8 votes

Bunker Mill Bridge


Photo taken by Jason Smith in August 2011


BH Photo #212807


Bunker Mill Bridge 

Written by Jason Smith

Spanning the English River southeast of Kalona, the Bunker Mill Bridge exemplifies a work of art that was built and/or rehabilitated by more than one bridge builder. The bridge was built in 1887 by the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, OH with assistance of George E. King, who had already started his business in Des Moines. It is one of only a handful of bridges that were built by a father-son duo, for the King Bridge Company was still being run by Zenas King. Built of wrought iron provided by Zenas King and the Phoenix Iron Company, construction of the bridge was completed in May 1887 and Washington County agreed to pay $3487 for the 120 ft. through truss span plus approach spans totalling 170 ft., although King received just under $2900 in reality.

In 1909, the county contracted with Iowa Bridge Company in Des Moines to rehabilitate the bridge at the cost of $1325. While it is unknown why or even how it was done, the rehabilitation work included replacing iron parts with that of steel and reinforcing the Town lattice portal bracing with M-frame portal bracings, making the bridge one of only a few remaining in the country with more than one portal bracing on each end. The bridge continued its service to cars and pedestrians alike for the next 95 years, and was even featured in the Hallmark film Harvest of Fire, filmed in 1997. The bridge was closed to traffic in 2004 but remained open to pedestrians and fishermen who enjoyed crossing the structure and enjoying the stories that occurred at or near the crossing.

Sadly, the bridge was severely damaged by arson on the morning of 12 August 2013, with the bridge plankings charred, closing the bridge to all traffic. This unfortunate event scrapped the plans that had been made to restore and reuse the bridge as part of the bike trail connecting Kalona and Richmond. The county had already started plans to demolish the bridge when a private group stepped in, expressing their interest in purchasing and restoring the bridge.

The Friends of the Bunker Mill Bridge, in cooperation with the North Skunk River Greenbelt Association, purchased the bridge from the county on 10 October, 2013 at the cost of $1 while the county relegated its $80,000 originally set for removing the bridge for restoring the bridge. With the bridge in private hands, the next step will be to investigate the needs of the bridge to determine what needs to be fixed and replaced, before carrying out the actual restoration process. Cost for restoring the bridge is estimated at $460,000 but is expected to decrease pending on the outcome of the structural survey to be carried out. It is hoped that the bridge will be restored in a couple years' time with a long-range plan of realizing the original project of using the bridge as part of a bike trail connecting Kalona and Richmond.

As mentioned in an article produced by the Bridgehunter's Chronicles, Purchasing the bridge is half the battle. The second half is doing the actual work, which has received enormous backing from the county and elsewhere. If you wish to contribute to restoring the project, please click on the link for more details: http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2013/10/11/bunker-mill...

Source of bridge's history: Fraser Design and HessRoise Survey conducted in October 1992


Pratt through truss bridge over English River on Nutmeg Avenue
Kalona, Washington County, Iowa
Open to pedestrians only
Built 1887; M-frame portal bracing was added to the Town Lattice portal bracing in 1909.; Closed to traffic in 2003; Damaged by arson in 2013; Restored 2013-2017
- George E. King Bridge Co. of Des Moines, Iowa (1887 Original Construction)
- Iowa Bridge Co. of Des Moines, Iowa (1909 Rehabilitation)
- King Bridge Co. of Cleveland, Ohio (1887 Original Construction)
- Phoenix Iron Works of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania (Iron Manufacturer)
- Schiffer Group Inc. of Traverse City, Michigan (Restoration Engineer)
Pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge with Town Lattice and M-frame portal bracing.
Length of largest span: 118.1 ft.
Total length: 290.0 ft.
Deck width: 13.5 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 11.6 ft.
Eligible for the National Register of Historic Places
Also called
Kalona Bridge
Nutmeg Avenue Bridge
English River Bridge
Old River Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+41.46815, -91.68838   (decimal degrees)
41°28'05" N, 91°41'18" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/609526/4591558 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Land survey
T. 77 N., R. 7 W., Sec. 17
Average daily traffic (as of 2010)
Inventory numbers
IA 337570 (Iowa bridge number)
BH 14665 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection report (as of March 2011)
Overall condition: Poor
Substructure condition rating: Serious (3 out of 9)
Deck condition rating: Poor (4 out of 9)
View more at BridgeReports.com

