Hope for Mercer County Bridge built by a prominent Kentucky bridge builder
Subtracting Lexington, Louisville and Frankfort, the state of Kentucky is one of many US states that have only a handful of truss bridges left. Mercer County is one of many that have only one rare bridge left. And for the Deep Creek Road Bridge, spanning the Chaplin River south of Hwy. 152 west of Harrodsburg, it is unique because of the bridge builder and the truss design.
Built in 1915, the 244 foot long bridge features a pin-connected through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings and Howe lattice struts that support the overhead bracings. A bonus is having a bedstead Pratt pony truss as an approach span. Bedstead trusses are different from normal trusses, where the end posts are vertical instead of being slanted at 45° or 60° angles, like we see with other truss bridges. Bedsteads are used mainly for pony trusses, and they are rare to see when combined with a normal truss main span. The Chaplin River crossing may be the only one left in the state and one of only a handful left in the country.
Furthermore, the bridge was built by an in-state bridge company, the Empire Bridge Company, located in Lexington, approximately 200 km northeast of the bridge. While the bridge was built in 1915 by this bridge company, it is unknown whether the company was associated with another Empire Bridge Company, located in New York City. The bridge builder there was a subsidiary of the American Bridge Company and was in operation between 1900 (the time of the creation of the conglomerate) and 1914, operating in various locations in New York state. Whether the company folded or relocated to Kentucky would require some research and inquiries. If the company was related to the one in New York, then this bridge would represent one of two examples of a piece of artwork designed by an illustrious bridge builder that exist in Kenticky. Another is the North Elkhorn Creek Bridge in Scott County, which was built in 1910 and has since been converted to a pedestrian bridge. According to James Baughn’s website, only three Empire Bridge Company bridges are left in the country, including one in Nebraska, which also has been converted to recreational use.
While the Chaplin River Bridge is located in a beautiful setting with many hills and forests and on a narrow road that is rarely used, the county wants to replace the structure with a new and modernized one. Yet both the county and the state agencies (consisting of the Department of Transportation and the State Historical Society) do not want to scrap the bridge because of its historic value. Therefore, the bridge is up for sale, and will be until the new bridge is built. Construction will not start on the new bridge until next year. If you are interested in this bridge, please contact Becky Barrick, environmental coordinator for the highway department’s Lexington office, at (859) 246-2355 .
If you know more about the Empire Bridge Company and its history, please contact Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles at firstname.lastname@example.org, and the information about the company will be posted in a later article. In the meantime, enjoy the photos below and via link that were taken by fellow pontist James MacCray during his visit in 2008, and whom the author would like to thank for the use of his photos for this article.
Link to the bridge: http://www.kentucky.com/2013/04/27/2617901/historic-mercer-county-bridge.html