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Mill Creek Bridge

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Photos 

Photo taken by Ruth Reynolds in March 2010

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Map 

Pratt truss discovered in Fort Scott. 

Written by Robert Elder

NOTE: Field checks by myself and others have revealed that this is a "Frankenbridge". The following essay was written before field checks were performed:

Hat tip to Ruth Reynolds for discovering a long abandoned Pratt truss in Fort Scott, Kansas. A discussion of the bridge follows.

This structure is of particular significance for several reasons. The bridge features pedimented portal bracing. Farnsworth and Blodgett occasionally used this type of portal bracing, as did the Morse Bridge Company. Perhaps other companies used it as well. See http://www.historicbridges.org/pennsylvania/eaglerock/index.... for an example of this type of portal bracing. This design is a rare find today. A plaque is mounted within the bracing, but it appears to be blank.

Farnsworth and Blodgett built a nearly identical but smaller bridge in Greenwood County, Kansas http://www.bridgehunter.com/ks/greenwood/walnut-creek/ Aerial imagery indicates that the Greenwood County bridge has been removed.

The Mill Creek Bridge also features at least three different designs of vertical members including paired eyebars.

The exact length remains unknown, but the bridge features 11 panels, 7 of which have counters. 11 panels is a large number for a single span Pratt that may have been constructed pre-1900.

The bridge may be constructed of wrought iron, which would increase its significance.

The original railings have been removed and replaced by ARMCO rails. The bridge features a walkway which is probably a later addition. Despite its alterations, this bridge is an important discovery.

Vandals have discovered the bridge as evidenced by a painting of a woman wearing nothing but Bunny Slippers.

Facts 

Overview
Abandoned Pratt through truss bridge over Mill Creek in Fort Scott
Location
Fort Scott, Bourbon County, Kansas
Status
Abandoned with most of deck removed, but has intact walkway (cross at own risk)
Design
11 panel, Pin-connected Pratt through truss.
Approximate latitude, longitude
+37.84881, -94.71177   (decimal degrees)
37°50'56" N, 94°42'42" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/349397/4190420 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Fort Scott
Land survey
T. 25 S., R. 25 E., Sec. 19
Elevation
770 ft. above sea level
Inventory number
BH 44303 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • June 9, 2012: New photos from James Baughn
  • July 8, 2011: Updated by Robert Elder: Edited essay.
  • December 21, 2010: New photos from Robert Elder
  • December 14, 2010: New photos from Robert Elder
  • November 16, 2010: Updated by Robert Elder: Edited Categories
  • May 12, 2010: Updated by Robert Elder: Added new information to Essay.
  • March 4, 2010: Updated by Robert Elder: Fixed typo in Overview.
  • March 3, 2010: New photos from Ruth Reynolds
  • March 3, 2010: Essay added by Robert Elder

Sources 

  • Robert Elder - robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Ruth Reynolds - ruthmusic [at] yahoo [dot] com
  • Historicbridges.org - by Nathan Holth

Comments 

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted February 15, 2017, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

I should have clarified...the Bell Town reference makes sense in light of the link that James posted.

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted February 15, 2017, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

This general area of Fort Scott has traditionally been known as Bell Town or Belltown. This article refers to the U.S. 69 Mill Creek Bridge in Belltown:

http://www.fstribune.com/story/1770707.html

I suspect that the article refers to this bridge:

http://bridgehunter.com/ks/bourbon/509250060000034/

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted February 14, 2017, by James Baughn (webmaster [at] bridgehunter [dot] com)

The Fort Scott Tribune of March 28, 1969, mentioned that a bridge over Mill Creek had been closed to traffic. This might be the same bridge:

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1906&dat=19690328&id=a...

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted February 14, 2017, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Also, for those who missed it, Nathan Holth has provided a detailed documentation of this Frankenbridge over at his website historicbridges.org. See link above.

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted February 14, 2017, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Julie:

That is great news. Thanks for the update.

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted February 14, 2017, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

The Fort Scott Bourbon County Riverfront Association is moving forward with roads and bridges in that general neighborhood with a new park and river access, utilizing Long Shoals as well as the Military Bowstrings in their planning. They are well aware of the Mill Creek Bridge and how it does serve the neighborhood as a walkway crossing, and could serve the trail plans that they are building in phases. It's an expensive undertaking - cleaning up a river and beside this bridge is a true dump of stuff.

They understand what a rich history of bridges that they have, and how they all can serve an historic role in their already historic community.

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted February 13, 2017, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

To complicate this further, the bridge rests on old limestone abutments which are probably much older than the 1950s. If/when Historic Aerials uploads old imagery, we might have evidence, or perhaps some clues as to when this bridge was actually built. The limestone abutments cause me to doubt that the bridge was really constructed in the 1950s even though the maps show that no bridge was here until the 1950s.

This bridge may require a search of city or county records, if such records even exist.

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted February 13, 2017, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

According to the Topo Maps on Historic Aerials, this bridge appeared sometime between 1954 and 1959 but was abandoned by 1978. Unfortunately, Historic Aerials does not yet feature pre-1991 aerial imagery of Fort Scott.

http://www.historicaerials.com/

Obviously, the components of this bridge are much older than 1954. If the maps are accurate, then perhaps this bridge was built in the mid to late 1950s from whatever random bridge parts happened to be laying around at the nearest scrapyard.

