There are many communities in the US and parts of Europe that engage in projects where either historic bridges are preserved in their original place or relocated into the communities, where they in the end are designated as places of interest and become part of a bike trail or park. In Fort Scott in eastern Kansas, the city is working on a Herculean task of bringing one of Bourbon County’s finest bridges in to be erected as part of Riverfront Park over the Marmaton River.
The Long Shoals Bridge, located over the Little Osage River at 265th Avenue in eastern Borubon County, has been closed to traffic for over three decades with the deck removed. Built in 1902 by the Midland Bridge Company in Kansas City, the 175 foot long Parker through truss bridge is one of the rarest gems one will find. The portal bracing is one of the features the locals will associate with the bridge because of its heavy lattice design with the builder’s plaques on top, combined with strut bracings representing the A-frame design. The end posts are vertical and thick, almost resembling the usage of Phoenix Columns even though the columns appear to be four-shaped. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of Kansas’s historic bridge inventory.
While plans have been approved to relocate and restore the bridge with estimates of up to $400,000, there is one major task that the engineers and contractors will have to grapple with: battling the flora that has seized the entire structure. As you can see in the pictures provided by Julie Bowers, a lot of work has to be done in order to pull the bridge from the river and haul it to town.
While the Belle Fountain Bridge in Mahaska County, Iowa only has vines growing on the easternmost portal bracing which will make its removal easily before the bridge can be converted to recreational use, the situation is dire with the Long Shoals Bridge, for not only the vines have overtaken both ends of the bridge, but also the trees have undermined the abutments and parts of the structure’s bottom bracing to a point where there is a potential to take the structure apart bit by bit and send it into the water. The situation is not as dire as some of the bridges that we have seen, among them, a bridge over Sipsey River in Alabama, where one of the approaches collapsed, a bridge over English River in Washington County, Iowa, where overgrowth and flooding have caused the structure to lean to one side, or the Schell City Bridge in Misouri, where the entire bridge collapsed under its own weight, beginning with the pony truss span and followed by the main through truss span. But removing the bridge and relocating it will be a blessing for the structure and the people who know about its history as it will mean a new lease on life and a new purpose. One however needs to be careful on maintaining the structure’s integrity. Once the vegetation is removed, the bridge will need to be disassembled, hauled by trucks to Ft. Scott, sandblasted with new beam and other parts needed, repainted, and then reerected on new piers. The potential to compromise the historic integrity is great and many historic bridges that were relocated were stripped of their National Register status because the work done on the structure altered its integrity to a point where it did not look like the original, a criteria that strictly followed by the National Register of Historic Places. The fortunate part for the Long Shoals Bridge is the relocation and restoration has been approved by the Keeper of the National Register, who has the final say on which bridges are listed and which ones are removed because of their destruction or alteration beyond recognition. Yet when rebuilt and opened to traffic, the Kansas Historic Preservation Office will undertake the task of ensuring that the bridge’s structural integrity has not been compromised as a result of the relocation and restoration efforts.
But in order to proceed with the project, the first task is to figure out what to do with the vegetation that has taken over the bridge. Look at the pictures and ask yourselves: “How would you remove the vegetation and dismantle the bridge without destroying the structure?”
An answer to that question will follow in September.
Note: The Long Shoals Bridge will not be the only bridge that will be featured in Fort Scott’s Riverfront Park. An abandoned railroad bridge and a three-span bowstring arch bridge are being considered in the mix. It is unknown when the project will be completed but it is estimated that it could take 2-3 years to complete. The bridge was the winner of the 2011 TRUSS Award by James Baughn of the Historic Bridges of the US website.
The author would like to thank Julie Bowers of Workin Bridges for the use of the photos.
Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ Newsflyer:
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will be heading up north again for the fourth time beginning in August to visit some more places in Denmark. Some articles will appear in both this column, as well as its sister column, the Flensburg Files.
Also: Some European bridge tours will appear in the postings beginning in September, including a city in Bavaria where I posted a guessing quiz in July. More on that can be found here…..