6 votes

Fountain Island Bridge


Oblique view, looking southwest

As of 1987 this was one of seven bowstring arch bridges left in Wisconsin.

The others are the Tivoli Island Bridge in Watertown, and the McGilvray Road bridges in La Crosse, County. They are listed here as McGilvray Road Bridge No. 1, McGilvray Road Bridge No. 2, McGilvray Road Bridge No. 3, McGilvray Road Bridge No. 4 and McGilvray Road Bridge No. 6.

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in December 2008

BH Photo #130481


Street View 

The Fountain Island Bridge and Lakeside Park 

Written by Lola Bennett for Wisconsin Historic Bridge Recording Project, July 1987

Lakeside Park

In 1889, the land that is now Lakeside Park was a huge marsh. It was a fact that disturbed the citizens of Fond du Lac, because their only access to Lake Winnebago, on whose shores the the city was built, was through the marsh. One editorial account stated, "The result is, that only those who have horses and those who can wade the marsh, visit the lake."1 Suggestions were made to the town to build a road at public expense across the marsh. The Common Council appointed a committee to solicit subscriptions for a park and improvements to the waterfront, and with[in] four days, they had collected $2,000.00 from local citizens.2 That year, Main Street was extended to the lake. In the years that followed, the city put considerable effort into the creation fo Lakeside Park. Nearly every year, well into the twentieth century, newspaper headlines announced that improvements were being made to the park and to the waterfront.3

By the turn of the century, a natural lagoon had been filled by dredging soil out of the marsh. This infill formed five small islands, separated by narrow channels for boats. As time went on, these islands were interconnected by a series of walkways and bridges. Today, there is a total of twelve bridges in Lakeside Park

The earliest of these bridges was a wooden bridge which spanned the channel btween the pavilion on the north side of the park and a small island directly to the south, where the boat livery was located.4 This wooden bridge appeard in photographs taken in the early 1920's. One Fond du Lac resident recalls riding over the wooden bridge on his bicycle as a boy, and mooring his skiff underneath it. A photograph that he took in 1926 shows the present bridge, a small bowstring truss, in the same spot as that earlier wooden span.5

History of the Bridge

The history of the Fountain Island Bridge is sketchy at best. It can be sumised form stylistic evidence that the bridge was constructed about 1870, but since the bridge was move to its present location many years ago, and since there is no builder's plate on the bridge, it is difficult to trace its original location, manufacturer, or date of construction. City Council Proceedings for the year the bridge was contsturcted of the year is was moved may contain the answer, but going through years of records, when a specific date is not known, could prove to be extremely time-consuming. Liekwise, it is a tedious task to read through years of newspaper headlines, particularly when no index is available. The park office has no records for the bridges. An interview with a long-time resident of Fond du Lac suggeted that the bridge originally spanned the east branch of the Fond du Lac River in town.6 The east branch of the Fond du Lac River, however, runs through the center of town and is spanned by a dozen or more bridges. City Council Proceedings from the mid-1920's indicates that a number of new bridges were constructed over the Fond du Lac River at that time, but fail to mention whether or not they replace older bridges, and if any of the bridges being replaced were moved to new locations.7 A newspaper article in 1922, however, indicated that a bridge originally spanning the river at Western Avenue was moved to the park to span the inlet known as "The Big Hole" when a new bridge was contructed in it's place.8 This suggests that some of the city's other bridges may have been recycled in the same way, including the Fountain Island Bridge.

