Preservation Proposal


Submitted by: Frank Sprague who also these pictures of the two King bowstrings in Hamilton County, TX that the County Historical Museum is planning to restore. The King Bridge Charitable Gift Fund is also processing a grant to help with this restoration project)



Hamilton County has a number of metal truss bridges that are still serving the rural areas of the county.  Some of these bridges were built and installed over 100 years ago.  Most were built and installed in the early part of the 19th century.  These bridges provided early residents with a means to get crops and livestock to railroads and other markets and enabled travel during rainy periods.   Many of these bridges are still serving their purpose in providing residents of rural Hamilton county access to markets and other transportation needs.   Some of these bridges were designed to carry wagons and teams while later bridges were built for model “T” and Model “A” cars and trucks.  They were not designed to withstand the weight of modern agricultural equipment.

Hamilton County is a rural county with limited economic resources and little urban development and as a consequence has retained many of its old metal truss bridges.  County Commissioners have repaired and maintained these old bridges and enforced weight limits to keep these old bridges in service well beyond their expected life spans. Many counties in Texas have replaced most or all of their metal truss bridges in past years with little consideration for their historic value.  From a historic preservation viewpoint the lack of county funds to replace old bridges has been a positive factor in retaining these bridges.  From a utility standpoint many of these old bridges are dangerous when load limits are exceeded and inconvenient when longer routes must be taken to avoid them.

Under the Federal-Aid Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program administered by the Texas Department of Transportation funding became available to assist Hamilton County in the repair or replacement of bridges in the early 1990’s.  Projects involving federal funds are required to comply with laws protecting historical resources.  In compliance with this requirement the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Historical Commission completed an inventory of bridges in Hamilton County in 1990.  Twenty metal truss bridges were identified and evaluated as a part of this inventory.  Five of these bridges were determined to be of significant historical value on a statewide basis and eligible for listing in the National Register of Historical places.  Three additional bridges have been added to the list of bridges eligible for national registration since the original survey was completed (appendix 1 & 2).  Two other existing metal truss bridges were not included the original survey.

 The Hamilton County Historical Commission is charged with the responsibility of protecting all historical resources in the county.  Metal truss bridges have historical value and are being rapidly lost as they are replaced by modern structures.  The Hamilton County Historical Commission feels that these old bridges are worthy of preservation and that their value as historical county features will increase in the future.   To the extent that it is reasonable and practical the Commission will endeavor to save as many of these older structures as possible.  We believe that a long-range plan jointly developed by the Commission in cooperation with the County Commissioners Court, Texas Department of Transportation,  Texas Historical Commission, and other interested parties will assist in accomplishing the preservation objectives of the county and avoid delays and increased costs in replacing bridges and updating our rural road system.

  Status of Bridges 

 The original inventory of  bridges conducted by the Texas Historical Commission and the Texas Department of Transportation identified 20 metal truss bridges in Hamilton County.   Two additional bridges were later identified and are included in this plan.

There are presently ten bridges that are still in use and two that have been closed to  traffic (Appendix 1). Three bridges have been retained in place and new bridges built adjacent to them (Appendix 2). Since the inventory was conducted there have been seven bridges lost to damages or moved to locations outside the county when new bridges were installed (Appendix 3).

Description of Bridges

1. Bowstring truss bridges:   Two examples of bowstring truss bridges remain in Hamilton County.  Only five examples of this type bridge are known to exist in the entire state.  These bridges were relatively common in the 1870’s and 1880’s.  They could be hauled by wagon and team and erected on site by unskilled labor.  Three bowstring bridges are thought to have been built in Hamilton County in 1884 by the King Iron Bridge Company  of  Cleveland, Ohio.  The Commissioner’s Court records (3/160) indicate a contract for three bridges was let in 1884 to the King Bridge Company.  It is assumed that the contract was for the following three bridges.

Bullman bridge (Map # 20)- This bridge is the most complete and substantial remaining example of a bowstring bridge in the state and has been designated as eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historical Places. The bridge is 85 feet in length and is located on the old Waco-Hamilton road east of Hamilton on the Leon River.   The bridge has been included in the State Transportation enhancement program (STEP).  Inclusion in this program will provide funding for preservation of this structure either in place or at a relocated site.  A grant application by the city of Hamilton to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department was recently approved which included this bridge as a feature of the park.

Jonesboro bridge (Map #1) –  This 64 foot bowstring bridge is located on the Leon River below the new highway 36 bridge on CR 431.  This bridge was left in place and bypassed by a county bridge replacement project in 1988.  It was determined to be eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historical Places in the original bridge survey.  The bridge has suffered from vandalism but still remains largely intact.

Waring branch(Map #15) – This 85 foot bowstring arch bridge was located on CR 610 and according to a statement by Commissioner Snell in the Herald News of 11/3/94 was sold in the spring of 1994.  A note on the state inventory map indicates it was relocated to Fort Worth.  Its present location has not been determined.

2.  Pratt through truss bridges:  Pratt truss bridges were the most common types of  bridges constructed in Texas from the middle 1880’s until about 1915.

Five Pratt through truss bridges were identified in the bridge survey of which four remain.  Three of the five bridges were determined to be eligible for nomination to the National List of Historical Places.  Three of these bridges have been replaced by modern structures and the remaining two are scheduled for replacement in the near future.   Of the three bridges that were replaced two have been retained on site and the Stephenville bridge (Map #3) was relocated to Travis County in 1996.  It’s location in Travis County has not been determined.  It was built by the King Bridge Company in 1897.

