Some Remaining King Bridges
by Allan King Sloan ©1999
The following is a compilation of bridges of various sizes, shapes and functions built by the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio which were still in existence as of 1999. My son, Christopher and I have been trying to obtain photos and information on their current status of these, with a view to updating the list with new information as it is gathered. Some of these bridges are safely preserved, many for pedestrian use, but others are in danger.
King Bridges in Northern Ohio
The Cleveland bridges –Cleveland’s handling of their old bridges is a model for preservation strategies. These old structures play an new role in the City’s renewal. They are preserved and featured in the revival of the old industrial area, the notorious “flats” which has been converted into a major entertainment center and a museum of the City’s industrial history. The Cleveland bridges are illuminated at night, a project begun in 1996 to celebrate the City’s bicentennial. Zenas King and his kin would be pleased at how their home town chose to preserve their life’s work.
The Center Street Swing Bridge — built by the Company in 1901 across the very active Cuyahoga River and still working after much careful rehabilitation. It is listed in Landmark American Bridges by Eric DeLony and is one of the few remaining examples of this type of swing bridge, for which Zenas King had obtained a patent in 1864. (See Great American Bridges and Dams by Donald Jackson p.228-229)
The Detroit -Superior High Level Bridge –This was the last great project of the King Bridge Company, the 591 foot steel arch center span of this major bridge across the Cuyahoga River. It was built during the first World War , and is now being rehabilitated to last into the next century. (See Great American Bridges and Dams by Donald Jackson, p.230)
The Scherzer Bascule Bridge #464 — built in 1907 for the B&O Railroad and now stationed in its upright position as part of the City’s bridge display. At the time it was the longest single leaf bascule bridge ever built. (See Great American Bridges and Dams by Donald Jackson, p.32)
The Fitzgerald Road Bridge — built in 1922, one of the last years of the Company’s existence, is now located in the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area which will be seeking an historic designation for this structure used now for hikers and bikers.
King Bridges in Southern Ohio
One of the great bridges built by the King Bridge Company was the Central Bridge across the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Newport, Ky., a 2916 foot cantilever bridge built in 1892. It was the crowning achievement of Zenas’s career and used on the Company’s letterhead. It was recently replaced after nearly 100 years of service, but some of the original steel work and bridge plates were incorporated into the new design.
The Old Colerain Avenue bridge –a 366 foot Pettit truss built in 1894 across the Great Miami River in Ross, Hamilton County, Ohio. The bridge is on the HAER inventory.
The Harrison Road Camelback Bridge — a 434 foot Pettit truss built in 1894 across the Great Miami River in Miamitown, Hamilton County, Ohio, also on the HAER inventory.
King bridges in Upstate New York
The King Bridge Company was a major bridge builder in New York State, where their agent, W.H.Twiss of Cortland was very active in selling to Company’s wares. By the mid 1880s there were at least 200 King bridges scattered throughout the state.
Bowstring bridge at Newfield, near Ithaca, N.Y. — an 1870’s vintage bowstring with a King patent plate now used as a foot bridge to cross a stream in a residential area. It is owned and maintained by the town. The plans for its future are unknown, but it is probably one of the oldest examples still standing of this King patent.
Bowstring bridge at Chili Mills, near Rochester — an 1877 bowstring on Stuart Road and owned by Monroe County . It is apparently on the State register of Historic Places. In a residential area, closed to traffic, but well maintained as a foot bridge. The County is looking for funds for rehab and a reopening to traffic.
The “HOJACK” railroad swing bridge in Charlotte, near Rochester — A 1905 swing bridge across the mouth of the Genesee River, now abandoned in its open position and owned by CONRAIL, which may be planning its demolition. It provides an impressive landmark for boats entering the river from Lake Ontario and is located in an important regional recreation area — local rail fans and historians, who had preserved an old lighthouse nearby, are currently debating how it might be saved.
The Rosendale Viaduct –originally built for the Wallkill Valley Railroad by the Watson Manufacturing Co. of Patterson, N.J. in 1871 and rebuilt by the King Bridge Company in 1898 across the Esopus Creek. It has been converted to a hiking/biking trail maintained by a local group. From it, one has spectacular views across the valley to the Hudson
Beam girder Railroad bridges in Auburn — These are two spans built in 1906 and 1912 for the Finger Lakes railway across the Owasco outlet next to the Auburn Correctional Facility in the middle of town. While not distinguished landmarks, both spans have King bridge plates. One of the spans is still in occasional use.
Truss bridge in Rathbone, near Addison, Steubin County — This is a two span bridge across the Canisto River, the longer span a bowstring built in 1883 and reported to be a King (but without a plate) and the shorter, a pony truss. The bridge may still be in limited use.
Truss bridge in Arcadia – Palmyra, Wayne County — An 1879 truss bridge on the Town Line road crossing the Ganargua Creek which was in relatively good shape in 1978, with a King bridge plate, but subsequently abandoned and badly deteriorated and missing the plates in 1999.A nearby Whipple truss bridge is currently being rehabilitated to play a role in the revival of the Erie Canal Corridor as a tourist attraction.
King Bridges in Pennsylvania
While Pennsylvania had more iron and steel bridge companies than any other State at the end of the 19th century, the King Bridge Company was able to find some business there.
Double truss bridge in Coudersport, Potter County — an 1883 Pratt truss with a King plate and later reinforced with a bow truss, designed by a Professor J. Kim of Bucknell. It is presently carrying local traffic, but it is to be relocated as a foot bridge in the historic district.
The Hogback Bridge in Lawrence Township, Clearfield County — A 215 foot Pettit truss built in 1893 across the west branch of the Susquehanna River and listed by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Historic Highway Bridge inventory (1986).
The Belmar Railroad Bridge — A 1,362 foot truss bridge built in 1906 for the Franklin and Clearfield Railroad across the Allegany River in East Sandy, in Venango County. It is documented by the Venango County Historical Society.
King Bridges in New England
The Company was active in New England and had an agent in Boston, but few bridges remain and those still standing are about to disappear. Ironically, it was in this part of the country where most King bridge related controversies and problems with design and construction occurred.
The “OLD NAN” railroad lift bridge in NIANTIC, CONN. — a 1907 Scherzer lift bridge built by the King Bridge Company now in constant use by AMTRAK. It has a questionable future because of the pending upgrading of the Boston to New York service for 150 MPH trains. While its equipment still works, trains must cross it at low speeds.
The Summer St. Bridge in South Boston — an 1892 retractile bridge currently being dismantled due to the changes wrought by the massive “Big Dig” project to the neighborhood. Some other South Boston bridges are being saved, but this one was unfortunately expendable. Our family is trying to salvage the bridge plate.
King Bridges in the West
The King Bridge Company was very active in building bridges west of the Mississippi and even had bridge factories operating for a time in the early 1870’s, first in Iola and later in Topeka, Kansas. While there may be others still standing, the three which follow are known to be permanently preserved.
The Fort Laramie Army Bridge — this bridge is listed in Landmark American Bridges by Eric DeLony. It is a 400 foot, three span bowstring built by the Company across the North Platte River at Fort Laramie, Wyoming in 1875. This bridge played a key role in providing the means for stage coaches and cavalry to move between the railheads in Cheyenne and the Black Hills of Dakota in the days of Custer. It is beautifully preserved as a foot bridge and is on the National Historic Register. The contract for the bridge was negotiated by Zenas King and his son, James, and is well documented by the National Park Service which now owns the bridge. (See also Great American Bridges and Dams by Donald Jackson, p. 318).
The Faust Street Truss bridge in New Braunfels, Texas –an 1887 Whipple truss across the Guadalupe River and recently rehabilitated for hikers and bikers. It is featured in the inventory of the Historic Bridge Foundation of Texas and appears in their 1999 calendar.
Reverse truss bridge across the Dearborn River in Montana — an 1897 vintage Pratt half deck truss nominated for rehabilitation by the Montana Highway Department, one of a number of King bridges still existing in the state. (See Great American Bridges and Dams, by Donald Jackson, p. 291).
Other King Bridges
A number of other King bridges are known to still exist in other parts of the country. Some are documented in Donald Jackson’s Great American Bridges and Dams , others in studies conducted the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), and still others can be found by searching the world wide web. Here is a partial list.
The Second Street Bridge in Allegan, Michigan — a truss bridge built in 1883 and restored with Federal Highway funding for back-up traffic use in 1983 after much debate about its value for traffic purposes. Donald Jackson describes the efforts to preserve this bridge in Great American Bridges and Dams, pages 66-68.
The Roaring Run Bridge in Bedford, Virginia — a King patent bowstring built in 1878 and preserved as part of a roadside park by the State of Virginia. (Documented in “Bridge Truss Types”, an article by T. Allan Comp and Donald Jackson in Technical Leaflet # 95 published by the American Association for State and Local History, Vol 32, No.5, May, 1977.
The Springfield Bridge in Springfield, Arkansas — a King patented bowstring built in 1874 by the Topeka factory. It crosses Cadron Creek with a 146 foot span, one of the longest of its type still standing. It is included in the HAER registry. (See Great American Bridges and Dams by Donald Jackson, p. 166).
The Austin Bridge , Neosho County, Kansas — another 1872 bowstring of 160 feet across the Neosho River and built by the Iola factory . It has been preserved for pedestrian use in a county park. (See Great American Bridges and Dams by Donald Jackson, p. 206).
The Ellsworth Ranch Bridge near Dolliver, Emmet County, Iowa — a rare Warren truss bridge built in 1895 across the east fork of the Des Moines River and designed by King’s agent Milo Adams, owned by the county and still in use on a farm road. It was extensively documented by HAER in 1995. (See HAER No. IA-52, by Leslie Pitner)
The James River Bridge in Hamlin County, South Dakota — an 80 foot truss bridge built in 1884 and identical to the Yellow Bank Church Camptown bridge described below. (See also “Rare King Bridge trusses found in S.D., Minn.” SIA Newsletter, Vol.21, No.1, Spring 1992)
Among the King Bridges which can be found on the world wide web are:
The Yellow Bank Church Camptown Bridge in Yellow Bank Township, Minnesota — a 119 foot truss built in 1893 over the Yellow Bank River in Lac qui Parle County on the National Register of Historic Places.
Foot Bridges in Maquon, Knox County, Illinois — two foot bridges built in 1898 which have been refurbished rather than replaced thanks to the support of a heritage conscious citizenry.
Bowstring Bridge in Old Jefferson Town, Oskaloosa County, Kansas — at 48 foot bridge with a King patent plate built in 1875 and moved to its present location to preserve it as an historic marker. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.
And a number of King bridges in Nebraska included in their Inventory of Historic Bridges.
The “Singing Bridge” near Clearwater, Antelope County — a 135 foot King patented bowstring built in 1883 over the Elkhorn River which “sings” when crossed. It was moved for preservation purposes when a replacement bridge was built.
The Wyoming Bridge near Dunbar, Otoe County — a 97 foot bowstring pony arch truss built in 1878, one of many of this type ordered by the county. King apparently had to sue to receive payment for these bridges, and this is one of the last still standing.
The Dewitt Mill Bridge in Dewitt, Gage County — a 225 foot truss bridge built in 1887 across the Big Blue River to serve an important mill. The bridge, the oldest vehicular truss remaining in the state, is now abandon and in private ownership.
The Loosveldt Bridge near Rushville, Sheridan County — a 260 foot truss originally part of a four truss span across the Loup River ordered from George King, the Company’s western agent (Zenas’s nephew) in 1887 and move to its present location in 1933 and is privately owned by the Budd family to provide access to their ranch.
If any reader has additional and updated information and photographs of these or any other King bridges in your area , we would like to hear from you. Please e-mail us at AllanKingSloan@kingbridgeco.com or HKWorks@KingBridgeCo.com