Lola Bennett
Wisconsin Historic Bridge Recording Project
July 1987
for Historic American Engineering Record

1 - Daily Commonwealth, May 9, 1889 (Fond du Lac, Wisconsin)
2 - Ibid. August 2, 1889
3 - Daily Commonwealth, Daily Reporter, Commonwealth Reporter, 1889-1930 (Fond du Lac, Wisconsin)
4 - "New Park Will Be Beauty Spot," Daily Commonwealth, May 20, 1911 (Includes 1910 map of Lakeside Park) Photograph of bridge in "Lakeside Park: Past, Present, Future." (Fond du Lac: League of Women Voters, 1976, p. 3)
5 - Landon Divers, interview with Lola Bennett, project historian, July 6, 1987.
6 - Ibid.
7 - City Council Proceedings, 1922-1933 (Fond du Lac, Wisconsin)
8 - "Bridge Across Big Hole Provided" Daily Reporter, November 2, 1922


Bowstring pony truss bridge over Lakeside Creek on Pedestrian Walkway in Fond du Lac
Fond du Lac, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin
Open to pedestrians
Future prospects
Slated for demolition and replacement, perhaps around 2016.
Built ca. 1870 in unknown location; Moved to Lakeside Park ca. 1926
- Milwaukee Bridge & Iron Works of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Single span, arched parabolic truss with pinned connections and a concrete replacement deck. It is 67'4" long, 10'11" wide and 8'7" high. The three-section, parabolic top chords are two upright, curved, iron channels connected with riveted cover plates. The bottom chords are two upright iron channels connected with riveted cover plates, supported by iron L-beams. Diagonal bracing consisted of cylindrical eyebars which pass through the top chord and are secured with cast iron skewbacks and hex nuts. The bridge is divided into ten panels by a series of iron verticals, laced with short, horizontal and diagonal members. These verticals are similar in configuration to the verticals on an 1877 Pratt through truss, built by Milwaukee Bridge and Iron Works in Burlington, Wisconsin. The ends of the upper chords are riveted to the ends of the lower chords, which were riveted to steel-bearing pads resting on concrete abutments.
Span length: 67.3 ft.
Total length: 67.3 ft.
Deck width: 10.9 ft.
Approximate latitude, longitude
+43.79754, -88.44475   (decimal degrees)
43°47'51" N, 88°26'41" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
16/383774/4850400 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Fond du Lac
Inventory number
BH 38383 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • December 26, 2018: New Street View added by Dana and Kay Klein
  • October 16, 2015: New photos from Gene Smania
  • May 16, 2014: Updated by Luke Harden: Added category "Milwaukee Bridge & Iron Works"
  • May 5, 2014: Updated by Nathan Holth: This bridge is now doomed.
  • January 14, 2013: Updated by Nathan Holth: Fixed GPS
  • December 16, 2008: Essay added by J.R. Manning
  • December 15, 2008: Added by J.R. Manning


  • J.R. Manning - thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net
  • HAER WI-23 - Fountain Island Bridge, Lakeside Park between Promen Drive & Fountain Isla, Fond du Lac, Fond du Lac County, WI
  • Nathan Holth
  • Dana and Kay Klein


Fountain Island Bridge
Posted May 24, 2017, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

The trusses have now been moved to a static display.


New location described as "the far east side of the park as part of Harbor View Trail near De Neveu Creek"

Fountain Island Bridge
Posted October 27, 2015, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)
Fountain Island Bridge
Posted July 19, 2015, by Carlos Munoz (readcarlosm [at] gmail [dot] com)

The bridge has not been determined to be the same bridge that spanned Scott Street.


Note the distance across the bridge.

Fountain Island Bridge
Posted February 18, 2015, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

They found where it came from....Scott street. ...and working on designation...the first steps. Will know more tomorrow. It's about a community figuring it out and that's where we help. We think that's the best part.

Fountain Island Bridge
Posted February 16, 2015, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)
Fountain Island Bridge
Posted January 28, 2015, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)

A better link or better article:


Good luck with it Julie, it sounds promising; I hope you are right.


Art S.

Fountain Island Bridge
Posted January 28, 2015, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

This is awesome because we are getting the discussion going and now the local preservation groups will look at it. Reporters always a get a detail or two wrong like having both types of columns, but this is a good start at seeing this bridge stay where it is.

Better note is to make sure you don't encase the iron with concrete. they don't mix very well and all of the vertical posts require new bases because of this.

