KING BRIDGE NEWS – 2010
Some old King bridges became local news of one sort or another in 2010. Some news was happy including a successful restoration of the Black Warrior bowstring in Alabama, some sad including washouts and closings of some historical Kings in Iowa and New Jersey, some new finds, particularly of the reliable if unspectacular beam girders built by the Company for the railroad and still functioning in Ohio and Upstate New York, and some coverage by the local press which may help in efforts to preserve these artifacts of our industrial past in the face of continuing pressure to replace them if they are still used for traffic. We also have had pictures from local citizens loyal to these old bridges who have sent them on to us. We wish to thank all the people who have taken the time to send us pictures of old King bridges that are displayed below.
1. THE BLACK WARRIOR BRIDGE IN NORTHPORT, ALABAMA
Great news!! After close to a decade of hard work on the part of the Friends of Historic Northport, this 1882 King Bowstring has found a new home. It is being placed in a 200 acre area near Kentuck Park and the Tuscaloosa Airport that was once part of a large plantation and will become the Van de Graff Arboretum. It will serve on a walking path and may possibly joined by other old bridges as part of an historic bridge display in the future. Once part of a four span bowstring bridge across the Black Warrior River, one 187 foot span was relocated to a remote site in Tuscaloosa County many years ago where it was discovered and carefully looked after by a group of dedicated “pontists” from the FHN group who orchestrated its removal in 2008 and rehabilitation by the CraneWorks and McAbee Construction Company. The work has now been completed the structure set in its new home awaiting a dedication ceremony on October 30, 2010. Ken Willis and Chuck Gerdau of FHN deserve special plaudits from the historic bridge preservation community for their inspirational, tireless and now successful efforts.
See also the following articles:
Refurbished in the factory Placed in the arboretum awaiting final touches
2. THE ROSENDALE VIADUCT, ULSTER COUNTY, NEW YORK
This 975 foot trestle built for the Wallkill Valley Railroad by the King Bridge Company in 1895 and featured in its sales catalogues of the era (picture top left below) has been acquired by the Wallkill Valley Land Trust and the Open Space Institute of New York from the town of Rosendale. They plan to refurbish it to serve as a main feature of an 11.5 mile hiking-biking trail on the abandoned railroad bed running from Kingston to Walden. For the last few years, the trestle has been in private ownership. Hopefully the former owner can assist in helping see this project through to a successful conclusion. Paul Elconin, Stewardship Coordinator for the Open Space Institute is seeking help in acquiring the original plans for the trestle to aid in the engineering evaluations of the structure. Contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org with any ideas.
3. THE MCDOWELL BRIDGE IN POWESHIEK COUNTY, IOWA
We understand from Julie Bowers of the North Skunk River Greenbelt Association, the group that is spearheading the effort to save and rehabilitate this 1883 King Bowstring that the bridge was swept off its piers by a flood in August and now has to be salvaged from the river. Poweshiek County owns the bridge and the Association has been trying to work out a deal to gain the rights to work on restoring it. The historical importance of this particular bowstring has been documented not only by HAER, but also on Nathan Holth’s Historic Bridge website. Prior to this misfortune, the group was being helped by noted bridge restoration expert, Vern Messler. The Des Moines Register has been following this story in some detail and we hope it will have a happy ending.
The McDowell bowstring before the flood and after
4. TWO BRIDGES IN THE MADISON RIVER VALLEY, MONTANA
In April, we received an email from Don Black of the Madison Valley History Association telling us of two standard truss bridges built by the King Bridge Company, known as the Varney Bridges, that are still in use but in bad shape. The Madison River Bridge was built in 1897 and the Spring Creek Bridge in 1992. They are both on the State DOT list of bridges to be replaced, but a group called the Madison Valley Coalition is trying to see what might be done to save them. They sit in a spectacular valley just north of Yellowstone National Park. The Coalition may be looking for help and support from the pontist community – contact Nani Luebke at email@example.com.
