Top Ranked Unique Savable Structures

First, the good news. When I asked for nominations for the bridges most worthy of preservation, I didn't expect to have an inbox overflowing with entries. But I did. There was even a small letter writing campaign in support of one bridge in particular.

That leads me, however, to the bad news. There's simply far too many historic bridges across the U.S. threatened by demolition or neglect. Despite our best efforts, the vast majority will be gone before we know it. This kind of list shouldn't be necessary, but here we are.

From the nominations, I tried to pick out the best of the best. It wasn't easy, as good cases could be made for all of the nominees. In the end, I settled on the Top Twelve bridges, a nice round number, for the inaugural TRUSS Award -- or Top Ranked Unique Savable Structures. (This sounds better than the old name.)

I considered these criteria:

  • Number of times the bridge was nominated
  • Number of five-star votes received in the new voting widget
  • Historic significance and rarity of the bridge's design
  • Level of local support for saving the bridge
  • Likelihood that the bridge will be destroyed or lost in the next few years if nothing is done
  • Ease of preserving the bridge, either through rehabilitation on site, or by moving it somewhere else

Today, I'm going to announce the Honorable Mentions, the bridges that didn't make the Top Twelve but are worthy of notice. I hate for these to get buried behind the top winners, so I'm presenting them first.

In no particular order:

Puyallup River Bridge (Pierce County, Washington)

This is probably the only Turner (or Turner-like) truss bridge in existence. It's a unique, nationally significant bridge. While not in immediate danger, it carries heavy traffic and has a low sufficiency rating of 9 out of 100. As the last of its kind, this bridge is too important to ignore.

Meadows Road Bridge (Northampton County, Pennsylvania)

In most places, a stone arch bridge from 1858 would be safe from destruction. But this is Pennsylvania, so it's no surprise this four-span classic bridge is slated for replacement in 2011.

Carlton Bridge (Mercer County, Pennsylvania)

Here we are in Pennsylvania again. This is a classic 1898 Columbia Bridge Works creation with ornate portal details. With a sufficiency rating of only 1 out of 100, it's a miracle that the PennDOT bulldozers haven't already bulldozed this bridge.

Morris Mill Bridge (Giles County, Tennessee)

How often do you see a wrought iron, pin-connected Warren pony truss from the 1880s? To make it even better, this bridge has laced endposts. It's derelict with the deck missing. I really wanted to include this bridge in the Top Twelve for its extreme rarity, but it doesn't appear to be immediately doomed. Still, it will continue to deteriorate unless the bridge is moved somewhere else.

Dodd Ford Bridge (Blue Earth County, Minnesota)

This is a classic 1901 Camelback through truss that is slated for replacement. It's the age-old problem: The county wants to get rid of it, but many locals want to save it.

Collins River Bridge (Warren County, Tennessee)

It's a "Frankenbridge" pieced together from spans from older bridges, including one span from an 1887 bridge that once stood in Nashville. The bridge is abandoned, with one end sitting in the yard of a house. It's hard to deny the bridge's historic significance, but what to do with it?

Osage Creek Bridge (Benton County, Arkansas)

This 1911 pin-connected Pratt through truss is closed to traffic and likely doomed. What else is new?

Guilford Red Bridge (Dearborn County, Indiana)

I think it's safe to say that Indiana has the best track record of any state for preserving bridges. But even Indiana has its share of doomed bridges. This vintage Pratt truss, formerly a railroad bridge, has been declared "Non-Select" and slated for replacement.

Brooksburg Bridge (Jefferson County, Indiana)

Lost in the woods, this abandoned 1894 Camelback truss was bypassed years ago and left to the elements.

Patoka River Bowstring (Pike County, Indiana)

While it isn't held together with duct tape, this ca. 1880 bowstring has been patched and re-patched over the years to allow it to continue carrying traffic. It features a possibly one-of-a-kind construction and cries out for a full restoration.

Walnut River Bridge (Butler County, Kansas)

Like many bridges built by the Wrought Iron Bridge Co., the plaque advertises the company, but leaves out the year of construction. Still, this is probably an 1880s bridge. It carries traffic on a "low-maintenance" road -- the kind of place where it would be silly to build a multi-million dollar UCEB. While that doesn't appear to be the case here, it's a disturbing possibility in the future.

Valley Road Bridge (York County, Pennsylvania)

Even though this bridge has been extensively modified, it's still a ca. 1870 cast-and-wrought-iron pony truss with Keystone columns. Need I say more? Unfortunately, the bridge is part of a tourist railroad that finds itself in serious financial limbo. The line could easily be sold and scrapped.

Butler Bridge (Sumner County, Tennessee)

Surely there's a trail project in Tennessee that could make good use of this 100-ft. polygonal Warren pony truss.

Old Copper Mine Bridge (Lumpkin County, Georgia)

Likewise, surely somebody in Georgia can find a use for this abandoned pony truss.

Old KY 169 Bridge (Jessamine County, Kentucky)

This appears to be another "Frankenbridge" assembled from spare parts. The most interesting parts are the double-intersection Warren pony trusses.

Farmersville Road Bridge (Lancaster County, Pennsylvania)

Why does it seem Pennsylvania has so many nationally significant bridges? Most other states would try to find a way to save them, but not here. This 1917 bridge is a concrete cantilevered curved chord through girder. It's doomed.

Cedar Grove Bridge (Franklin County, Indiana)

Here's another abandoned Camelback truss. It does have the good fortune of being located in Indiana, so there's a better chance it can be saved versus most other states.

Murray Bridge (Humboldt County, Iowa)

This 1905 Pratt through truss was damaged in 2004 and is now likely to be replaced.

Vera Cruz Bridge (Wells County, Indiana)

It's an abandoned 1887 Whipple truss. 'Nuff said.

Washington Bridge (Franklin County, Missouri)

With large bridges over the Missouri River dropping like flies, this 1936 bridge is probably the last best hope for saving one of these monumental cantilevered truss bridges over the Missouri.

Falling Rock (Licking County, Ohio)

This ca. 1872 iron Howe pony truss is nationally significant, but appears to be deteriorating each time I see photos of it.

Grand Glaize Bridge (Miller County, Missouri)

We should be thankful this suspension bridge is still capable of carrying traffic, but it can't hold out much longer without extensive repairs. It has a sufficiency rating of 0 and scares the living daylights out of every tourist that dares cross it.

Sixth Street Bridge (Los Angeles County, California)

This bridge has probably been seen in more car commercials, TV shows, and movies than any other bridge, including the Golden Gate. The twin arches, framing the L.A. skyline in the distance, make a dream setting for any director or producer. This cultural icon, however, is doomed.

Check back later for the Top Twelve winners of the prestigious TRUSS Award 2011...

Comments  (4)

Top Ranked Unique Savable Structures
Posted January 26, 2011, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)


Are you referring to the companion bridge to the Wabash Cannonball Bridge?

That is frustrating to hear they want to demolish the wooden spans. This is why I was concerned when I heard the Wabash Cannonball was being transferred to the State of Illinois. IDOT has a rather poor preservation track record, as evidenced most clearly on the Illinois River and with the Mt. Carmel Bridge on the Wabash.

Top Ranked Unique Savable Structures
Posted January 26, 2011, by Virginia Berry (vl-berry [at] hotmail [dot] com)

I would like to suggest our wooden bridge in St. Francisville,Il. I have a picture that I can send to you.

It is over the old railroad that has been removed.Not sure if this will work or not. They are wanting to tear it down because it is so old 1907 was the year it was built.

Virginia Berry

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Top Ranked Unique Savable Structures
Posted December 5, 2010, by Beth Kerr (bk1139 [at] aol [dot] com)

You left out the most historic pratt through truss bridge in all of America! The Bear Tavern Road Bridge built in 1882 has kept George Washington's Trail safe for all these years! It is now threatened by the County and when it is gone, a super structure highway will destroy Washington's Victory Trail. I hope that you can mention this significant bridge in your next "Top Ranked Unique Savable Structures! Please visit our website to become more familiar with our cause.


Beth Kerr

Top Ranked Unique Savable Structures
Posted December 2, 2010, by Stephanie (StephanieLBrown [at] aol [dot] com)

Thank you for for the honorable mention for the Meadows Road Bridge.