So here's to Laurie for getting the word out in the city. Workin' Bridges would never just come and take a bridge for the sake of wanting it. We always try to engage locals first but if it comes to it (remember this is Wisconsis) we will make sure that this bridge isn't scrapped. In fact I have a place in mind for it but, again, that's not what we want to do first. So we started the ball rolling and we will see where it goes now.

Fountain Island Bridge
Posted January 27, 2015, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knitecom)
Fountain Island Bridge
Posted May 21, 2014, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)


If you read through the discussion on this bridge, you will find that Nathan found a likely candidate.


Art S.

Fountain Island Bridge
Posted May 20, 2014, by Fmiser (fmiser [at] gmail [dot] com)

If this one was built by King, it is an oddball. It does not have any of the patented components I see on _any_ of his early bridges.

But that seems to already be agreed upon. Unfortunately, I don't who might have built it...

Fountain Island Bridge
Posted May 19, 2014, by Julie Bowers (jbowers [at] gmail [dot] com)

Having a builder put into place is cool and that sends a message to Fond du Lac. we have put in a Scope of Work and Estimate for the restoration of this highly significant example of an early bowstring, it came in at a good price with a new "heels for the women ok" kind of deck.....and oh so much cooler to the history of Fond du Lac.... Thanks to all for your insights. They already got back to me wondering about guard rail. They have cable rail now. We are doing some interesting work developing a donor recognition cast bronze flat bar for V or X braced railing and that might be a big draw in Fond du Lac. Be a part of something that will last another 100 years.

Attachment #1 (application/pdf; 5,924,592 bytes)

Fountain Island Bridge
Posted May 19, 2014, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Thanks Nathan. I suspected that WIBC probably ordered Phoenix column sides and then added some flat members when the assembled the top chord.

Fountain Island Bridge
Posted May 19, 2014, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Here is the deal. The Independence bowstring top chord is made out of the shapes that compose what we usually call Phoenix Columns. These shapes were listed in the Phoenix Iron Catalog as "Column Segments" and could be ordered individually. They are like rolled channel but with a bowed web. Whether you want to actually call the bowstring's top chord a Phoenix Column or not is up to you. Somebody bought Column segments from Phoenix and combined them with regular channel to make the top chord. I think for the purposes of BridgeHunter, its relavent to have it listed in the Phoenix Column list, since this bridge differs from the usual Keystone-style columns used by WIBC.

Also note that Phoenix Columns of traditional circular type were sold in their catalog in completed fashion, containing as many as eight Column Segments to form a 14 and 3/8 inch diameter circular column.

The Column Segment shapes that compose the traditional Phoenix Column can also be found in the end posts of the Zoarville Station Bridge and the Portal Bracing of the Fort Wayne Wells Street Bridge:



And the Phoenix Catalog:


Fountain Island Bridge
Posted May 17, 2014, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Interesting. I will have to do some further research. The Independence Bowstring Bridge was reportedly built in 1871 so this column design would have to predate that. For now, I will leave the Independence Bowstring Bridge in the Phoenix column category unless somebody can find a specific name for those columns.

Fountain Island Bridge
Posted May 17, 2014, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)


We're probably splitting hairs but I guess I'd call them modified Phoenix Columns. To me a Phoenix Column has a round cross section made up of four or six segments. This column has six segments, two of which are flat 'spacers' designed to make it easier to attach the verticals and tension members (see patent 135802). WIBCo also made bowstrings with traditional, round cross section, four segment Phoenix columns.


Art S.

Fountain Island Bridge
Posted May 17, 2014, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)


If those aren't Phoenix columns in the link I posted, then I don't know what they would be. They look exactly like Phoenix columns, and the Kansas State Historical Society considers them to be Phoenix columns. I can confirm that they were manufactured by Phoenix. As far as I'm concerned it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck.

