Spanning the English River southeast of Kalona, the Bunker Mill Bridge exemplifies a work of art that was built and/or rehabilitated by more than one bridge builder. The bridge was built in 1887 by the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, OH with assistance of George E. King, who had already started his business in Des Moines. It is one of only a handful of bridges that were built by a father-son duo, for the King Bridge Company was still being run by Zenas King. Built of wrought iron provided by Zenas King and the Phoenix Iron Company, construction of the bridge was completed in May 1887 and Washington County agreed to pay $3487 for the 120 ft. through truss span plus approach spans totalling 170 ft., although King received just under $2900 in reality.
In 1909, the county contracted with Iowa Bridge Company in Des Moines to rehabilitate the bridge at the cost of $1325. While it is unknown why or even how it was done, the rehabilitation work included replacing iron parts with that of steel and reinforcing the Town lattice portal bracing with M-frame portal bracings, making the bridge one of only a few remaining in the country with more than one portal bracing on each end. The bridge continued its service to cars and pedestrians alike for the next 95 years, and was even featured in the Hallmark film Harvest of Fire, filmed in 1997. The bridge was closed to traffic in 2004 but remained open to pedestrians and fishermen who enjoyed crossing the structure and enjoying the stories that occurred at or near the crossing.
Sadly, the bridge was severely damaged by arson on the morning of 12 August 2013, with the bridge plankings charred, closing the bridge to all traffic. This unfortunate event scrapped the plans that had been made to restore and reuse the bridge as part of the bike trail connecting Kalona and Richmond. The county had already started plans to demolish the bridge when a private group stepped in, expressing their interest in purchasing and restoring the bridge.
The Friends of the Bunker Mill Bridge, in cooperation with the North Skunk River Greenbelt Association, purchased the bridge from the county on 10 October, 2013 at the cost of $1 while the county relegated its $80,000 originally set for removing the bridge for restoring the bridge. With the bridge in private hands, the next step will be to investigate the needs of the bridge to determine what needs to be fixed and replaced, before carrying out the actual restoration process. Cost for restoring the bridge is estimated at $460,000 but is expected to decrease pending on the outcome of the structural survey to be carried out. It is hoped that the bridge will be restored in a couple years' time with a long-range plan of realizing the original project of using the bridge as part of a bike trail connecting Kalona and Richmond.
As mentioned in an article produced by the Bridgehunter's Chronicles, Purchasing the bridge is half the battle. The second half is doing the actual work, which has received enormous backing from the county and elsewhere. If you wish to contribute to restoring the project, please click on the link for more details: http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2013/10/11/bunker-mill-bridge-sold-to-private-organization/
Source of bridge's history: Fraser Design and HessRoise Survey conducted in October 1992
Purchasing the bridge was all of the battle. Then the community was able to do the work that it can. Fastest bridge restoration ever? Fastest, done with all standards and thinking in mind.
No hype, just hard work. It is because NSRGA/Workin' Bridges/FBMB are the owner/contractor/friends team. Nels Raynor and Jim Schiffer are a great team to work with. Add the local contingent and we have a success story being revealed.
Yeah, I was the one who posted a link to an article in the Des Moines Register.
I didn't post it. May have been Luke. I was in Iowa when it burned (I even considered visiting it the day before it burned). I certainly am disappointed I didn't.
Hey Art. Much like calling you last winter that's how we get involved. In the case of Bunker Mill Bridge someone (John Marvig?) posted the article about the arson. I called the county engineer and talked with the planning guy who told me about the trail project. No one called me back except the newspaper. I arranged to meet the editor Dan Ehl and a local contributor on the Wednesday after Labor Day. Nearly got arrested by the overzealous county engineer who had declared that with the planks burned the bridge must go.
The citizens were having a meeting on that Thursday, I presented our plans and what we do, including links to the documentary. With a few of the friends we created an agenda and after the town meeting invited those that wanted to be on the board to step up. Under the guidance of our non-profit they were able to take donations immediately and ultimately raised over $5000 in two weeks which enabled them to hire the Workin' Bridges team. This bridge is quite close to town and that affected the project.