4A KING BRIDGE ON THE RIVER TRAIL IN GREAT FALLS, MONTANA – Last January, we received an email from Lyle Lanes of Great Falls who noticed the King Bridge Company plate on the 1902 bridge once carrying a railroad line and now used as part of a walking trail along the Missouri River. Apparently it was fixed up under pressure from a local preservation group who also have a plaque on the bridge. We have no new pictures as yet but will include them in this space when they arrive.
5. THE PIANO BRIDGE, DUBINA, TEXAS
On October 8, we received the following message from Dawn Moore of Fayette County: In Fayette County Texas there exists a bridge built by the King Bridge Company. This bridge was constructed in 1883 and was placed in its present position in 1885. The bridge is locally called the Piano Bridge because of the melodic sounds it makes when you drive over it. The bridge is located on Piano Bridge Road which is one of the most scenic roads in Fayette County. The bridge has been an icon in this area for years and has been a great tourist attraction. There are photos of the bridge attached. Also, following is a link to more information about the bridge and its location. Unfortunately, this week, Texas Department of Transportation issued a report that this bridge is no longer capable of handling normal traffic and indeed asked Fayette County to immediately close the bridge which we have done. Fayette County would certainly like to refurbish this bridge and bring it back into compliance and make sure it is here for the next generation to enjoy. If you can provide us with any guidance and/or support in our efforts, please contact us. Ed Janecka, Fayette County Judge( 979/968-6469) Tom Muras, Fayette County Commissioner, Pct 4 ( 979/743-3250)
6. KING BRIDGE IN CLARIETTE, TEXAS
Nancy Black of Houston, who loves old iron bridges, sent us photos of this truss bridge in Clariette for our use. It was once a railroad bridge and has been converted for a county highway and also pictured in our 2004 update..
7. KING TRUSS BRIDGES IN PENNSYLVANIA ?
Earlier this year, we received the photos of this handsome bridge below from an old bridge enthusiast, but we have not been able to locate the details.
This bridge may be on the schedule to meet the same fate as the BELL”S LANDING BRIDGE, pictured below, which was torn down in 2008 despite the efforts of local citizens to save it. What is left of the King truss bridge is the builders plate and an historical marker provided by PENNDOT describing the significance of the old bridge (no picture) next to the new. This might have been a situation in which the new bridge could have been built next to the old, the truss bridge designated for hiking and recreational use in this picturesque riverside setting.
The original Bell’s Landing Bridge The replacement What is left of the old bridge and a tribute
8. TWO HISTORIC KING BRIDGES CLOSED TO TRAFFIC AND IN POSSIBLE DANGER
There are two historic King bridges that have been closed to traffic because of their structural condition and their future is uncertain.–The Spile Bridge in St. Lawrence County, New York –This three span King bowstring across Black Lake pictured on the left, was closed to traffic by the County Highway Department in May for structural problems with the floor beams and the concrete abutments. At present the County does not have funds for repairs, nor does the State Historic Preservation Office. While it is lightly travelled, it does provide an important connection between the farming communities in the area, including the horses and buggies used by the local Amish. It is located near the farm where Zenas King grew to manhood before relocating to Ohio. Also it is one of the most interesting of the remaining King bowstrings in a lovely setting and well worth a visit. Our thanks to Marc Scotti of NYSDOT for this heads-up. The Bear Tavern Road Bridge in Hopewell, New Jersey, pictured on the right decked out for the Christmas Holidays in 2009, as reported in our 2009 update, this famous King truss bridge has been closed to traffic and its fate being determined by the powers to be in New Jersey. A group of preservation minded local citizens have been actively lobbying local and state officials to keep the bridge in place, including organizing an impressive rally last winter. Hopefully a solution will be worked out to save this historic bridge in situ or elsewhere. Apparently there are a number of environmental, historical, archeological, and engineering studies that have been or are being conducted, but we have no news that any final decision on the future of the bridge have been made. Please stay tuned.