Fountain Island Bridge
Posted May 16, 2014, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)

Actually, I take back what I said in the last line of my previous post. The WIBCo bowstring Nathan posted has the verticals mounting to the outside of the arch while the Milwaukee Bridge & Iron Works Pratt (Bieneman Bridge) has the verticals attach within the beam and has the same distinctive lacing in the verticals as well.

I'm convinced that it is a Milwaukee Bridge & Iron Works.


Art S.

Fountain Island Bridge
Posted May 16, 2014, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)

In my novice opinion, this is not a King. Every King bowstring I have seen has the one distinctive feature of the box beam that forms the arch. The vertical elements extend beyond the horizontal elements of the box, like an H with a hole in the middle.

However, based on Nathan's posts, I can't say who the builder is.


Art S.

Fountain Island Bridge
Posted May 16, 2014, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)


While WIBCo did use Phoenix columns, the bridge you linked to doesn't have Phoenix columns. They are proprietary to WIBCo based on their 1873 patent.


Art S.

Fountain Island Bridge
Posted May 16, 2014, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

That is one crazy thing about bridge companies - there is always an exception to almost every rule.

Occasionally, WIBC used Phoenix columns as well.


Fountain Island Bridge
Posted May 16, 2014, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Also, Robert, Wrought Iron Bridge Company did not always use the Keystone columns for their bowstrings... although surviving examples are almost nonexistant today, their company catalog did advertise so-called "Plate and Channel" bridges (as opposed to the column bridges)... see this page http://www.historicbridges.org/bridges/browser/?bridgebrowse...

Fountain Island Bridge
Posted May 16, 2014, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

First off, I want to thank Julie / Workin Bridges for making a visit to this bridge and communicating with the city.

I have no proof, as no other bridge looks like this bridge exactly, but I strongly support the theory the Historic American Engineering Record that the bridge was built by the Milwaukee Bridge and Iron Works. Bowstrings were built during that time of patents and experimentation, and thus each builder's bowstring is usually very distinctive. Thus, I feel that this is not a King or Wrought Iron Bridge Company bridge because the top chord connections on this bridge have a traditional pin, not the more unusual threaded rod/nut connections that King and WIBC used and also because the verticals differ from King and WIBC bowstrings. This bowstring's unusual verticals due to their odd built-up arrangement with corrugation or ribbon-lacing. Despite these unusual details, we can look to another 1870s Bridge that does have some verticals with this same detail: http://bridgehunter.com/wi/racine/bieneman/ and sure enough that bridge was a Milwaukee product. Moreover, the geographic location of the bridge lends plausibility to the Milwaukee theory.

Whatever the case, this is an exceedingly rare bridge both in Wisconsin and nationwide. Moreover, assuming Milwaukee did build the bridge, its significance cannot be understated. It would likely be the last bowstring remaining built by this company... and a significant, early example of a bridge in Wisconsin built by a noteworthy bridge builder.

Fountain Island Bridge
Posted May 16, 2014, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

I think very early King as well Robert. Anybody else?

Fountain Island Bridge
Posted May 16, 2014, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

I don't know the builder for certain, but my initial guess is the King Iron Bridge Co. I really doubt it is a Wrought Iron Bridge Co. structure because they would have probably used Keystone columns.

Fountain Island Bridge
Posted May 16, 2014, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Nels Raynor and Nathan Holth encouraged me to jump into Wisconsin last week when I was in Minnesota after the Waterford pour. I thought we could get there before construction but I was late. I spoke with several parks folks and with the local reporter and left messages with the city manager regarding the historic level of exceptional for preserving this bowstring.

It has extensive section loss below the concrete but with photos, Nels was able to come up with a restoration cost. The city manager now knows how historic the bridge is and that it can come in for restoration far below a replacement cost.

It's a lovely example and I know what I am thinking but help me with a builder here. Who do you think and why do you think that? Early 1870, close to the iron belt.

Fountain Island Bridge
Posted May 5, 2014, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)

The bridge can be seen in the article pictures:


Fountain Island Bridge
Posted May 5, 2014, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)

Althoughit will be patched, this bridge is now doomed: