Fortin, who is leading the latest efforts to saving the Red Bridge, under the name of Old Red Bridge LLC, is currently consulting a non-profit restoration company specializing in restoring historic bridges in hopes to have a starting point in the project that has been lagging due to several external factors that has hindered the willingness of the county and the City of Columbia Falls to say “yes” to the project. According to him in an interview with the Chronicles, having a consultant as an outsider will help in terms of many items needed to restore the bridge, ranging from grant writing to any grass roots efforts needed to repair and reuse the bridge again. He hopes that the bridge would one day be part of the Gateway to the Glacier Trail, which is proposed to run from Glacier National Park to Columbia Falls, but currently has an existing trail between Hungry Horse and Coram. More information about the trail can be found here.

The Old Red Bridge LLC needs your help. Apart from pushing for more efforts towards restoring the iconic landmark in Columbia Falls, funding ideas and donations are needed to make the project happen, with the eventual goal of reopening the bridge to recreational traffic and producing income through tourism in the area. The ideas of having boat ramps , food and lodging are advantageous for passers-by travelling through the city by boat, bike or car, yet it cannot be realized without your help. Go to the facebook page Old Red Bridge, follow and find out how you can get involved in the restoration efforts. The contact person is Greg Fortin, who can provide you with information and let you know how you can help.

The Red Bridge is an integral part of Columbia Falls’ history and surrounding landscape. Eventually it will become a magnet for tourists and historians, especially if the bike trail to Glacier’s National Park is realized. But it can only be done if one shows them the money and manpower available.  The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will follow-up on the preservation efforts as events unfold and the future of the Red Bridge is more clearly known.

The author wishes to thank Greg Fortin for the interview and photos, and may the wishes of the organization to have the bridge reopen for recreation come true. :-)

 

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Clarendon Bridge in Monroe County, Arkansas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 43: Blaine’s Crossing

Blaine’s Crossing: A potential replacement for the Ely Street Bridge? Photo taken in August 2011, long distance from a nearby gravel road.

Not included in the tour of Bertram (Iowa)’s historic bridges but worth noting is this bridge. The Blaine’s Crossing Bridge spans Big Creek between Highways 151 and 13 and Bertram. The Pratt through truss bridge can be seen clearly from the main highway, as the crossings are only 600 feet apart from each other and viewing the bridge from a distance, it appears to be a tall bridge- roughly 18 feet in height from the top chord to the river bed. Despite seeing the bridge from that distance, access to the structure is almost impossible unless either negotiating with property owners or having a camera with a lens that can enable a person to take close-up photos from a distance.  During my visit in 2011, I chose the second variant, taking some pictures from a nearby gravel road (Cedar Woods Road), thus finding out the bridge type, the portal bracing and whether the connections are pinned or riveted. Judging by the photos taken (which can be seen here), the bridge is a pinned connected Pratt, with A-frame portal and strut bracing, and has seven panels.  Dave King, another bridge photographer took the first option of getting up close to the bridge (but probably not before talking to the nearby home owners about it first) and looking at the details of the bridge during the winter months (his photos can be seen here as well). There, one can take some assumptions about the bridge’s dimensions. As the truss bridge has seven panels, it is between 120 and 140 feet long with a 15-17 foot width, this not including the fact that the original bridge decking has long since been removed. Also noteworthy is the eye-loop connections of the vertical beam at the outermost panels, which is a rare feature for a truss bridge.

What is known about the bridge is that it was used for local traffic for many years before the US 151/13 bypass supplanted it in 1965. Yet it is unknown whether this bridge used to serve main traffic between Cedar Rapids and Dubuque via Bertram. According to known sources, US 151 used to run through Cedar Rapids via Marion, located three miles east of the bridge. It was originally known as US 161, which ran from Keokuk to Key West, the southernmost suburb of Dubuque. It had been in service from 1926 until the US government decommissioned it in 1938, replacing it with US 151, which had run from Manitowoc, Wisconsin to Dubuque, and US 218, which had previously ended at Vinton but was later extended to Keokuk. Today, US 151 terminates at I-80 near Williamsburg, while large portions of US 218 are part of the Avenue of the Saints between Charles City and Cedar Falls and again between Cedar Rapids and Donnellson, following its original route from Minnesota until its termination at Keokuk. It is possible that before the highway was designated in 1926 that this bridge had provided direct access between Cedar Rapids and Central City/Dubuque via Bertram, yet when US 161 was assigned in 1926, the road was realigned to the west so that it went through Marion instead of Bertram. Should that be the case, then the bridge was nothing more than a crossing that provided local access to Bertram until US 151 was bypassed around Cedar Rapids and Marion, and the highway was realigned closer to Bertram.

Despite the theories and speculations on how much traffic Blaine’s Crossing once had, there are no known records of the bridge’s existence to date. It was not even mentioned in the state and national bridge inventories, nor was it listed in any of the historic bridge surveys conducted by the state, which makes this bridge open to many questions for discussion. This includes, among other things, when the bridge was built, who was the contractor for the bridge, how much it cost to build it, whether the bridge is in its original location or if it was imported from elsewhere, etc. Judging by the pinned connections and the use of A-frame portal bracings, it appears that the bridge was built between 1890 and 1910, before the introduction of state bridge standards. As the roadway has been removed and because of issues of private property, it is impossible to have a closer look at any inscriptions on the bridge parts, which might be helpful; namely the steel fabricator that produced the bridge parts before transporting it to its final destination via contractor. Therefore the owners on both sides of the bridge would need to take the time to examine the bridge and provide any historian interested with the details. This in addition to going through what records are available in Cedar Rapids at the museum and highway engineer. In the end, it is unknown whether the information is useful.

Therefore the bridge is wide-open for discussion. Any stories and information? Send them to the Chronicles at: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com, and any information will be added to what is known so far.

Blaine’s Crossing is the bridge that caps off the tour of the Bridges in and around Bertram, as it has many questions that need to be answered, some of which are important for the history of Bertram and the region east of Cedar Rapids. By answering them, we will know more about how the bridge and US 151 go together, whether it was once a major crossing or just a local one that had once served Bertram until in the late 1960s.

 

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