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Mederville Bridge


Photo taken by Historic American Engineering Record

BH Photo #115327

Street View 


This concrete arch bridge crosses the Volga River just outside of Mederville, in Cox Creek Township. Featuring two tapered arch ribs that spring dramatically from concrete pedestals, the bridge spans 155 feet over the deep ravine on the northern edge of the small town. The Mederville Bridge was built as a replacement for an earlier structure at this crossing, a 155-foot, covered timber Howe truss. Designed by Des Moines civil engineer James B. Marsh, its construction was first let for competitive bids in February 1918. When proposals were received in March, the county rejected all as too high. The supervisors re-solicited for bids and in June received proposals from six firms: the Des Moines Bridge and Iron Company, Alfred Olson, Rodies and Bales, the Federal Bridge Company, C.H. Williamson, and F.E. Marsh and Company. After considering the proposals, the supervisors contracted with F.E. Marsh to build the crossing for $17,454.32, including engineering fees. Presumably completed later that year, the Mederville Bridge has functioned in place since, in unaltered condition. With the Iowa State Highway Commission and influential Iowa bridge contractors James Marsh and N.M. Stark actively promoting the concrete arch as an economical alternative to the steel truss for wagon bridge construction, Iowa's counties built hundreds of small-scale arches in the 1910s. Few of these structures even approached the 155-foot span necessary for the Mederville crossing, however. For this steep-sided location, James Marsh delineated an open spandrel concrete arch, which was bid competitively with the steel truss designed by the highway commission. By using an open spandrel arch, he could achieve a relatively long span at a reasonable cost, while contributing aesthetically to the small town setting in which the bridge stood. Relatively few open spandrel arches were ever built in Iowa. The Mederville Bridge is noteworthy as one of the earliest open spandrel arches built in the state. As it arches gracefully over this wooded valley, the Mederville Bridge is a handsomely proportioned example of this rather uncommon concrete technology [adapted from Crow-Dolby 1992].


Open-spandrel arch bridge over Volga River on Eclipse Road
Mederville, Clayton County, Iowa
Open to pedestrians only
Built 1918., Closed 1995
- F.E. Marsh & Co. of Des Moines, Iowa (Contractor)
- Marsh Engineering Co. of Des Moines, Iowa (Designer)
Open-spandrel arch
Total length: 156.0 ft.
Deck width: 17.1 ft.
Also called
Volga River Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+42.76357, -91.42199   (decimal degrees)
42°45'49" N, 91°25'19" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/629114/4735767 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Land survey
T. 92 N., R. 5 W.
Inventory numbers
NRHP 98000808 (National Register of Historic Places reference number)
IA 119020 (Iowa bridge number)
BH 13194 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • February 22, 2021: New photos from David Beck
  • October 15, 2018: New photos from Lee Smith
  • October 14, 2018: New photo from Luke
  • October 14, 2018: New photos from Lee Smith
  • April 23, 2018: New photo from Ray Kasal
  • April 2, 2014: Updated by Luke Harden: Added category "F.E. Marsh & Co."
  • June 18, 2008: Updated by Historic American Engineering Record
  • June 16, 2008: New photos from Historic American Engineering Record

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