Update Log 

  • December 29, 2020: New photo from Luke
  • October 16, 2020: New photo from Luke
  • May 23, 2020: New photo from Luke
  • October 15, 2019: New photos from Nick Schmiedeler
  • January 23, 2017: Updated by Julie Bowers: Bridge has been opened.
  • May 18, 2016: New photos from Patrick S. O'Donnell
  • April 4, 2016: Updated by Jason Smith: Updated the status of the bridge and included article
  • July 24, 2014: New photo from Julie Bowers
  • June 2, 2014: Updated by Julie Bowers: changing status updates.
  • February 21, 2014: New photos from Jack Schmidt
  • October 14, 2013: Updated by Jason Smith: Added categories "arsoned", "Privately owned"
  • October 12, 2013: Essay added by Julie Bowers
  • October 11, 2013: Updated by Julie Bowers: status update to new owners.
  • October 1, 2013: Updated by Julie Bowers: keeping it real for data validity. verified by NASA.
  • September 30, 2013: Updated by Jason Smith: Fixed typo
  • September 28, 2013: Updated by Jason Smith: Added category "Wrought iron"
  • September 28, 2013: Updated by Julie Bowers: new owners almost in place.
  • September 16, 2013: Updated by Jason Smith: Updated information on the bridge
  • September 7, 2013: Updated by Julie Bowers: where is the proof for iowa bridge co?
  • September 1, 2013: Updated by Luke Harden: Removed drivel from the description box.
  • August 12, 2013: Updated by Luke Harden: Added category "Phoenix Iron Co."
  • October 26, 2012: Updated by Jason Smith: Added categories "Town lattice portal bracing", "Pin-connected", "English River (Iowa)"
  • August 7, 2012: Updated by Jason Smith: Updated the information on the bridge
  • July 12, 2012: Updated by Nathan Holth: Bridge to be rehabbed. Added exact closure date, and added common name.
  • September 6, 2011: Updated by Jason Smith: Added information on the bridge
  • July 18, 2011: Updated by Jason Smith: Bridge is still standing



Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 15, 2019, by Luke

Nick, if I'd known you were going to be in my area I'd have offered to show you some of the stuff in the area!

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted April 19, 2018, by Anonymous
Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted April 8, 2017, by Art S (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)

Another hiccup:


KALONA, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Washington County supervisors have voted to close a road that leads to a historic bridge.

The Bunker Mill Bridge south of Kalona, Iowa on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. The road in front of the fence is the one the owner has requested Washington County close. (Dave Franzman/KCRG-TV9)

There was short discussion before the supervisors voted 3-2 to pass the resolution. The Bunker Mill Bridge is in Kalona over the English River. An arsonist burned it down in September of 2013. Bridge supporters spent the better part of three years rebuilding and trying to preserve the 130-year-old bridge.

"Why would you close the road? It doesn't benefit anyone but that land owner" said Scott Allen of Kalona.

That's what some residents said about a decision to close part of a road leading to the Bunker Mill Bridge.

"I was very disappointed and shocked. I think it was a very bad decision. They're elected officials but they are not following what the electorate wants" said Steve Maxon of Wellman.

Now cyclists, hikers, and the Amish community can't use the renovated bridge.

"It's got a lot of historic value and it goes through a very environmentally interesting area up there in the northern part of the county" said Maxon.

The chairman for the board of supervisors said closing the road south of the bridge will save taxpayers money

"Currently we would have to keep maintaining that road. Once we give it back to the property owners we no longer have to maintain that road" said Richard Young, the chairman of the Washington County Board of Supervisors.

One man with property near the bridge wanted part of Nutmeg Road closed because more people are trespassing and leaving trash. Young said it will keep troublemakers off private property.

"There's a lot of people that are trespass down there, ride their four wheelers, they dump garbage down there" said Young.

Maxon said what's most disappointing is that so much time and money to fix the bridge essentially went to waste.

"That's very frustrating. Very frustrating indeed because the bridge is stronger than ever. It's been fixed up so it'll hold more than it ever would have originally" said Maxon.

But the fighting is not over yet. Some residents have filed a lawsuit against a non-profit that has put a fence around the bridge. The county hasn't said when the road leading to the bridge will close.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted January 23, 2017, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Great news indeed! I hope to visit someday.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted January 23, 2017, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Thank you Luke, couldn't have done it without you!

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted January 23, 2017, by Luke

Well done Julie. Glad to see it not turned into scrap.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted January 23, 2017, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Soft opening of Bunker Mill Bridge this past weekend. With the help of locals we installed the rail that would allow the gates to come off. So just over three years for Phase 1 with Parts 1 & 2. Lots of volunteer hours here, lots of donations. Signage will be installed to recognize donors real soon. Thanks to all everyone that had a hand in, can't do it without that kind of support. These projects are expensive, and they take a long time. This was our first to save as owner / contractor. We learned a lot, hope you all enjoy the fruits of the labor by the entire team at Workin' Bridges with BACH Steel and Schiffer Group Engineering on the team.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted September 6, 2016, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

$51,000 plus put into Bunker Mill Bridge this year but once it was over the river, people thought it was done. It still needs $75,000 to finish the rail and the south abutment to the south road, but there was no jumping to conclusions.

The group still needs to make itself a business and be ready to be a friend of the bridge again, but thanks Anonymous for bringing this to the forefront.

Since this group of friends, we no longer support working with a friends group for bridge projects. They are too expensive. So we buy them, and try to fundraise around them and put money into them. To date, this one cost $200,000 or so with the $80,000 from the county, another 50,000 or so from the community (thank you), donations of time and labor by the Amish who helped set the planks.

Those folks all have keys and are crossing the bridge, but until it is finished and inspected it's not a bridge. In the meantime, Brews for Bridges go back to Hayden and Bunker directly, or should I say it goes to the fabricators, because that's where the most of our money goes. Engineering comes in at 10% of a job and our job with Delaware have supported all this.

So again, thanks for bringing up old news, because we are much further along now with actually saving bridges. 40 site visits, publicly owned bridges that are under a preservation covenant for the structures.

Lessons learned. you bet cha.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted September 6, 2016, by Anonymous
Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted May 18, 2016, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Mr. Ehl pointed out that we left the fence open for those that will walk when the bridge is finished. And we did that on purpose! With the land owners support because where it opens is back on county road. But the land on either side is private and I suppose we can remedy that. These folks signed these agreements three years ago and knew that this was a bridge to nowhere. Funny how I was able to convince the land owner that special days would be fun, until we could own the land that he has.