Without NSRGA /Workin' Bridges supporting the Friends the Supervisors would have not moved so quickly. Not only to sell us the bridge but because of our expertise, but they gave the group $80,000 out of funds that had been allocated to destroy the bridge from the Secondary Roads Fund. The County Engineer continually mislead us and hated the fact that we didn't take his advice, but ultimately the citizens prevailed. The trail project has died because they were going to use the bridge but it would have to be modified to 8' wide and restricted to just bicycles and people, keeping us tied to federal restrictions although no money would come to the bridge. The bridge will now hub an area called Old English River Access and anyone may come and cross.
The $80,000 is key and unexpectedly great way to start the ball rolling. And it continues to help setting the precedent for demo funds used for restoration. Because we are the primary contractor now, we can also work with an Amish community as well. The ability to work with volunteers to get the bridge project really going is huge here but doesn't work in all cases. That is how they work in that area, a couple of white oak trees donated for planks, bull dozers to return the approach to approachable instead of hazardous ( the trench the county had augmented recently, below grade of the concrete (any major rain would have wiped that out but it was to be demolished). The approach is now open until the bridge is restored and that shows forward progress.
I am referring to the 1909 M portal bracing installed by Iowa Bridge Co., by removing it and thereby returning it to its 1887 King Iron Bridge Co. appearance? As long as we can get the lateral stability up to standards with stringers etc we can remove the additional and return it to the original. There was also an engineering report done by Shive Hattery in 2008 that helped us immensely when the county engineer dug in his feet about having an engineer come from Michigan. The drawings will be signed and sealed so why does that matter? Narrow reading of a statue and a determination by the county engineer to make it as hard as possible. Steve Bradley donated those original CAD drawings to our engineer just two days ago after I called to thank him.
Example: Who bought you in/hired you to help save the bridge? We came in and partnered with the friends after two days, just me showing up. They started a board of directors to work with the friends and now, eight weeks later, we will go into engineering and working drawings with our team from Michigan, Nels Raynor and Jim Schiffer.
How is this person/group participating today? The board of twelve (with some additions and changes since the beginning) which includes me, continues to make decisions and fund raise to find operating and matching funds. This part of the county has been ignored by County Conservation Board and pretty much feel they have to do it themselves. With our experience we were able to help them avoid mistakes we made with lawyers, easements, purchases and being the non-profit could ask for help from the local Riverboat Foundation - again very quickly. That announcement will come in December but remember it's hard to count on grant funding.
How are the bills getting paid today? Who is writing the proposals? Original funding has helped pay our expenses to date. I write most of the proposals with help from members of the board of directors of Friends of Bunker Mill Bridge and they continue to bring in different ideas about other local grants from the energy company and the water boards. Allan King Sloan was someone who helped Skunk River Bridge get started and he was able to help with a donation for this friends group, if you remember it was us that identified this bridge as being a King Iron Bridge Co. bridge (despite what you read here). We send out thanks and acknowledgements immediately another service we provide and our nonprofit helps get the local bank accounts started. The Friends will become their own nonprofit eventually because the buck stops with them as there was no help from Kalona nor Washington County other than the road money. We are grateful for that.
There were no County or casino moneys in place when we started - hence the feeling proud of what we were able to accomplish by partnering with the locals who love their bridge to get those moneys. Our leading the direction (purchase and lease agreements at the first BOS meeting) allowed the process to be defined towards saving and we were able to jump all of the hurdles so far that were put in our way by a contentious County Engineer. Their were many who said we would never get the Supervisors to agree but a very robust showing up at all BOS meetings helped sway the outcome.
Check out the facebook page for Friends of Bunker Mill Bridge. That is where much gets posted. The townspeople have donated, gone to events, given good, much time and services. I do think, even if we don't receive a bulk of the money from the casino funds that we will persevere towards completion of the restoration sooner than later. Saturday morning we have invited all that want to volunteer or work on the bridge to meet with the team and see where there role is. Because we are the non-profit and contractor we can eliminate costs that would make the project to daunting, and hope to help them save a lot of money as well as bringing a community together.
Comer Bridge Foundation has also hired us to help and we can see a positive outcome for their very historic 2156' span over the Tennessee River in Alabama. It is our experience overall and my ability to find the bureacrats and politicians involved that puts these groups ahead of others in the bridge restoration game.
We don't plan to throw the M Portal Bracing away, and we will certainly tell the story of who and when that was installed but bringing this bridge back to original is our goal, and it's what the locals want, not just us.
I remember talking to you as well at the beginning of the year Art. I do believe that a site visit to New Jersey and trying to find the right bridge to save for you is key. But it does take a village or the expenses are very high. It's not that we are expensive but that these jobs are huge and therefore cost a lot.
Of course money will dictate the course that we take and we will know more next week whether this bridge will undertake a full restoration back to original which is more than taking the M Portal Bracing off and repurposing it to entry gates.
Stay tuned. and thanks for asking Art. We look forward to taking on more bridges and now that we are a bonafide contractor as well as nonprofit and consulting we are looking at investors to hire the team to take us to the next step. We are grateful for those that find our help invaluable and are always looking for more Friends. Going back to Waterford to bid on their project hoping we can at least get them started with abutment repair which is key for their project. I also followed up with Des Moines City engineers and have found that their closing of the Jackson Street Bridge was due to intensive inspections with ultrasound and finding cracks in the eyebars. We will try to give them some idea of the cost of full restoration there and with the Water Works pony trusses that come up real soon.
While the FBMB crew was coming on here early they didn't appreciate the name calling and have opted out of posting here. They will have a web site of their own soon and of course facebook has been key to getting the word out (as well as a sympathetic newspaper Kalona News). So go there if you want to talk with them.
I think that would be absurd to remove the M-frame, for it compromises the aesthetic value and beauty of the bridge in general. If I was to restore the bridge, I would restore it exactly the way it was before something like arson happened, for the M-frame has as much historical value as the Town Lattice, and no bridge in Iowa has something as unique as this one. And I believe officials as SHPO and IaDOT would agree with that. My two cents on this topic.
Are you referring to the 1909 M portal bracing installed by Iowa Bridge Co. thereby returning it to its 1887 King Iron Bridge Co. appearance?
I'm also having a little trouble following where and how your group supported the local groups and where your group took the lead. I understand the part about your prior experiences bringing value but it isnt clear to me, based on what you wrote, how the effort, beyond the guidance, was shared. Example: Who bought you in/hired you to help save the bridge? How is this person/group participating today? How are the bills getting paid today? Who is writing the proposals? You found Alfred King Sloan, were the County and casino moneys in place when they brought you in?
What has been achieved required a tremendous amount of work and it will be a shame if others looking to do this will not get a clear understanding of their role in the process.
I'd love it if the person that brought you in would post here to share their point of view as well.
Hoping still the portal bracing will come off and become part of the entry. Workin' Bridges is the contractor. Will know more about the scope soon but it will not be years. This community is coming together under our volunteer program and non profit acceptance of goods and services. BACH Steel and Schiffer Group site visit this week. Working together across cultures to get this bridge restored this year.
And there are no trail plans. This is a bridge hub for all to come to and use...not just bikes and peds.
Owner contractor & Friends
The riveted lattice portal bracing and the posts where a King Bridge sign will hang are the real clues to the background of this structure.
Everything thing that we have learned at NSRGA / Workin' Bridges in the last four years started with failing to understand the bowstring when it was dropped in my lap. It was listed with NRHP under the wrong name. That listing made us think we could find money to help. (No). Our lawyer didn't realize we needed a structure purchase agreement and a land lease which is key in how we approach work today. We started a nonprofit because we got ripped off by a Community Foundation for a percentage of every original donation, we charge only an hourly rate for administrative duties like acknowledgements to donors. We got liability on the land but not on the bridge and we continue to work with NTHP on the insurance's that are needed, with or without FEDERAL money being used. Maintenance is so little when these structures are restored, it is common sense, visual inspections, keeping tree and leaf debris at bay. We try to work without any federal money because of the restrictions imposed by a 20 year full replacement and most of the bridges we work with are county owned so they know better than to use federal money if at all possible. Except for Winneshiek County where they use the 80/20 all the time and just go through the process to tear down, Gilliece and Ft. Atkinson are next.
Because of our non-profit and consulting arms we are able to step in and empower local citizen groups. Those champions have the knowledge of the community to back up fundraising and I am the new girl in town that will listen to all of the stories. Because we are a non-profit and working with contractors we can find places where either volunteers or in-kind donations can be made, like the dirt work done on Old River Bridge Access today. These projects are expensive but we can do what we can to put the money where it counts.
Because of our previous experience we knew how to lead the supervisors in the direction we wanted them to go from the very first meeting (it took four in the end), and in this case, to use demolition funds for restoration. This county also has a private casino-based foundation that is dedicated to funding local endeavours and we just made the grant deadline on the day we purchased the bridge because the Supervisors called a Special Session to help us finish getting the signed agreements lawyered up. The Friends of Bunker Mill Bridge have embarked on a capital campaign to raise more matching funds and we were able to use the county money as a match That was key. I was also able to contact Allan King Sloan and their foundation donated to the capital campaign. This friends group had solid people that stood up and wanted to be part of the original board of directors. Marketing, managing, meeting landowners and working with supervisors and county engineer that wanted this bridge gone. For the friends board we used a Facebook closed group to get through most of the negotiations for easements, purchase and grant writing.
All of the opinions aside as to what kind of a person I am, it is my experience in construction, design and working with contractors and policy makers, that has brought this company to the place where we can help other groups today. Comer Bridge Foundation in Scottsboro and CRISP in Burlington have also chosen to work with us, because I never give up. It is those experiences that we are taking back to Poweshiek County as we rebrand Friends of Skunk River Bridge to help fund the final phase of our bowstring project.
Art, thanks for asking how we made a difference. I don't believe that when something is the truth it is out of bounds to celebrate it, and I will continue to post here as action happens. Just like it did yesterday when we filled in the trench around the approach abutment that was used to keep people away from their bridge. That work was done by a volunteer who just wanted to help for 5 hours and the cost of mobilization and diesel. We were all a little envious of the bulldozer as it cleared away the scrub close to the bridge so we can get in their and cut down larger trees that are too close to eyebars and such.
The signage and the motto will be "Don't be Stupid", you don't really want to own this bridge. Don't get sidetracked by all the chitter chatter by the anonymi, I don't.
Fmiser, The Town Lattice portal bracing was coined some years back namely because the interwoven bracings resemble that of the truss bridge design. When it was first used is unclear... I'll check to make sure that the categories are correct.
As for the date of the arson, I'll have a look at it and make the correction. :-)
Thanks for the points! JS
Jason, thanks for the detailed essay. *smiles*
A couple comments. You refer to the lattice portal brace as a "Town lattice". I don't see a relationship between the portal brace and Town's design except they are both a lattice.
Next, you mention arson on 12 August - but not a year. That may be fine right now, but please presume this document won't change for dozens of years so a year would be nice.
Julie, and others,
I was saddened to read of the arson and plans to scrap the bridge - then heartened to read of it being saved. Thank you to all who put effort into saving the bridge _and_ documenting it (and all the other, not-so-high-profile bridges) on this website.
It seems to me the clashes are because the involved people are passionate. And while I would rather not see cat fights, I would much rather have a few folks with a passion for bridges who occasional bicker than to have many hundreds who don't really care.
But it's not my website, and I'm not really even a big contributor, so my opinion is probably not worth more than the space it takes up on your screen. :)
Art, Julie was/is being adamant (haughtily so) that "King Bridge Co." should be the ONLY thing in the builder's section (Even though it's the ONLY logical place for the pertinent information to go as the website's design currently stands. She's also demanding that James add new boxes IMMEDIATELY instead of waiting for the ANNUAL site updates early next year.).
Jason, myself and several others (Some of whom I consulted with in private on this matter.) are in disagreement with that notion.
First off, congratulations to Julie and everyone else involved in rescuing the bridge! Everything else is secondary.
That said, I'm curious how the bridge was saved, apparently so quickly. Were groups already in place that brought Julie in or did Julie organize the groups? What was Julie's role in relation to the groups and the government? Which group accepted the liability and how were they able to demonstrate they had the wherewithal to accept the liability? Was it a simple matter of getting insurance? If so, how much did it cost and who paid? Who is heading up the fundraising and how big is the group Of people writing the proposals?
Julie, what did you learn from the difficulty you encountered in your bowstring that made things flow so smoothly here? Was this due to prior legwork or your doing?
Also, I don't understand the discussion regarding the builder. Is Julie saying that King built the bridge and others were involved in various repairs, while others are saying that multiple builders built the bridge or are the positions different than this?