The Spile Bridge – St Lawrence County, N.Y. The Bear Tavern Road Bridge, Hopewell, New Jersey
NEW FINDS —
9. THE AC&Y RAILROAD OVERPASS IN AKRON, OHIO
In the spring, Fred Stuckmann of Akron sent us pictures of a King beam girder bridge crossing Memorial Parkway that is still in use by the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad. He had been driving under it for years and finally was able to stop and take pictures, including the 1900 builders plate.
10. BEAM GIRDER RAILROAD BRIDGE IN WATKINS GLEN, N.Y.
Marc Scotti of NYSDOT told us of another King beam girder bridge still operating in Watkins Glen, serving a coal-fired power plant. While these are hardly great works of art or engineering, these beam girders are hardy and still provide a useful function.
11. KING BEAM GIRDER IN INDIANA COUNTY, PA.
In March, we received photos of a King beam girder bridge in Indiana County, Pennsylvania from Ron (firstname.lastname@example.org) , apparently on an abandoned railroad line now used as a trail for all terrain vehilcles (ATMs). We have no more information, but would be glad to know more if anyone has information.
12. KING BRIDGES IN PARKS
The King Bridge Company catalogues of the 1890s listed a number of bridges that were not built for general road or rail traffic but for pleasure traffic and pedestrians in parks around the country. This was in the era of creative urban park development when noted landscape designers like Fredrick Law Olmstead and others incorporating decorative bridges in the basic design of the park. King provided two bridges for the park on Belle Isle in Detroit designed by Olmstead which were essential parts of the park scheme. They also built bridges in Wade Park in Cleveland, Buffalo Park in Buffalo, Lake Park in Milwaukee, Rock Creek Park in Washington, in Riverside Park in Newton, Massachusetts. We understand that all that remains of the two Belle Isle Kings are the decorative railings and we have little new information on the fate of the other park bridges. We were contacted by Stephanie Zenweck of Detroit Public Radio (WDET) who is doing a story about the Casino Bridge on Belle Isle, pictured at the left, hopefully with some more information.
The Casino Bridge in Belle Isle Park
However, there may be parts of one span of the original three span King footbridge in Riverside Park still be in place. There is a rehabilitation project underway for the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation, the owner of the bridge, by the engineering firm of Simpson Gumpertz and Heger which has pictures of the existing footbridge listed as having been built in the 1920s with the railings of one section looking very much like the bridge in the King Bridge Company catalogue illustration on the left, as seen below. We will be doing further research on this situation and if anyone has any more information, please let us know..
See: Casino Bridge
13. THE HOJACK SWING BRIDGE, ROCHESTER, N.Y.
Marc Scotti also contributed recent photos of the Hojack Swing Bridge at the mouth of the Genesee River in Rochester which is still standing after many years in limbo. A flurry of preservationist interest a few years ago failed to inspire the local community to take decisive action to do something with this unique swing bridge which is under orders from the U.S. Coast Guard for removal as “an obstruction to navigation” (which has been there over 100 years which boats passing all the time.) It is owned by Conrail which is not pushing to undertake an expensive removal. The picture on the left shows a tug and dredging scow passing by the bridge without much difficulty. It is probably the last of the railroad swings built by the King Bridge Company and to date has been saved by inertia.
14. CORRECTION – THE SHORT-LINE VIADUCT IN CLEVELAND
We received an email in September fron Mark Stotzer of Pacific Grove Ca. that there is a mistake on our entry for the Short Line Viaduct in the Northern Ohio section of REGIONS.