Oh when will the KN ever get it right. Doubtful that they can, after years. Funny that we decided not to sue them for libel on their previous issues as we were working to get them a bridge across. No mention of the fact that we were the only ones to support this bridge getting finished.

but hey, that's what the court system is for, right? In the meantime, we just can't say too much because, I will say it again, that's what the courts are for. They'll figure out who took what and why and then we will all know the facts. In the meantime I wouldn't look to the newspaper to do this.

And they never ever said thank you for saving their bridge. No good deed ever goes unpunished but because of these folks Workin' Bridges won't indulge in helping Friends groups anymore.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted May 18, 2016, by Dan Ehl (kdanehl [at] yahoo [dot] com)
Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted May 18, 2016, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

It's a construction project and it isn't finished. Therefore, because there isn't enough money to finish, and the friends have raised only 2000, it must be gated. Our liability insurance is the key and Workin' Bridges is starting a crowdfunding on KoolProjects.com soon to try to find the dollars to finish this bridge and open it as a bridge park and land conservancy.

It would be foolish to believe anything in the Kalona News because they are a little fact-lite. But if you have questions I can certainly give you all the facts you might need.

What this has shown is that friends groups don't have skin in the game when it comes to staying to the finish and doing the tasks they did not like to do, raising funds. Everybody thought they should be the contractor though, and once we got it far enough, they really though Workin' Bridges should just go away and let them finish. That doesn't follow the plans or the need for an inspection to open.

In the meantime we are looking for vintage laced and riveted hub rail.



Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted May 17, 2016, by Anonymous
Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted April 4, 2016, by Jason Smith (flensburg [dot] bridgehunter [dot] av [at] googlemail [dot] com)

Here's a press release and update on the almost finished project with a lot of pics and cool videos. Enjoy! :-D Link: http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2016/04/04/bunker-mill...

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted March 22, 2016, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Tony, Hey, Thanks for adoptin' the apostrophe!. In my world that designates action....and that is as important to our mission statement as anything. I am contraction InDOT on one of these Workin' Bridges hbp for that Whipple in your state.

Those weren't my photos but they were definitely a trip to see. Here is one more by Steve Rauch from last summer.

Now the conversation begins on how to manage a historic bridge park. I would welcome comments. This one will have posts set to allow recreational vehicular use as well as the Amish buggies, people, dogs, bikes....

Respect and Don't be Stupid are at the top of my list.

What else?

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted March 21, 2016, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Whoa!...Trippin' with the pix Jules!!

Looks like it is coming along nicely...And good to see Nels without his leg in a cast! Although I don't think it slowed him down much on the Piano Bridge!

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted March 21, 2016, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

And I'm going to post these too because they tell a story in an art format that pulls out some details in a very cool way. They were taken and imaged by one of the volunteers who also works with IDOT for his day (and night) job. There are more so I did choose. It is hard work and my new Amish friend said to me, "it was hard work, but such an accomplishment". We are very grateful for their magic tricks for taking them off, and committing time and man power to putting them back on. It was community bridge building.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted March 21, 2016, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

You can trust us with your bridge dreams. Here with BACH Steel (Derek, Andy, Nels, Lee) pictured, our engineer Jim Schiffer, P.E. of Schiffer Engineering Inc. and me, the person you generally talk with first. There are more, they know.

There are more photos and videos from many perspectives at KoolProjects.com, as well as Friends of Bunker Mill Bridge on Facebook.

It takes passion and dedication to detail, these are big projects, this makes it look easy. Insurance, qualified contractors, nonprofit status, contractor and corporation.

The thing is: this is an in-kind restoration utilizing steel stringers that helped us level the approach to the bridge, we took off the detail signage revealing that M (yes we are keeping it, going to need some heat straigtening) I wanted part of it gone to reveal that King underneath remember and got schooled on that part of the historicalness (my word) by Jason and Luke.....(--), the signage is cast from the original that is at the Kalona Historic Village by Max Cast and hung by BACH Steel before they left this time. Workin' Bridges is the contractor and rented that big equipment, pushed the camera button, organized delivering Amish while Scott organized that great Iowa food, and we got it crossed with 3" white oak planks plained about six miles away. This crew was able to work with the Amish crew who worked with the English

We still have railing to create - both cast bars with donor names and normal laced railing (donations of railing or money are accepted) and the south approach bearing wall dug out and rebuilt back to the lime stone where it will protect the shoes, pins and eye-bars from debris. Old Mill Marketplace is headed to the south side (out of the flood plain), Earth Day will be for clean up and the opening of the bridge, most likely on May 17th, the first Almost Acoustic Tuesday (in this case it is Slew Grass and they are always acoustic)....the community has come together and we helped.

We had fun.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted March 19, 2016, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

There are ways and means to get it done. For me it starts with BACH and we fill in the other parts with lots of hands and lots of heart. It's about community that can be built around a bridge and we are grateful to so many who, like me, call it mine. Ownership by all is key. We got across.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted March 17, 2016, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

The sign.. cast by Max Cast. Hung by BACH.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted March 17, 2016, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Signage. Inkind restoration. Community.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted March 16, 2016, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

We have crossed the English.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted March 15, 2016, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Work has begun to cross the English by Wirkin' Bridges and BACH Steel. The friends are very happy there wait is over.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted September 13, 2015, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)
Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted May 7, 2015, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Didnt get the grant but we are going to have fun this summer....

