12 votes

Fort Atkinson Bridge



Photo taken October 2005 by Jason & Birgit Smith

BH Photo #101907


Located in the small town of Fort Atkinson in southwestern Winneshiek County, this medium-span truss carries a county road over an intermittent stream. The structure dates to 1892. That year the Winneshiek county Board of Supervisors let a series of private contracts for fabrication and erection of this 135-foot, pinned Pratt truss. As indicated by a plate on the bridge itself, it was built by D.H. Young of Manchester, Iowa. County records do not reveal the total cost of the bridge. Called the Fort Atkinson Bridge locally, this steel truss features a Pratt configuration and is supported by a timber and concrete substructure. This early Winneshiek County bridge continues to carry local traffic with partial substructural and approach span replacement as the only alterations of note. From the early 1880s to the establishment of state bridge standards in 1913, the pin-connected Pratt through truss was virtually the exclusive structural type for medium-span roadway crossings in Iowa. Its standardized fabrication, economy of materials and ease of erection made it a mainstay among the various state and regional bridge companies. Thousands of such trusses were built throughout the state during this period, and numerous examples remain in place today. The Fort Atkinson Bridge is distinguished among these for its relatively early erection date, well-preserved condition and the decorative iron cresting on its portals adapted from Crow-Dolby and Fraser 1992].


Pratt through truss bridge over Little Turkey River on 150th Street in Fort Atkinson
Fort Atkinson, Winneshiek County, Iowa
Intact - Closed to all traffic
Future prospects
Slated for demolition and replacement.
Built 1892 by D.H. Young of Manchester, Iowa
- D.H. Young of Manchester, Iowa
7-panel, pinned Pratt through truss
Length of largest span: 131.9 ft.
Total length: 183.1 ft.
Deck width: 16.1 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 11.0 ft.
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on May 15, 1998
Approximate latitude, longitude
+43.15326, -91.92856   (decimal degrees)
43°09'12" N, 91°55'43" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/587114/4778390 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Fort Atkinson
Land survey
T. 96 N., R. 9 W., Sec. 8 (Washington Township)
Average daily traffic (as of 2009)
Inventory numbers
NRHP 98000460 (National Register of Historic Places reference number)
IA 346320 (Iowa bridge number)
BH 14732 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection report (as of March 2013)
Overall condition: Poor
Superstructure condition rating: Serious (3 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Serious (3 out of 9)
Deck condition rating: Fair (5 out of 9)
Sufficiency rating: 17.2 (out of 100)
View more at BridgeReports.com

Update Log 

  • April 3, 2022: Updated by Don Morrison: changed to intact, closed to all traffic
  • October 10, 2017: Updated by Christopher Finigan: Added category "Pin-connected"
  • September 11, 2013: New photos from Jason Smith
  • October 11, 2012: Updated by Jason Smith: Added categories "A-frame portal", "ornated", "with finials"
  • July 22, 2011: Updated by Luke Harden: Added description
  • February 1, 2011: Updated by Nathan Holth: This bridge is now doomed.
  • October 9, 2010: New photos from Ruth Reynolds
  • December 19, 2005: Posted photos from Jason & Birgit Smith


  • Jason Smith - flensburg [dot] bridgehunter [dot] av [at] googlemail [dot] com
  • Ruth Reynolds - ruthmusic [at] yahoo [dot] com
  • Luke
  • Historicbridges.org - by Nathan Holth
  • Don Morrison


Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted June 6, 2022, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Good to hear it might have a chance. If the county is planning to install a new bridge here, then they should offer the cost of the demolition towards the fee to move it. Not that they will, but I think it would be a great incentive!

Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted June 6, 2022, by Troy Joseph Knox (troyjknox [at] hotmail [dot] com)

The future is looking a bit brighter for this bridge. It may live on on a trail in Lawler area just a short trip from it's current site. Not ideal but better than ending up scrap like to many have!


Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted April 3, 2022, by Don Morrison (bacchus [at] mchsi [dot] com)

Well, I hesitated to post this, but here it is, awaiting Nathan's further input.


They apparently want to get rid of the liability. I'll mark it closed, future uncertain.

Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted January 19, 2022, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Sometimes I cannot stand news reporters. They always get the facts wrong. Some newspaper must have showed up at a county board meeting where the county engineer simply asked the question of the board members: If the Fort Atkinson Bridge MIGHT be available for a POSSIBLE project in Arizona. However it was made clear that by no means was there any intent to move this bridge away from its home if there was a plan to preserve within Iowa. Everyone involved is in full support of preservation in Iowa if the funds and interest is there! Reportedly, Fort Atkinson has considered preservation of this bridge under city ownership and NONE of these inquiries were intended to obstruct the preferred outcome of this bridge being preserved for public use in Iowa. As such this project is still under investigation is my understanding. Also, the statement that the Arizona resident learned of the bridge via BridgeHunter is 100% incorrect, they contacted Bach Steel and through them I approached the county engineer to ask this question. Many other bridges are being considered for this project, which is not even a for-sure thing yet! Reporters need to get their facts straight. Lastly, the cost of "moving" this bridge is NOT considerable, the considerable cost comes from disassembly and reassembly. Shipping is dirt cheap compared to that. Now would someone please explain why I shouldn't get the reporter's salary for writing this paragraph, I clearly wrote a better "article" here than the paid reporter did.

Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted January 19, 2022, by Don Morrison

Fort Atkinson bridge may get a new home?in Arizona!


One dollar.

At least it would be preserved.

In other decorahnews, dry run trail is getting a modern bridge.

Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted June 17, 2020, by Troy Knox (troyjknox [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Unfortunately this bridge has been closed. It is still standing.

Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted April 16, 2020, by Anonymous

It's perma-closed.

Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted April 5, 2020, by Anonymous

Did anyone else notice that in Nathan's photos, someone had vandalized the weight limit sign to read "20300 tons"? Hopefully that didn't convince any truckers from driving over it and collapsing it

Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted March 25, 2013, by Jason D. Smith (JDSmith77 [at] gmx [dot] net)


The Fort Atkinson Bridge is one of the bridges we'll be visiting during the 5th annual Historic Bridge Conference which takes place August 9-11. We'll be visiting the bridge while on the first day of the three-day event. If interested in joining us, please contact me at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@areavoices.com.

I believe the bridge will be standing together with the Giliecie Bridge when the tour through Winneshiek County on that day will take place....


Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted March 24, 2013, by Julie (Jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Those are cool. I will try to get there.

Ft. Atkinson wants there bridge but you never know.

Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted March 24, 2013, by Don Morrison


Good to hear that the bridge won't be torn down for replacement. I saw in a previous post of yours that you'd like to find portal decorations like this bridge.

The portal decorations from the Foreston bridge are similar and on display inside Lidtke Mill north of Lime Springs, Iowa, on the Upper Iowa river. Foreston bridge was also built by D.H. Young.

I recommend that any interested bridgehunters visit and take the tour this summer. The tour is inexpensive and proceeds go into upkeep of the historic mill.

See my photo of the portal decorations on this page:



Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted March 24, 2013, by Julie (Jbowers [at] gmail [dot] com)

Section 106 will kick in but they are planning the replacement upstream in order to leave the structure. It is the columns that need the top 8' replaced on all. Talked with the engineer last week. Of course it is always one person that objects to a structure that was there.

Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted March 23, 2013, by Don Morrison

Bad news:



Posted: Tue, Mar 19, 2013 11:43 AM

Two more bridges in Winneshiek County have been closed to traffic because of structural problems.

Bridge #185 on 107th Street in MIlitary Township has been closed due to problems with the bridge's concrete abutments.

Bridge #192 in Fort Atkinson on 150th Street has been closed because of corrosion of bridge materials.

The Winneshiek County Engineer's Office says the two bridges will remain closed until they can be replaced.

Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted August 27, 2012, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Thanks for that input. I should try to research those catalog pages.

D.H. Young went to Iowa State for one year and then started constructing bridges before he became a senator. This is one that is left from what I can tell, and deserves to remain inplace.

The caissons are bad where water got in and expanded and rusted etc, in the top 8 feet. Those portions can be replaced.. The top chord looks good. Would like to find some of those portal decorations.

Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted August 25, 2012, by Andrew Pearce (Drew458 [at] barking-moonbat [dot] com)

Yes, towns did just buy bridges and assembled what showed up. Pieces were all numbered. The factories built the bridge then took it apart and shipped it. That's one reason that the pin-connected truss did so well for so long: these bridges did not need highly skilled workers to put them together.

So yes, there would be a catalog too, probably with extra cost options like decorations and so forth.

One bridge down my way got put together wrong because the wrong parts showed up ... in 1885!

Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted August 19, 2012, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Questions: the bridge says D.H. Young was builder. The other similar bridges are WIBCo. Did they just buy parts and put them together here in Iowa? Was there a catalog?

Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted August 17, 2012, by Andrew Pearce (Drew458 [at] barking-moonbat [dot] com)

This bridge is a near twin to the Rockafellows Mills bridge in NJ - http://www.bridgehunter.com/nj/hunterdon/10RQ164/, which is nearly identical to the Fryer's Ford bridge that collapsed - http://bridgehunter.com/ar/conway/fry/; both built by the same company even, and very close in length to this one.

I hope you county engineer can take a hint from the Rockafellows Mills rehab, because that project took a rusty old 3 ton limit bridge and gave back a usable 15 ton limit beauty.

Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted March 21, 2012, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Much discussion going on about the future of this bridge on the Historic Sites of Decorah on Facebook. There is a group of very committed folks up there and they are working on all kinds of projects. It's good to get them engaged in their own projects before they meet the wrecking ball when there is a chance for rehabilitative success. This bridge meets the criteria of Texas, low daily traffic and an alternative route for heavier equipment. There is some rust, section loss, bent eye-bars and rusting on the caissons, plus some scour around them, but those can all be addressed for a fraction of the cost. The engineers sites age of the truss as a reason, Texas engineers say that is never a reason, and that each issue can be addressed.

More will be revealed here.

Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted October 17, 2011, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

The letter I sent to the Supervisors today.


On behalf of the N. Skunk River Greenbelt Association and Workin’ Bridges, we would like to formally announce our interest in procuring the Gilliece Bowstring Bridge (Daley’s Bridge) located in Winneshiek County when it comes up for removal in the next year. We would buy the structure and be responsible during the construction for working with the contractor to remove and dismantle. This bridge requires restoration by completely taking it apart, but it is a rare bowstring and we don’t want another one destroyed.

Although this does not save the county from the expense of removal which should be added to the estimate, it does help the county with not scrapping a resource and provides a public relations win with history buffs, preservationists and historic truss bridge lovers across the nation. They looked with horror at the fact that you allowed another bowstring to be scrapped a few years ago, which is one of the reasons we stepped in on the Upper Bluffton bridge. Allowing Workin’ Bridges into the process sooner, while it goes through the Section 106 process, will allow us to keep the bridge on the National Register of Historic Places, allowing it some potential for grant writing and fund raising. Those were issues that hindered our organization’s progress in working with the Upper Bluffton Bridge. Those issues were addressed in a meeting with the DNR on October 4th. The DNR is going to be working with Conservation Boards across the state to help us help them save their historic resources for other uses. You should be hearing about that soon, if you haven’t already. We are very excited about the prospect that Iowa will be a leader in utilizing our historic resources in a better fashion.

