Upper Bluffton Bridge
Photo taken October 2005 by Jason & Birgit Smith
BH Photo #101933
In the 1870s Winneshiek County embarked on an ambitious bridge construction program, in which many of the earliest wooden structures were replaced with more substantial iron spans on stone substructures. Beginning in 1873, the county, under the direction of bridge commissioner George Winship, built several bowstring arch-trusses, most of which were supplied by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company, of Canton, Ohio. By 1880 the county had erected a total of 32 iron bridges, all built under Winship's supervision. That year the county contracted with WIBCo for two medium-span bridge superstructures. The first was the Lawrence Bridge. The other was a 166-foot-span Pratt through truss replacement structure for the Upper Bluffton Bridge, placed over the Upper Iowa River on existing abutments. Costing $2,831.23, the Upper Bluffton Bridge featured a pin-connected Pratt truss based on patents held by David Hammond, WIBCo's president.
The Upper Bluffton and Lawrence Bridges marked a watershed for bridge building in Winneshiek County. The county supervisors had contracted for small-scale, all-iron trusses in the 1870s (Pratt half-hips and bedsteads, primarily), but these two trusses marked the first time that the county purchased longer-span trusses instead of bowstrings for rural crossings. The bridges presaged the building trend in the county for the rest of the 19th century. Winneshiek County continued to build iron, and later steel, trusses on its rural roads in the 1880s and 1890s. This change in character of bridges occurred well within the mainstream of state and national trends, for after the 1880 bowstring was specified increasingly less frequently for roadway crossings. WIBCo, at the forefront of bowstring innovation in the 1870s, was also a leader in the shift toward other structural configurations a decade later. David Hammond foresaw the decline of the bowstring in the mid-1870s, as his company was reaching its zenith on the basis of bowstring sales, and he directed his patent activities more toward straight-chorded trusses after that point.
WIBCo maintained an extensive catalog of bridge types that ranged from the exotic to the commonplace. With its pinned connections and patented Pratt web configuration, the Upper Bluffton Bridge represented the former rather than the latter. It was one of thousands of such pinned Pratts erected throughout Iowa in the late 19th century. The Upper Bluffton Bridge is technologically significant as a very early, well-preserved example of this mainstay wagon bridge type. In Winneshiek County it represented the first time the county used a truss rather than a bowstring for a rural crossings. A local harbinger of prevailing bridge trends, the Upper Bluffton Bridge is a significant transportation-related resource [adapted from Crow-Dolby and Fraser 1992].
This bridge is now offered for sale by Workin' Bridges, a part of The N. Skunk River Greenbelt Association. The final cost of the bridge will include being thoroughly rehabilitated and engineered for the client's use.
- Through truss bridge over Upper Iowa River on W. Ravine Road
- Winneshiek County, Iowa
- Queenpost span is relocated to a nearby property to be used as a driveway; through truss span was scrapped.
- Built 1878 by the Wrought Iron Bridge Co.; rehabilitated in 2001; closed to traffic in 2009; queenpost span now private property, through truss span is gone
- - Wrought Iron Bridge Co. of Canton, Ohio
- Main span: Pin-connected, 8-panel Pratt through truss
Approach: Pin-connected, 3-panel QueenPost pony truss
Length of largest span: 116.1 ft.
Total length: 154.2 ft.
Deck width: 14.8 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 11.0 ft.
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on May 15, 1998
- Approximate latitude, longitude
- +43.40467, -91.91472 (decimal degrees)
43°24'17" N, 91°54'53" W (degrees°minutes'seconds")
- Approximate UTM coordinates
- 15/587876/4806326 (zone/easting/northing)
- Quadrangle map:
- Land survey
- T. 99 N., R. 9 W., Sec. 9 (Bluffton Township)
- Inventory numbers
- NRHP 98000458 (National Register of Historic Places reference number)
IA 348810 (Iowa bridge number)
BH 14764 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
- Inspection (as of 04/2007)
- Deck condition rating: Fair (5 out of 9)
Superstructure condition rating: Critical (2 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Poor (4 out of 9)
Appraisal: Structurally deficient
Sufficiency rating: 15.0 (out of 100)
- Average daily traffic (as of 2001)
- April 27, 2015: Updated by Luke: GPS adjustment
- October 11, 2012: Updated by Jason Smith: Added categories "Town lattice portal bracing", "Wrought iron"
- July 1, 2012: Updated by Jason Smith: Bridge is partially gone. Through truss span is now scrap metal while pony truss span is now privately owned
- July 22, 2011: Updated by Luke Harden: Added description
- July 5, 2011: Updated by Julie Bowers: Trying to save available for reuse.
- July 1, 2011: Updated by Julie Bowers: Bridge needs new location.
- June 29, 2011: Updated by Jason Smith: Truss bridge is being replaced while awaiting relocation
- May 26, 2011: New photo from Clark Vance
- February 7, 2011: New photos from Benjamin Cole
- January 30, 2011: New photos from Benjamin Cole
- June 17, 2010: New Street View added by Ruth Reynolds
- October 9, 2009: New photos from Jason Smith
- December 19, 2005: Posted photos from Jason & Birgit Smith