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted May 7, 2015, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)
Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted July 3, 2014, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

For a group of friends that has lost a bridge before this picture sent by text was a welcome relief. Photo by Scott Allen. The yellow thing is the port potty that got hung up on the hitching rail. THE BRIDGE is not downstream, and our shack marketplace will just have to dry out and a plan to move it figured out. Though the way this water came up after 9" of rain and more in the watershed I'm not quite sure if it could have. That plan will now be in place so hopefully we won't have to see this anymore. right?

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted February 24, 2014, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

I don't have to post the press we got last week. This community raised so much money for their bridge, just not enough to get stringers and planks put on. Much care was taking by Workin' Bridges and Nels Raynor of BACH Steel. To see all the photos you can go to Flickr for sets of different projects. I enclose just one of the installation of the vertical posts that we hot riveted under Nels direction.

www.bunkermillbridge.org has a ton of photos of the project uploaded as well.

While we were not ready quite to give up the construction work, we know we are well positioned to finish in the late spring, into summer, working up the plans for the approach repairs to be done at the same time.

The signs were cast, the donor appreciation is going into V-Laced railing with cast flat stock. This town rocks and we look forward to better weather.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted February 23, 2014, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)
Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted January 8, 2014, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Max Cast's Doris Park and Steve Maxon described for the camera the process to be used to cast the original King Iron Bridge Co., Cleveland, O. sign for the Bunker Mill Bridge.

They have offered, and if we get permission, to sell aluminum versions. We will see where that goes.

The original sign will go back to the Kalona Historic Village and two signs will grace the portals with iron, once again.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted December 27, 2013, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Images from the construction site for the restoration of the bridge can be found at www.bunkermillbridge.org.

We will start to have video up on You Tube soon. It is our job to educate. W'B believes in the apprentice training. In order to become master at anything one has to do it. Many times I watch Nels let "crew" do the work, even when he would rather do it themselves, in order to give them that feeling and the experience they need to move these projects forward.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted December 22, 2013, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Yes he is Tony. He asked about you the other day. We are on holiday now but the eye-bar extra's were installed and the rollers were exposed....full of clay and mud. I'm sure I have a photo somewhere. We put them back with a teflon bearing plate attached to the original plate under the rollers. She straightened out and it was really a great day with a great connection between the operator/owner Jim Townsend of Townsend Crane (they do the odd stuff) and Nels with stories going both ways. The crane didn't budge, the portal lifted with a crack, they said it was a growl on the other side, and by the end of the day the load out was over.

It was cool. An interview during ice delay here..... http://www.cbs2iowa.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/ka...

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted December 21, 2013, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Nels is a Bridge-restoring Beast!

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted December 20, 2013, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Yeah, it's a King Iron Bridge Co. pratt truss rehabbed .... now being restored. Here's Nels Raynor....in his own words.


Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted December 18, 2013, by Art S. (Asuckewer [at] knite [dot] co )

Congrats to you and Nels! In light of the $60K budget gap, what is your best guess at a timetable to completion


Art S.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted December 18, 2013, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)
Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted December 1, 2013, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Purchasing the bridge was all of the battle. Then the community was able to do the work that it can. Fastest bridge restoration ever? Fastest, done with all standards and thinking in mind.

No hype, just hard work. It is because NSRGA/Workin' Bridges/FBMB are the owner/contractor/friends team. Nels Raynor and Jim Schiffer are a great team to work with. Add the local contingent and we have a success story being revealed.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted November 7, 2013, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Thanks Luke.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted November 6, 2013, by Luke Harden (lukemh9 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Yeah, I was the one who posted a link to an article in the Des Moines Register.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted November 6, 2013, by John Marvig (johnmarvig [at] chaska [dot] net)


I didn't post it. May have been Luke. I was in Iowa when it burned (I even considered visiting it the day before it burned). I certainly am disappointed I didn't.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted November 6, 2013, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Hey Art. Much like calling you last winter that's how we get involved. In the case of Bunker Mill Bridge someone (John Marvig?) posted the article about the arson. I called the county engineer and talked with the planning guy who told me about the trail project. No one called me back except the newspaper. I arranged to meet the editor Dan Ehl and a local contributor on the Wednesday after Labor Day. Nearly got arrested by the overzealous county engineer who had declared that with the planks burned the bridge must go.

The citizens were having a meeting on that Thursday, I presented our plans and what we do, including links to the documentary. With a few of the friends we created an agenda and after the town meeting invited those that wanted to be on the board to step up. Under the guidance of our non-profit they were able to take donations immediately and ultimately raised over $5000 in two weeks which enabled them to hire the Workin' Bridges team. This bridge is quite close to town and that affected the project.

Without NSRGA /Workin' Bridges supporting the Friends the Supervisors would have not moved so quickly. Not only to sell us the bridge but because of our expertise, but they gave the group $80,000 out of funds that had been allocated to destroy the bridge from the Secondary Roads Fund. The County Engineer continually mislead us and hated the fact that we didn't take his advice, but ultimately the citizens prevailed. The trail project has died because they were going to use the bridge but it would have to be modified to 8' wide and restricted to just bicycles and people, keeping us tied to federal restrictions although no money would come to the bridge. The bridge will now hub an area called Old English River Access and anyone may come and cross.

The $80,000 is key and unexpectedly great way to start the ball rolling. And it continues to help setting the precedent for demo funds used for restoration. Because we are the primary contractor now, we can also work with an Amish community as well. The ability to work with volunteers to get the bridge project really going is huge here but doesn't work in all cases. That is how they work in that area, a couple of white oak trees donated for planks, bull dozers to return the approach to approachable instead of hazardous ( the trench the county had augmented recently, below grade of the concrete (any major rain would have wiped that out but it was to be demolished). The approach is now open until the bridge is restored and that shows forward progress.

I am referring to the 1909 M portal bracing installed by Iowa Bridge Co., by removing it and thereby returning it to its 1887 King Iron Bridge Co. appearance? As long as we can get the lateral stability up to standards with stringers etc we can remove the additional and return it to the original. There was also an engineering report done by Shive Hattery in 2008 that helped us immensely when the county engineer dug in his feet about having an engineer come from Michigan. The drawings will be signed and sealed so why does that matter? Narrow reading of a statue and a determination by the county engineer to make it as hard as possible. Steve Bradley donated those original CAD drawings to our engineer just two days ago after I called to thank him.

Example: Who bought you in/hired you to help save the bridge? We came in and partnered with the friends after two days, just me showing up. They started a board of directors to work with the friends and now, eight weeks later, we will go into engineering and working drawings with our team from Michigan, Nels Raynor and Jim Schiffer.

How is this person/group participating today? The board of twelve (with some additions and changes since the beginning) which includes me, continues to make decisions and fund raise to find operating and matching funds. This part of the county has been ignored by County Conservation Board and pretty much feel they have to do it themselves. With our experience we were able to help them avoid mistakes we made with lawyers, easements, purchases and being the non-profit could ask for help from the local Riverboat Foundation - again very quickly. That announcement will come in December but remember it's hard to count on grant funding.

How are the bills getting paid today? Who is writing the proposals? Original funding has helped pay our expenses to date. I write most of the proposals with help from members of the board of directors of Friends of Bunker Mill Bridge and they continue to bring in different ideas about other local grants from the energy company and the water boards. Allan King Sloan was someone who helped Skunk River Bridge get started and he was able to help with a donation for this friends group, if you remember it was us that identified this bridge as being a King Iron Bridge Co. bridge (despite what you read here). We send out thanks and acknowledgements immediately another service we provide and our nonprofit helps get the local bank accounts started. The Friends will become their own nonprofit eventually because the buck stops with them as there was no help from Kalona nor Washington County other than the road money. We are grateful for that.

There were no County or casino moneys in place when we started - hence the feeling proud of what we were able to accomplish by partnering with the locals who love their bridge to get those moneys. Our leading the direction (purchase and lease agreements at the first BOS meeting) allowed the process to be defined towards saving and we were able to jump all of the hurdles so far that were put in our way by a contentious County Engineer. Their were many who said we would never get the Supervisors to agree but a very robust showing up at all BOS meetings helped sway the outcome.

Check out the facebook page for Friends of Bunker Mill Bridge. That is where much gets posted. The townspeople have donated, gone to events, given good, much time and services. I do think, even if we don't receive a bulk of the money from the casino funds that we will persevere towards completion of the restoration sooner than later. Saturday morning we have invited all that want to volunteer or work on the bridge to meet with the team and see where there role is. Because we are the non-profit and contractor we can eliminate costs that would make the project to daunting, and hope to help them save a lot of money as well as bringing a community together.

Comer Bridge Foundation has also hired us to help and we can see a positive outcome for their very historic 2156' span over the Tennessee River in Alabama. It is our experience overall and my ability to find the bureacrats and politicians involved that puts these groups ahead of others in the bridge restoration game.

We don't plan to throw the M Portal Bracing away, and we will certainly tell the story of who and when that was installed but bringing this bridge back to original is our goal, and it's what the locals want, not just us.

I remember talking to you as well at the beginning of the year Art. I do believe that a site visit to New Jersey and trying to find the right bridge to save for you is key. But it does take a village or the expenses are very high. It's not that we are expensive but that these jobs are huge and therefore cost a lot.

Of course money will dictate the course that we take and we will know more next week whether this bridge will undertake a full restoration back to original which is more than taking the M Portal Bracing off and repurposing it to entry gates.

Stay tuned. and thanks for asking Art. We look forward to taking on more bridges and now that we are a bonafide contractor as well as nonprofit and consulting we are looking at investors to hire the team to take us to the next step. We are grateful for those that find our help invaluable and are always looking for more Friends. Going back to Waterford to bid on their project hoping we can at least get them started with abutment repair which is key for their project. I also followed up with Des Moines City engineers and have found that their closing of the Jackson Street Bridge was due to intensive inspections with ultrasound and finding cracks in the eyebars. We will try to give them some idea of the cost of full restoration there and with the Water Works pony trusses that come up real soon.

While the FBMB crew was coming on here early they didn't appreciate the name calling and have opted out of posting here. They will have a web site of their own soon and of course facebook has been key to getting the word out (as well as a sympathetic newspaper Kalona News). So go there if you want to talk with them.


Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted November 6, 2013, by Jason Smith (JDSmith77 [at] gmx [dot] net)

I think that would be absurd to remove the M-frame, for it compromises the aesthetic value and beauty of the bridge in general. If I was to restore the bridge, I would restore it exactly the way it was before something like arson happened, for the M-frame has as much historical value as the Town Lattice, and no bridge in Iowa has something as unique as this one. And I believe officials as SHPO and IaDOT would agree with that. My two cents on this topic.


Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted November 5, 2013, by Art S. (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)


Are you referring to the 1909 M portal bracing installed by Iowa Bridge Co. thereby returning it to its 1887 King Iron Bridge Co. appearance?

I'm also having a little trouble following where and how your group supported the local groups and where your group took the lead. I understand the part about your prior experiences bringing value but it isnt clear to me, based on what you wrote, how the effort, beyond the guidance, was shared. Example: Who bought you in/hired you to help save the bridge? How is this person/group participating today? How are the bills getting paid today? Who is writing the proposals? You found Alfred King Sloan, were the County and casino moneys in place when they brought you in?

What has been achieved required a tremendous amount of work and it will be a shame if others looking to do this will not get a clear understanding of their role in the process.

I'd love it if the person that brought you in would post here to share their point of view as well.


Art S.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted November 4, 2013, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Hoping still the portal bracing will come off and become part of the entry. Workin' Bridges is the contractor. Will know more about the scope soon but it will not be years. This community is coming together under our volunteer program and non profit acceptance of goods and services. BACH Steel and Schiffer Group site visit this week. Working together across cultures to get this bridge restored this year.

And there are no trail plans. This is a bridge hub for all to come to and use...not just bikes and peds.

Owner contractor & Friends

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 22, 2013, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

The riveted lattice portal bracing and the posts where a King Bridge sign will hang are the real clues to the background of this structure.

Everything thing that we have learned at NSRGA / Workin' Bridges in the last four years started with failing to understand the bowstring when it was dropped in my lap. It was listed with NRHP under the wrong name. That listing made us think we could find money to help. (No). Our lawyer didn't realize we needed a structure purchase agreement and a land lease which is key in how we approach work today. We started a nonprofit because we got ripped off by a Community Foundation for a percentage of every original donation, we charge only an hourly rate for administrative duties like acknowledgements to donors. We got liability on the land but not on the bridge and we continue to work with NTHP on the insurance's that are needed, with or without FEDERAL money being used. Maintenance is so little when these structures are restored, it is common sense, visual inspections, keeping tree and leaf debris at bay. We try to work without any federal money because of the restrictions imposed by a 20 year full replacement and most of the bridges we work with are county owned so they know better than to use federal money if at all possible. Except for Winneshiek County where they use the 80/20 all the time and just go through the process to tear down, Gilliece and Ft. Atkinson are next.

Because of our non-profit and consulting arms we are able to step in and empower local citizen groups. Those champions have the knowledge of the community to back up fundraising and I am the new girl in town that will listen to all of the stories. Because we are a non-profit and working with contractors we can find places where either volunteers or in-kind donations can be made, like the dirt work done on Old River Bridge Access today. These projects are expensive but we can do what we can to put the money where it counts.

Because of our previous experience we knew how to lead the supervisors in the direction we wanted them to go from the very first meeting (it took four in the end), and in this case, to use demolition funds for restoration. This county also has a private casino-based foundation that is dedicated to funding local endeavours and we just made the grant deadline on the day we purchased the bridge because the Supervisors called a Special Session to help us finish getting the signed agreements lawyered up. The Friends of Bunker Mill Bridge have embarked on a capital campaign to raise more matching funds and we were able to use the county money as a match That was key. I was also able to contact Allan King Sloan and their foundation donated to the capital campaign. This friends group had solid people that stood up and wanted to be part of the original board of directors. Marketing, managing, meeting landowners and working with supervisors and county engineer that wanted this bridge gone. For the friends board we used a Facebook closed group to get through most of the negotiations for easements, purchase and grant writing.

All of the opinions aside as to what kind of a person I am, it is my experience in construction, design and working with contractors and policy makers, that has brought this company to the place where we can help other groups today. Comer Bridge Foundation in Scottsboro and CRISP in Burlington have also chosen to work with us, because I never give up. It is those experiences that we are taking back to Poweshiek County as we rebrand Friends of Skunk River Bridge to help fund the final phase of our bowstring project.

Art, thanks for asking how we made a difference. I don't believe that when something is the truth it is out of bounds to celebrate it, and I will continue to post here as action happens. Just like it did yesterday when we filled in the trench around the approach abutment that was used to keep people away from their bridge. That work was done by a volunteer who just wanted to help for 5 hours and the cost of mobilization and diesel. We were all a little envious of the bulldozer as it cleared away the scrub close to the bridge so we can get in their and cut down larger trees that are too close to eyebars and such.

The signage and the motto will be "Don't be Stupid", you don't really want to own this bridge. Don't get sidetracked by all the chitter chatter by the anonymi, I don't.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 21, 2013, by Jason Smith (JDSmith77 [at] gmx [dot] net)

Fmiser, The Town Lattice portal bracing was coined some years back namely because the interwoven bracings resemble that of the truss bridge design. When it was first used is unclear... I'll check to make sure that the categories are correct.

As for the date of the arson, I'll have a look at it and make the correction. :-)

Thanks for the points! JS

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 21, 2013, by Fmiser (fmiser [at] gmail [dot] com)

Jason, thanks for the detailed essay. *smiles*

A couple comments. You refer to the lattice portal brace as a "Town lattice". I don't see a relationship between the portal brace and Town's design except they are both a lattice.

Next, you mention arson on 12 August - but not a year. That may be fine right now, but please presume this document won't change for dozens of years so a year would be nice.

Julie, and others,

I was saddened to read of the arson and plans to scrap the bridge - then heartened to read of it being saved. Thank you to all who put effort into saving the bridge _and_ documenting it (and all the other, not-so-high-profile bridges) on this website.

It seems to me the clashes are because the involved people are passionate. And while I would rather not see cat fights, I would much rather have a few folks with a passion for bridges who occasional bicker than to have many hundreds who don't really care.

But it's not my website, and I'm not really even a big contributor, so my opinion is probably not worth more than the space it takes up on your screen. :)

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 21, 2013, by Luke Harden (lukemh9 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Art, Julie was/is being adamant (haughtily so) that "King Bridge Co." should be the ONLY thing in the builder's section (Even though it's the ONLY logical place for the pertinent information to go as the website's design currently stands. She's also demanding that James add new boxes IMMEDIATELY instead of waiting for the ANNUAL site updates early next year.).

Jason, myself and several others (Some of whom I consulted with in private on this matter.) are in disagreement with that notion.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 21, 2013, by ArtS (Asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)

First off, congratulations to Julie and everyone else involved in rescuing the bridge! Everything else is secondary.

That said, I'm curious how the bridge was saved, apparently so quickly. Were groups already in place that brought Julie in or did Julie organize the groups? What was Julie's role in relation to the groups and the government? Which group accepted the liability and how were they able to demonstrate they had the wherewithal to accept the liability? Was it a simple matter of getting insurance? If so, how much did it cost and who paid? Who is heading up the fundraising and how big is the group Of people writing the proposals?

Julie, what did you learn from the difficulty you encountered in your bowstring that made things flow so smoothly here? Was this due to prior legwork or your doing?

Also, I don't understand the discussion regarding the builder. Is Julie saying that King built the bridge and others were involved in various repairs, while others are saying that multiple builders built the bridge or are the positions different than this?

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 21, 2013, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Got the King Bridge sign on it. I don't care really about the other bits so much. Who the salesman was or who rehabbed it when. Remember there was nothing but a steel mark when i started researching this bridge we now own. Earth moved. Approach open.

Moving o

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 21, 2013, by Jason Smith (JDSmith77 [at] gmx [dot] net)

Julie, you cannot make changes when the information that has been posted on there is correct. If you do not believe me, I will send you a pdf copy which will show that I am indeed in the right on this one. King Bridge Company was not the only one that built this GD bridge.


Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 21, 2013, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Passionate. Bragging. Those are judgements I cant care about. Knowing that the information is skewed I cant do anything about. Dealing with name calling has been juvenile and again a waste of time.

We are starting to save more bridges. Not only will I market the team I will sing their praises. This is hard work and its taken years to start winning.

Bragging rights when they are due. And certainly still want changes to database to give builders rights to the one with the sign. KING IRON BRIDGE CO. CLEVELAND O.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 21, 2013, by Jason Smith (JDSmith77 [at] gmx [dot] net)

Hi Don, while I am not the one going by Greek names, etc., I do want to make a point that Julie's project is very exciting and I do appreciate the passion she puts in. However one needs to control their feelings when posting here. Taking pride in a project or a bridge being restored for future use is one thing. Bragging about a victory or being a control freak over what information should (or should not) go in should not be in there. This not only applies to the events of a couple weekends ago but also for all posts, esp. as this website is not ours to own but ours to post as long as the webmaster sees it as appropriate. My two cents on this topic.


Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 21, 2013, by Don Morrison

I can't fault Julie for being excited about preserving an historic bridge. She's pretty passionate about it and obviously puts a lot of effort into the task of saving these bridges against the realities of time, weather and limited funds that endanger them.

I do politely request that individuals express their serious opinions under their name, and save anonymous posting for ancient Greeks and dead bridge builders, and other humorous posts. Not so much that I want to know your name, but I really can't take someone seriously if they post acrimoniously behind a pseudonym.



Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 20, 2013, by Anonymous

Everybody hates a winner.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 20, 2013, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

The only thing that matters is another King Bridge save. And standing behind one's name with truth. I got everything.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 20, 2013, by Horatio H (banishthebull [at] comcast [dot] com)

Just can't stop being FULL of yourself, can you lady?

I do like seeing historic bridges saved, but I totally don't care for someone who thinks they are better than anyone else. You act as if nobody else besides yourself is capable of helping a group do this, well guess again! I would have no problem giving you some credit if you didn't already give yourself more than you deserve.

Try being a little humble and not quite so self-absorbed!

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 20, 2013, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Tomorrow we fill in trenches and begin the task of restoring the site for the King Bridge to come back to life. The friends, with the support of NSRGA and Workin' Bridges, and our ability to work with a multi cultural community, got a real boost from our expertise. This would not have happened so quickly without all of us. Old River Bridge Access is.

Btw that would be MS. HIGH and Mighty to you anonymous.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 14, 2013, by Annoymous (dontcare [at] nomore [dot] com)

How come when someone else calls Miss High and Mighty Julie a name it gets edited out of the post but she is allowed to say Bull$hit and it gets left up?