In Texas, where we are restoring an 1885 Pratt truss back to vehicular traffic, the engineers are leading the way to save these bridges. They feel that it makes economic sense when there is a low daily traffic and an alternative route for the heavy farming equipment that is reasonable. We think that the counties in Iowa need to look at bridges this way. For instance, the Ft. Atkinson truss comes up soon for replacement as well, and I would like your county engineer to take another look at the possibilty of saving this truss. The farms in that neighborhood have alternative routes and the City Park could be enhanced with the bridge staying in place and open.

I would like to request that the conversation start on both of these bridges, and I will keep you all up to date with where the Upper Bluffton Bridge, when we will disassemble and where it might go. I have found many concerned citizens in your county who don’t feel they are being heard when it comes to their history and I have told them that NSRGA would step in and try to help, at least with the bridges that we find very historic and very restorable.


Julie Bowers

Executive Director

NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges



Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted February 2, 2011, by Jason Smith (JDSmith77 [at] gmx [dot] net)

Here's an update from the county engineer: The bridge is not scheduled to come down for another 3 years unless inspections prove otherwise. That means the bridge will be up for awhile however it also indicates that some action will be needed to preserve it for another 50-100 years. If the piers were the problem, they should look at the Kirby-Flynn Bridge in Palo Alto County as it was reconstructed on new piers and was reopened to traffic last year after being closed and sitting abandoned for a decade prior to that. But that's my two cents' worth on this topic. Other examples on how to preserve the bridge should be made open to the public. :-)


Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted February 2, 2011, by Matthew Lohry

This bridge is very similar to a Root River bridge in Forestville, MN, which, ironically, is facing the same substructure issue-even the ornate details are similar to each other.


Hopefully, the Forestville bridge doesn't meet the same fate...

Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted February 1, 2011, by Anthony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

So if the Caissons are that bad and unable to be repaired.... why don't they jack up the bridge and replace them?

Sure seems a whole lot cheaper than replacing the entire bridge......and I could live with replacing the substructure to save the superstructure.....

Of course the consulting engineers and contractor buddies don't make as much loot........but hey!

Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted February 1, 2011, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

I received email from a website visitor who indicated that the county engineer plans to demolish this bridge. He went to the bridge site with the county engineer who indicated that the caissons are failing and need replacement. The county does not plan to relocate or preserve this bridge in any way because they believe the costs are too high.

My on-site observation of this bridge suggested that regardless of caisson deterioration, the bridge's trusses are in a condition comparable to that which they were in when first fabricated. The bottom chord eyebars, typically one of the locations where there is the greatest level of deterioration are in such pristine condition that I could observe groove marks on the eyebar that were a result of the fabrication process, and there are also clearly visible numbers stamped on these eyebars.



Nearly all the cast iron finials, plaques, and portal cresting remains on this bridge.

Here is my page with further photos: http://www.historicbridges.org/iowa/fortatkinson/

Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted August 28, 2010, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

I am anonymous from the previous comment.

Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted August 28, 2010, by Anonymous

The interesting factor is that Winneshiek County appears to have done a respectable job preserving most of its truss bridges - until the demolition of the Turkey River Bridge that is.

To list a couple examples: The Freeport Bridge was re-located to Decorah and the Moneek Bridge was placed in the Castalia city park. While these bridges were not preserved at their original location, the moving of these bridges can be thought of a reasonable means of preservation as northeastern Iowa has seen some disastrous floods in recent years.

Furthermore, many truss bridges in the county remain open to traffic and are likely receiving at least some maintenance. This makes the demolition of the Turkey River Bridge, and the uncertain future of the Fort Atkinson and Upper Bluffton Bridges particularly surprising.

Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted August 27, 2010, by Anthony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Let's see.........we have a beautifully ornate span that is possibly the last example remaining from an obscure regional builder. And to top it off, it is located at the fringe of a city park where it could be easily incorporated and a new span built nearby.

The loss of the Turkey River Bowstring was criminal....hopefully the people of this town will step up so it doesn't happen again.

Fort Atkinson Bridge
Posted August 27, 2010, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Just as a heads-up, the county engineer reports this bridge is deteriorating based on recent inspection and will likely come up for replacement soon.