That said, I am not sure what purpose this bridge would have served. The nearby Crawford Street Marsh Arch (1927) was already carrying traffic across Mill Creek.

http://bridgehunter.com/ks/bourbon/509250060000034/

So, perhaps this bridge was built simply as a shortcut. Alternatively, perhaps it was built as a pedestrian bridge and never carried vehicles in its currently location. Or maybe the maps are wrong.

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted October 8, 2016, by Nick Schmiedeler

I can't overstate how incredible this bridge is, and how worthwhile it would be for you to seek it out, an amazing experience walking across it today, absolutely incredible, just a beautiful thing.

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted June 12, 2012, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Thanks, Mr. Stewart. That is a great link.

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted June 12, 2012, by JIM STEWART (JAMES [dot] STEWART [at] TYLIN [dot] COM)

http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/dgkeysearchresult...

THIS IS A LINK TO A PUBLICATION OF THE UNION IRON COMPANY.

(IT WAS INTENDED TO SEND PART OF THIS AS AN ATTACHMENT TO THE NOTE ABOUT U. I. C. THAT ATTACHMENT WAS WRONG AND DID NOT GO THROUGH ANYWAY.)

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted June 12, 2012, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Thanks for the information, Anonymous. Assuming that this bridge was not built in the 1870s, it appears that we are finding more evidence that it was indeed cobbled together with random parts, perhaps from earlier bridges.

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted June 11, 2012, by Anonymous

Second try to get this through...

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted June 11, 2012, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Looks like the Union Iron Co. of Buffalo, NY also supplied some of the material for the McIntyre Bowstring Bridge in Iowa.

H/T Nathan Holth

http://www.historicbridges.org/bridges/browser/photos.php?br...

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted June 11, 2012, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

James:

Thanks for getting some additional documentation on this bridge! After looking at the date stamps, it makes me wonder if parts of this bridge (not the entire bridge) could date back to the 1870s. I am now beginning to think that this bridge could rival the Long Shoals bridge in terms of historical significance.

This bridge absolutely can not be allowed to collapse! If there is anything I can do, please let me know. If there is any hope in saving this bridge, some of those trees have got to go. That might buy this bridge a few more years while the trail system is being developed.

Hats off to Fort Scott and Bourbon County for their efforts to preserve their bridges.

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted June 10, 2012, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

I loved the walkway but the creek is a dump. Hoping Ft Scott will use it in their trail system, sort of left the way ot is so you can still cross it and see how the structure works together. We sort of thought Long Shoals was a bit cobbled together with parts as well.

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted June 9, 2012, by James Baughn (webmaster [at] bridgehunter [dot] com)

I spent some quality time walking across this bridge, and I'm starting to think it was cobbled together with parts from two or even three separate bridges. What's really bizarre are the three kinds of vertical members. From north to south:

1x paired eyebars

2x laced girders (wide)

4x paired eyebars

2x laced girders (narrow)

1x paired eyebars

That's 10 verticals for a total of 11 panels, a large number for a Pratt truss like this.

The narrower laced girders are stamped Union Iron Company Buffalo NY. I'm not familiar with this company, but a quick Google search suggests that it was in operation during the early 1870s. I didn't see any markings elsewhere, but I might have missed them in the jungle.

I've never seen a bridge quite like this, especially with the mismatched parts. There's got to be an interesting story here.

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted December 14, 2010, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

At least one tree is distorting the East top chord. This bridge will probably collapse in a few years if nothing is done about the trees.

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted November 27, 2010, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

I was able to visit this bridge recently. I noticed that many of the vertical members of this bridge are paired, punched eyebars. I don't recall this feature on other bridges, save for the looped eyebars often used as hip verticals on Wrought Iron Bridge Co. structures.

The paired eyebar verticals have had wooden beams wedged between them for added support. As you can see from the photographs, other verticals are built up members that feature V-lacing.

More photographs to come...

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted March 19, 2010, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

I have not visited this bridge, and I do not know its exact location. Thus, the GPS Coordinates are very approximate.

Because this bridge is located somewhere in a residential neighborhood and is historically significant, it should be considered a prime candidate for preservation as a pedestrian bridge.

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted March 4, 2010, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

WOW! The inside jokes on this site just keep getting better!

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted March 4, 2010, by Anthony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Robert......We might have to call this one "Bunny Slippers Bridge"

Could get J.R. to take a pic of it with his old camera....then they would be Pink bunny slippers!

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted March 4, 2010, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

I noticed that the top chords of this bridge appear to be bent upwards. I suspect that a tree might be pushing against this bridge. If so, this tree would need to be trimmed if the bridge was to be preserved.

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted March 4, 2010, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Reply to Ruth:

There actually is a railroad bridge (Parker Truss) over the Marmaton River just southwest of the National Avenue Marsh Arch. I have uploaded a distant photograph of that bridge onto bridgehunter. I don't know if that is the one that he saw, or if there might be yet another one in the area.

I know that this bridge was a complete surprise - I have been all over this area and had no idea that it was hiding here.

Mill Creek Bridge
Posted March 3, 2010, by Ruth Reynolds (ruthmusic [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Thanks for the kind words, Robert. Actually, I can't take credit for finding the bridge. My junior high history teacher gave me a tip about a bridge he had seen in Fort Scott a few years ago, but he thought it was over the Marmaton River. When I found this one, I knew it wasn't the Marmaton, so I'm not sure if I found the bridge he was talking about or not.