Got the King Bridge sign on it. I don't care really about the other bits so much. Who the salesman was or who rehabbed it when. Remember there was nothing but a steel mark when i started researching this bridge we now own. Earth moved. Approach open.
Julie, you cannot make changes when the information that has been posted on there is correct. If you do not believe me, I will send you a pdf copy which will show that I am indeed in the right on this one. King Bridge Company was not the only one that built this GD bridge.
Passionate. Bragging. Those are judgements I cant care about. Knowing that the information is skewed I cant do anything about. Dealing with name calling has been juvenile and again a waste of time.
We are starting to save more bridges. Not only will I market the team I will sing their praises. This is hard work and its taken years to start winning.
Bragging rights when they are due. And certainly still want changes to database to give builders rights to the one with the sign. KING IRON BRIDGE CO. CLEVELAND O.
Hi Don, while I am not the one going by Greek names, etc., I do want to make a point that Julie's project is very exciting and I do appreciate the passion she puts in. However one needs to control their feelings when posting here. Taking pride in a project or a bridge being restored for future use is one thing. Bragging about a victory or being a control freak over what information should (or should not) go in should not be in there. This not only applies to the events of a couple weekends ago but also for all posts, esp. as this website is not ours to own but ours to post as long as the webmaster sees it as appropriate. My two cents on this topic.
I can't fault Julie for being excited about preserving an historic bridge. She's pretty passionate about it and obviously puts a lot of effort into the task of saving these bridges against the realities of time, weather and limited funds that endanger them.
I do politely request that individuals express their serious opinions under their name, and save anonymous posting for ancient Greeks and dead bridge builders, and other humorous posts. Not so much that I want to know your name, but I really can't take someone seriously if they post acrimoniously behind a pseudonym.
*Everyone hates a braggart
Everybody hates a winner.
The only thing that matters is another King Bridge save. And standing behind one's name with truth. I got everything.
Just can't stop being FULL of yourself, can you lady?
I do like seeing historic bridges saved, but I totally don't care for someone who thinks they are better than anyone else. You act as if nobody else besides yourself is capable of helping a group do this, well guess again! I would have no problem giving you some credit if you didn't already give yourself more than you deserve.
Try being a little humble and not quite so self-absorbed!
Tomorrow we fill in trenches and begin the task of restoring the site for the King Bridge to come back to life. The friends, with the support of NSRGA and Workin' Bridges, and our ability to work with a multi cultural community, got a real boost from our expertise. This would not have happened so quickly without all of us. Old River Bridge Access is.
Btw that would be MS. HIGH and Mighty to you anonymous.
How come when someone else calls Miss High and Mighty Julie a name it gets edited out of the post but she is allowed to say Bull$hit and it gets left up?
Actually, the information posted is INDEED correct.
Jason got his information from a survey that Fraser Design and HessRoise conducted for/with the Iowa Department of Transportation in 1992.
The aforementioned survey is the exact same survey that the IaDOT references in almost all of their historic bridge database entries.
Very little-to-none of the backlash you received came about because you acquired the bridge.
Most of us, if not all of us glad that you're saving the bridge.
What DID draw the criticism and vitriol you received was the fact that you had made haughty (And rather illogical.) demands (As well as demanding that we obey those commands.) just because you own the bridge.
"There are no trail plans with this bridge."
"Julie Bowers spoke to the board about the local Kalona group purchasing the bridge for a nominal fee, acquiring the land easements upon which the bridge sits and taking out liability coverage – all for the purpose of saving the 126-year-old historic iron bridge for a FUTURE TRAIL SYSTEM between Richmond and Kalona."
Also, here is a brochure in PDF form about the bridge becoming a trail from the city of Kalona itself:
Uh Julie, I'm just going by what was mentioned in the newspapers and by what you said. If you want the correct info from your end, then perhaps you can add it but on a more professional level. Besides, didn't you say that despite estimates of 460k that it will most likely decrease? Was I right on that????