This concerns the viaduct built for the Nickel Plate Railroad that was the subject of a paper written in 1908 entitled The Cuyahoga Valley Viaduct of the “Nickel Plate” Railroad by George H. Tinker, Bridge Engineer for the N.Y.C & St.L.R.R. which included the following quote. “The entire superstructure was manufactured by the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, of which Mr. Harry Fuller is Chief Engineer, and to his skill and attention to details is due, in large part, the satisfactory character of the structure.” The photograph on the left below appeared in this article and we believed that the 2007 photo that appears on the right in our entry # 4 is the Short Line Viaduct built for the Nickel Plate Railroad by the King Bridge Company in 1908 and is still functioning. Apparently we were mistaken and the 2007 photo is NOT the same bridge, but another “Short Line” viaduct some distance to the South of the Nickel Plate viaduct. The same mistake can be found on the Railroad Addendum of March 2005 on our website . We are sorry for the confusion and at some point in the future we will try to produce a new version of the Railroad Special with improved graphics and better information.
The pictures below are an attempt to clarify the situation a bit. On the left is the photo of the King viaduct appearing in the Tinker paper, and on the right, two later photos from the Cleveland Memory Collection at CSU suggested by Mark as the same viaduct which has gone through many changes of ownership and rehabilitations over the years. What remains of the King viaduct is unknown, but the tribute to Harry Fuller , who became the main force in the King Bridge Company in the early 1900s after Zenas King’s sons had retreated from the business should remain in force. He was a key actor in the building of both the Detroit-Superior Bridge and the Wlloughby Viaduct, the last important King bridges.
(See RAILROAD Addendum 3/27/05 in NEW and the link to the article on this bridge )
OTHER ITEMS OF INTEREST
15. PROPOSAL AND SPECIFICATIONS FOR A BRIDGE IN SPOKANE, WASHINGTON
In March, we received an email from Jim Moe, a bridge inspector for the City of Spokane, who when going through old files for bridge plans and specs, found a proposal for a one or two span truss bridge to cross the Spokane River. It was submitted in 1888 by Frank Rice, agent for the King Iron Bridge and Manufacturing Company based in San Francisco on stationary featuring two Iowa truss bridges and listing George King, Zenas’s nephew as general agent based in DesMoines. While the Company did not get the contract for the bridge, the 10 page proposal contains interesting information illustrating how the Company made their sales pitch and detailed specifications of the products they offered. We plan to post the full proposal in the MEMORABILIA section of the website, but a sample of the plans proposed is shown below.
16. BUILDERS PLATES
We continue to receive emails from people who find King bridge plates in various places – buried in the ground, in old barns and attics, back yards, garages and occasionally in antique shops. How they ended up in these locations remains a mystery and it is hard to determine where they might have originated, except by their shape and size. We also continue to receive offers to buy old plates from collectors which we may or may not honor.
Franz Doberman of Rochester, New York found the plate below in a back yard some 25 years ago. It appears to be in remarkably good shape and is of a type of plate that were attached to cross beams of the portals of the American standard (Pratt) trusses built by the company in the late 1870s, 1880s and 1890s.
Tara Dittman of Kansas City found this 1904 plate while excavating at a site near Weatherby Lake, north of the City. These rectangular plates were commonly attached to railroad beam girders, but how this one got buried near the lake is anyone’s guess.
17. METAL TRUSS BRIDGES IN NORTHERN NEW ENGLAND – Glenn Knoblock is completing a book on metal truss bridges in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont which will have some photos of Kings built in these states.
Glenn’s email is email@example.com.
18. HISTORIC BRIDGE WEB SITES
As most visitors to this web site are aware, there are a number of outstanding and authoritative web sites concerning historic bridges which contain much more information on many of the bridges described above that are well worth visiting.
Two of the best are:
James Baughn’s Historic Bridges of the United States
This site lists historic bridges by various categories, including the builder which has over 80 entries for the King Bridge Company. Many of these we have not documented on our web site.
This site focuses on important historic bridges by geographical location with descriptions of their current status.
The Historic American Engineering Record – This U.S. Government Library of Congress web site documents historic bridges among other items and over 40 King bridges are included in its inventory, many have disappeared but some are still standing.
(Type in King Bridge Company)