4 votes

Green Mill Ford Bridge



This doesn't bode well.

Photo taken by J.R. Manning

BH Photo #208707



The Green Mill Ford bridge represents two-thirds of a bridge built in 1872 as a bridge crossing the Cedar River in the town of Waverly. In 1870 the Waverly City Council petitioned the Bremer County Board of Supervisors, stating, "The bridge across the Cedar River in Waverly is nearly worn out and the needs of the people of the whole county demand the completion of a strong construction of bridge." The supervisors proposed a special mill levy on the county property tax; at a special election that year the citizens of the county passed the initiative.

In spring 1871, John R. Price and Brothers used stone from the Anamosa quarries to build the bridge's substructure for a county contract of $5,000. The board then hired William Crickett, an agent for the King Iron Bridge and Manufacturing Company, to build a wrought iron bridge of three 125-foot spans and an overall bridge width of 18 feet, for a total contract cost of $11,000. The Waverly Bridge served in its original location until 1898 when it was replaced by a new girder bridge erected by the Toledo Bridge Company. Three years later, in May 1902, the old bowstring trusses were dismantled. One of its three spans was moved to a site across the Cedar River in Franklin Township; the remaining two spans were placed over the Cedar River in Jefferson Township. Know locally as the Green Mill Ford Bridge, these latter spans still stand in this location today.

The bowstring arch-truss was the iron span of choice for Iowa counties in the late 1860s and 1870s. Marketed extensively throughout the Midwest by such industry giants as the King Iron Bridge and Manufacturing Company and the Wrought Iron Bridge Company, these often-patented bridge forms featured a wide range of span lengths, economical fabrication cost and relatively quick erection. The proliferation of the bowstring corresponded with the initial development of Iowa's road system; as a result, perhaps thousands of these prototypical iron spans were erected throughout the state. The bowstring had some rather severe structural flaws, however, relating primarily to lateral stability of the arches, and it was largely superseded by the pin-connected truss in the early 1880s. Despite this, some bowstrings were still erected in Iowa in the 1880s, although the number dwindled precipitously by decade's end. Through subsequent attrition, almost all of Iowa's bowstrings have since been replaced and demolished. Although it no longer carries traffic, the Green Mill Ford Bridge is historically and technologically significant as of the last remaining examples in the state of what was once a mainstay structural type. [adapted from Fraser 1990]


Two-span bowstring through truss bridge over Cedar River on Greenmill Avenue, northeast of Janesville
Bremer County, Iowa
Collapsed in an ice jam on March 16, 2019
Originally built 1872 as a three-span bridge in Waverly; two spans relocated here in 1902; collapsed in an ice jam on March 16, 2019
- King Iron Bridge & Manufacturing Co. of Cleveland, Ohio (Iola Branch) [also known as King Bridge Co.]
Bowstring through truss
Length of largest span: 122.0 ft.
Total length: 377.0 ft.
Deck width: 14.1 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 12.3 ft.
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on June 25, 1998
Approximate latitude, longitude
+42.67267, -92.42940   (decimal degrees)
42°40'22" N, 92°25'46" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/546754/4724624 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Land survey
T. 91 N., R. 13 W., Sec. 19
Inventory numbers
NRHP 98000760 (National Register of Historic Places reference number)
IA 78890 (Iowa bridge number)
BH 12919 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • March 17, 2019: Updated by Kevin Skow: Lost - Collapsed in an ice jam on March 16, 2019
  • August 14, 2011: New photos from J.R. Manning
  • August 13, 2011: Updated by J.R. Manning: Updated Status

Related Bridges 



Green Mill Ford Bridge
Posted December 10, 2019, by Brian Ott (nana_poppa_ott [at] live [dot] com)

May 1902 the third span relocated on the Wapsipinicon River to 260th st.(7 Bridges RD.) in section 33. This bridge collapsed in the summer of 1966. East pilings still may be there.

Green Mill Ford Bridge
Posted March 19, 2019, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)
Green Mill Ford Bridge
Posted March 18, 2019, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)
Green Mill Ford Bridge
Posted March 18, 2019, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

This bridge could have and should have been saved. Nobody wanted to spend the money that was required to mobilize a crane and get these spans moved. Just another example of how covered bridges get more preservation dollars than metal truss bridges, since ALL of Iowa's covered bridges are preserved, but the same cannot be said for these nationally significant bowstring trusses.

Green Mill Ford Bridge
Posted March 17, 2019, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

The loss of this bridge is a catastrophic setback for bridge preservation in the United States. This bridge was not just significant on a county or state level (it was) but it had very high National significance as well. Granted, all remaining bowstring bridges are nationally significant but this one was arguably among the very best examples of bowstring bridges.

Flooding is a very serious threat to many of our historic bridges in the United States. Unless a truss bridge has been seriously over-engineered for its crossing, it can be taken down by flood and ice. Not to mention the lally columns and stone pylons that can give way.

If our most historically significant bridges must remain over their waterways, consideration must be given to strengthening, replacing, and/or raising the pylons in order to keep the trusses above water.

Every Spring, we lose bridges to flooding. Thus far, the Spring of 2019 is off to a particularly devastating start.

Green Mill Ford Bridge
Posted March 17, 2019, by Kevin Skow (weatherbum [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Verified its demise...

Green Mill Ford Bridge
Posted March 17, 2019, by Kevin Skow (weatherbum [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Saw a post on Facebook that this bridge collapsed yesterday (March 16) due to flooding and ice damage. Haven't seen any photos yet. Can anyone confirm this?