1 vote

Cunningham Bridge


Iowa Department of Transportation


BH Photo #289432



Description from Iowa DOT Historic Bridges website:

Located some five miles northwest of Bevington, this medium-span iron truss carries a gravel-surfaced county road over the North River. The Cunningham Bridge, as it is known locally, consists of a pinned Pratt pony truss, approached on both sides by timber stringer spans and supported by timber pile bents. The structure dates to 1886. That year the Madison County Board of Supervisors contracted with the George E. King Bridge Company of Des Moines to erect an 80-foot wrought iron truss at this Crawford County crossing and move the existing bridge to another site. Costing $820, the truss was shipped to the county and assembled by June. Since its completion, the Cunningham Bridge has functioned in place without substantial alteration. Like virtually all of Iowa's counties, Madison County followed a definite progression in its bridge construction in the 19th century, in response to evolving transportation needs and technological development in the bridge industry. The first simple spans, built as the county was undergoing its initial settlement, were rudimentary timber structures: cheap and easy to build but lacking in durability and limited in span length. With greater revenues from increased settlement, the county could undertake more ambitious timber trusses in the 1850s and 1860s. Iron was used for tension members in the covered combination spans erected during the 1860s and 1870s. But even with their plank and shingle sheathing, these timber trusses lacked the strength and durability of all-iron trusses. As a result, timber trusses were superseded by wrought iron configurations (either bowstring or full trusses), which were readily available in the 1870s and 1880s through mass-production techniques. Although the county supervisors barely noticed the transition from iron to steel in the 1890s--and, indeed, continued to refer to new bridges as iron that were undoubtedly made of steel--this evolution marked a watershed that would continue into the 20th century for bridge fabricators and the rolling mills that supplied them. Of the many substantial wagon bridges built in the 19th century by Madison County, only a few remain intact. The Cunningham Bridge is one of these: a relatively well-preserved example of early all-iron truss construction [adapted from Fraser 1992].


Pony truss bridge over North River on Upland Trl
Madison County, Iowa
Open to pedestrians only
Built 1886; Moved to a trail in 2008
- George E. King Bridge Co. of Des Moines, Iowa
Pratt pony truss
Length of largest span: 79.1 ft.
Total length: 109.9 ft.
Deck width: 13.5 ft.
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on May 15, 1998
Also called
North River Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+41.40154, -93.86120   (decimal degrees)
41°24'06" N, 93°51'40" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/428013/4583690 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Land survey
T. 76 N., R. 26 W., Sec. 9
Inventory numbers
IA 233620 (Iowa bridge number)
NRHP 98000509 (National Register of Historic Places reference number)
BH 13968 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • July 26, 2014: New photo from Luke
  • July 16, 2012: Updated by Fmiser: Removed category "Pinned"
  • February 10, 2012: Updated by Luke Harden: Added categories "Skewed", "Wrought iron", "Pinned"
  • December 20, 2011: Updated by Tony Dillon: Replacement confirmed via satellite view