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 14, 2013, by Luke

Actually, the information posted is INDEED correct.

Jason got his information from a survey that Fraser Design and HessRoise conducted for/with the Iowa Department of Transportation in 1992.

The aforementioned survey is the exact same survey that the IaDOT references in almost all of their historic bridge database entries.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 14, 2013, by Anonymous

Very little-to-none of the backlash you received came about because you acquired the bridge.

Most of us, if not all of us glad that you're saving the bridge.

What DID draw the criticism and vitriol you received was the fact that you had made haughty (And rather illogical.) demands (As well as demanding that we obey those commands.) just because you own the bridge.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 14, 2013, by Jason Smith (JDSmith77 [at] gmx [dot] net)

Uh Julie, I'm just going by what was mentioned in the newspapers and by what you said. If you want the correct info from your end, then perhaps you can add it but on a more professional level. Besides, didn't you say that despite estimates of 460k that it will most likely decrease? Was I right on that????

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 14, 2013, by Jason Smith (JDSmith77 [at] gmx [dot] net)

FINALLY, after receiving a number of complaints and even read some on the bragging rights posted on this page, I took the privilege to edit the page to reflect the bridge's importance and to eliminate the junk that had been staining the website as a whole in the last few days. The Bridgehunter.com website is an infomrational website designed to inform people about the bridges, their history and their importance as they are dwindling in numbers. I know that many people are happy about the Bunker Mill Bridge being owned by a private group, but bragging about it by adding inappropriate information in the essays and the fact sheets is just as bad as someone spraypainting the Kissing Wall in Jerusalem. In other words, it's just NOT COOL!!! It makes me feel happy that I own my own online column because at least I can edit and post the appropriate information to make it look professional. I hope this editing work (albeit it took a lot of my time away from my own obligations) will serve as a signal for all to think before posting on this website. Keep your facts straight. Keep your vulgar language to yourself. And most importantly, keep it informational and professional.

OMT: Remember, purchasing the bridge is only HALF the battle. The other battle has yet to be won. In other words, GET TO WORK and GET IT DONE! ;-O

That's more bitching than I care to do here. ;-)

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 13, 2013, by Tom the Taxpayer (checksinthemail [at] futurecast [dot] com)

Pretty hilarious that you refer to it as "MY" bridge when it will take "OUR" money to fix it!

I think you need a reality check lady!!!

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 13, 2013, by Anonymous

Including the other info in the builder's section doesn't skew the data at all.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 13, 2013, by J.P. (wildcatjon2000 [at] gmail [dot] com)

just my opinion is that Rehab companies are just as important as the original builder, because without them there is a good chance their is no bridge for working bridges to save. Just a thought.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 13, 2013, by Anonymous

Just because you own the bridge does not mean you can decide what information is relevant to it.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 12, 2013, by Horatio H (banishthebull [at] comcast [dot] com)

Sounds like somebody on here likes to blow their horn a little too much and it's getting old really fast!

Just fix the bridge and stop making a sideshow out of it!!!

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 12, 2013, by Anonymous

The stuff that you exclaim is "graffiti" is actually rather pertinent information related to the bridge.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted October 11, 2013, by Jason Smith (JDSmith77 [at] gmx [dot] net)
Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted September 29, 2013, by Jason Smith (JDSmith77 [at] gmx [dot] net)

Julie, as I indicated before, Iowa Bridge Company was responsible for the rehabilitation of the bridge in 1913. This was according to the IaDOT bridge records which I have in my possession. If you want a copy of the records, I'll be happy to provide them to you....

James, please ensure that the bridge builder is mentioned as well. Thank you!

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted September 16, 2013, by Jason Smith (JDSmith77 [at] gmx [dot] net)

Update on the Bunker Mill Bridge in Iowa. http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2013/09/16/bunker-mill...

Two very important events to keep in mind: Board of Supervisors Meeting on 17 September and the first of (hopefully) many fundraisers on 19 September. More details in the link above!

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted September 8, 2013, by Jason Smith (JDSmith77 [at] gmx [dot] net)


The information about Iowa BC's involvement with this bridge came from the records I obtained from IaDOT. While there are no plaques or concrete markings to prove it (just the M-frame portal bracings that were tacked onto the original Town Lattice ones), the information on the reconstruction came from the newspaper archives.


Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted September 7, 2013, by Anonymous

AMS USA is the mill mark for Arcelor-Mittal Steel. They were formed from French (Arcelor) and Indian (Mittal) steel companies, and have bought a number of mills in America over the last few years.

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted September 5, 2013, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

If anyone could talk their way outta something Jules... I bet it would be you! ;-)

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted August 13, 2013, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

So the Fire Chief says it's not possible now to use the bridge as part of the proposed trail system. It's an iron bridge and all that burned was the wooden deck... So put a new deck on it and use it!!!

If it is going to be subject to derelicts setting fire to the deck, then put a metal grate deck on it. Let's see em' try to burn that!

Bunker Mill Bridge
Posted August 12, 2013, by Luke Harden (lukemh9 [at] gmail [dot] com)
Kalona (Nutmeg Avenue) Bridge
Posted September 6, 2011, by Anonymous

Nice pics. The top part in #10 looks like it says Phoenix Iron Co.