FINALLY, after receiving a number of complaints and even read some on the bragging rights posted on this page, I took the privilege to edit the page to reflect the bridge's importance and to eliminate the junk that had been staining the website as a whole in the last few days. The Bridgehunter.com website is an infomrational website designed to inform people about the bridges, their history and their importance as they are dwindling in numbers. I know that many people are happy about the Bunker Mill Bridge being owned by a private group, but bragging about it by adding inappropriate information in the essays and the fact sheets is just as bad as someone spraypainting the Kissing Wall in Jerusalem. In other words, it's just NOT COOL!!! It makes me feel happy that I own my own online column because at least I can edit and post the appropriate information to make it look professional. I hope this editing work (albeit it took a lot of my time away from my own obligations) will serve as a signal for all to think before posting on this website. Keep your facts straight. Keep your vulgar language to yourself. And most importantly, keep it informational and professional.
OMT: Remember, purchasing the bridge is only HALF the battle. The other battle has yet to be won. In other words, GET TO WORK and GET IT DONE! ;-O
That's more bitching than I care to do here. ;-)
Pretty hilarious that you refer to it as "MY" bridge when it will take "OUR" money to fix it!
I think you need a reality check lady!!!
Including the other info in the builder's section doesn't skew the data at all.
just my opinion is that Rehab companies are just as important as the original builder, because without them there is a good chance their is no bridge for working bridges to save. Just a thought.
Just because you own the bridge does not mean you can decide what information is relevant to it.
Sounds like somebody on here likes to blow their horn a little too much and it's getting old really fast!
Just fix the bridge and stop making a sideshow out of it!!!
The stuff that you exclaim is "graffiti" is actually rather pertinent information related to the bridge.
Update on the sale of BMB! http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2013/10/11/bunker-hill-bridge-sold-to-private-organization/ :-D
Julie, as I indicated before, Iowa Bridge Company was responsible for the rehabilitation of the bridge in 1913. This was according to the IaDOT bridge records which I have in my possession. If you want a copy of the records, I'll be happy to provide them to you....
James, please ensure that the bridge builder is mentioned as well. Thank you!
Update on the Bunker Mill Bridge in Iowa. http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2013/09/16/bunker-mill-bridge-update-16-september-2013/
Two very important events to keep in mind: Board of Supervisors Meeting on 17 September and the first of (hopefully) many fundraisers on 19 September. More details in the link above!
The information about Iowa BC's involvement with this bridge came from the records I obtained from IaDOT. While there are no plaques or concrete markings to prove it (just the M-frame portal bracings that were tacked onto the original Town Lattice ones), the information on the reconstruction came from the newspaper archives.
AMS USA is the mill mark for Arcelor-Mittal Steel. They were formed from French (Arcelor) and Indian (Mittal) steel companies, and have bought a number of mills in America over the last few years.
I have no objections to adding "(Steel/Iron Manufacturer)" onto the end of "Phoenix Iron Co." to distinguish that it's the parts manufacturer.
I have actually gone through and edited some of pages to list the steel manufacturers as "________ (Steel/Iron Manufacturer)"
However, that's not the issue I'm having with Julie.
The issue I have (this time) is that she is adamant that they shouldn't be in the builder's section when, as the site layout currently stands, there is no other logical part of the entries for them to be put.
Looks like we either need an executive edict from the webmaster or a consensus: Does the company that puts its name on the steel at the mill count as a builder/fabricator?
I have W8x18 beams holding up my deck. They have a manufacturer's roll mark of "AMS USA". American Metal & Steel Int'l Corp did not build my deck. They almost certainly do not even know of its existence. No one could reasonably consider them one of the builders of my deck.
The tires on my car are marked "Continental". Continental Tire Company did not build my car.
I personally believe we should distinguish between a builder and a parts source. The source of the steel can be an important piece of the history but I think it belongs somewhere other than in the same category as a builder or fabricator.
And I believe we should all play nice while we are guests in James's yard.
If anyone could talk their way outta something Jules... I bet it would be you! ;-)
So the Fire Chief says it's not possible now to use the bridge as part of the proposed trail system. It's an iron bridge and all that burned was the wooden deck... So put a new deck on it and use it!!!
If it is going to be subject to derelicts setting fire to the deck, then put a metal grate deck on it. Let's see em' try to burn that!
Someone set fire to the bridge: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/viewart/20130812/NEWS/130812002/Historic-Iowa-bridge-burned-arson-suspected-
Nice pics. The top part in #10 looks like it says Phoenix Iron Co.