Waring Creek(Map #12)  This 100 foot pin connected Pratt bridge is currently closed and scheduled for replacement.  It has been determined eligible for nomination the the National Register of Historical Places.  It was built in 1911 by American Bridge Company of New York.

Leon River (Map#11)  This 100 foot bridge is located on CR 106 and is scheduled for replacement in 2003.  It was built by the George E. King Bridge Company of Des Moines, Iowa in 1890 at a cost of $3545 ( CC 41183).  It provided access for people in the west end of the county to the first railroad at Hico.  This bridge was determined to be eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.  Plans are to relocate the bridge to an appropiate site within 5 years following completion of the new bridge.

Bear Creek (Map #13)  It is thought this bridge was built around 1900, but documentation of who the builder was and when it was completed is not available.  It was relocated from Cowhouse creek to its present location in 1952.  The bridge is very lightweight in construction and is about 70 feet in length.  It was preserved in place and a marker detailing the history of the bridge is planned.  This Bridge has been determined as eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historical Places.

Providence (Map #2)  This bridge was retained in place on private property following construction or a new bridge on CR 210.  The bridge is 103 feet in length and no information has been found to document its age or builder.  It is visible from the existing county road.

3.      Pratt pony truss bridges:  Pratt pony truss bridges differ from through truss bridges in that there are no overhead connections between the upper chords.  This is a rare bridge type that was once common in the state.  The two examples identified in the original survey have not survived.  The schoolerville bridge(Map#4) was reportly damaged beyond repair by an overloaded truck.  A low water crossing is now in place where this 64 foot bridge existed.  The 49 foot Sycamore creek bridge (Map#10) was relocated to a private ranch when a replacement bridge was constructed in 1996. Its present location is not known. The bridge was built in 1911 by M. S. Hasie and was of a half-hip design and pin connected.

1st Street, Hico(Map#22)  This bridge is located in the city of Hico and is not included on any surveys.  It is a small pony bridge with parallel chords.  It retains its plaque showing the County Judge and Commissions names at  the time of construction..  A review of the records indicate the bridge was built in 1904-1906.

4.      Warren pony truss bridges:  Ten Warren pony truss bridges were identified in the original bridge survey.  Warren pony truss bridges were the most common bridge type from about 1900 to 1935. A small bridge(Map#21) on CR 103  was added in an update to the survey in 2001.  This bridge was removed by the contractor when construction began on the new bridge in 2002.  None of the Warren pony truss bridges were determined to be eligible for nomination to the National List of Historical Places in the original survey.  Two of the remaining eight bridges have been determined eligible since the original survey was conducted.  The Indian Gap bridge on CR 626 (Map#17) was thought to be constructed after 1936 and has been removed.  The Cowhouse bridge on CR 423 (Map#6) which was built in 1905 by M. S. Hasie for the American Bridge Company has been removed and replaced since the survey was completed.  It was damaged and reported as sold for scrap.

 Leon River(Map#9)  This bridge on CR 222 at the Leon River was built on the regional route from Hamilton to Meridian.  The bridge is 90 feet in length and was built in 1906 by M.S. Hasie for the American Bridge Company. It was preceded by an 1870’s toll bridge.  It is a long and early example and displays both riveted and bolted connections.  It has been determined to be eligible for nomination to the National List of Historical Places.

Honey Creek (Map#7)  This bridge on Honey creek just east of highway 281 on CR 207 is 80 feet in length and was constructed about 1915.  It rests on substantial masonry piers and has been determined to be eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

Waring Creek(Map#14)  This bridge on CR 607 is currently closed to traffic.  It differs from the remaining Warren pony truss bridges in that the top chord is not parallel with the bottom chord which gives the bridge an arched appearance.  It is the only example of a polygonal chord type in the county.  It was built by the Austin Bridge Company in 1923 under contract #530.

Bosque River(Map#19)  This substantial bridge on Elm St. at Hico was reported to have been moved from the Whiskey Flat Brazos river crossing south of Ft. Worth Texas to Hico but this has not been documented.  It appears to have been built in about 1920 according to notes on the state bridge survey.

Gholson Creek(Map#5) CR 510.  Built in 1909 by Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Co.

Fall Creek(Map#8)  CR 235

Mesquite Creek(Map#16) CR 617

Spring Branch(Map#18)  CR 602.  Built in 1924 by Austin Bridge Co. of  Dallas.

These four Warren Pony truss bridges are similar in design and range from 40 to 60 feet in length.  They are typical of the most recent metal truss bridges that were built in the county.  None are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historical Places.


Plans for Bridge Replacement

 The bridge on the Leon river at Gentry’s Mill (CR 106) is scheduled for replacement in 2003.  The existing bridge will be left in place while construction of the new bridge is completed.

Plans are to replace the Bullman bridge on CR 301 in _______???   Engineering studies have not been conducted to determine how this project will be accomplished.

(Plan meeting with Commissioners on other bridge replacement plans)


Alternatives for preserving remaining bridges

A.  Retain in place

The Historical Commission prefers that old bridges that are historically significant be left in their original locations and new bridges built adjacent to them when it is feasible to do so.  Leaving the bridges in their original locations retains the historic setting of the bridge and allows visitors to see the structure in its natural setting.  To accomplish this arrangements must be made with involved landowner(s) and the Commissioners court to control access to the structure by the public.  The bridge must be structurally sound and the abutments and supports must be capable of lasting a reasonable period of time.  Bridges retained in place must be monitored on a regular basis to assure they remain structurally sound.  Loss of supports due to bank erosion and aging may require relocation.

B.     Relocation to a local public area

C.     Relocation to local private property

 D.  Relocation outside county


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