9 votes

Michigan Street Bridge


Michigan Street Bridge 03-06-10

Crane barges working on the rehabilitation of the span.

Photo taken by Robert Thompson in March 2010


BH Photo #157140

Street View 


Steel Bridge Reopening 1/3/2011

Morning of the reopening. City Engineer Tony Depies plays down the fanfare while others enjoy a hard-won, long awaited moment. Additional footage of my first complete crossing.

pat maCdonald Video posted by Robert Thompson

Play video on YouTube

Crossing Our (T's), and Dotting Our (I's):Historic Michigan Street Bridge, Sturgeon Bay, WI 

Written by Shawn Fairchild for Citizens for Our Bridge, Inc.

In early 1999, at the presentation of the" Millennium 2000" project toward saving America's treasures, Richard Moe made a statement that sums up the mission our group set out to achieve nearly four years ago. "Not every community has an Independence Hall, but every single community in America has treasures that make it unique, that make it a special place. Saving these treasures is not someone else's job!"

In 1986, Wisconsin conducted an evaluation of its historic bridges, as part of their Historic Preservation Plan, that allowed for the integration of these structures, when possible, into the WisDOT's programs and planning processes. In that plan, twenty four bascule bridges were evaluated for their potential to be listed on the NRHP [National Register of Historic Places]. Our Michigan Street Bridge was one of those twenty four. Jeffrey Hess was contracted to perform the study, and concluded that ten of those twenty four merited NRHP recognition. In 1996, only seven of those ten remained. Three of those were slated for replacement, and three others were considered functionally obsolete. Due to the rapid loss, the SHPO called for a re-evaluation of several of those previously ineligible bridges, Upon further review, the WisDOT developed a Bascule Bridge Inventory of thirteen bridges that met the NRHP's 50 - year age requirement. The Michigan Street Bridge is on that list.

Our Michigan Street Bridge is the only example of an overhead-truss, Scherzer-type, double-leaf, rolling-lift bascule in the State of Wisconsin. The inventory form states, "that overhead truss construction was reserved for movable spans subjected to great stresses. Thus, this method was appropriate for the windy Sturgeon Bay site, the bridge's heavy vehicular use, and the required 140 foot clear span crossing. This span was the largest in Wisconsin at the time of construction." (1931) The other area of historic merit lies in the design of the bascule span itself. It was designed by the Chicago firm of Keller and Harrington, both from the former Scherzer Company, specialists in movable bridges.

In 1994, during an inspection of the bridge, stress cracks were discovered in the rolling and track gears, that were creating stress in the drive gears of the lift spans. In the eyes of WisDOT, this was a significant ailment that left no alternative, but to slate the bridge for replacement, and they then set that plan into motion. In 1995, a band-aid repair was made to the track and roller gear, in order to give the drive gear enough clearance to "operate for the next ten years". In the mean time the Programmatic Process was moving forward, and the WisDOT was negotiating bridge replacement in the City of Sturgeon Bay.

In January of 1997, the Programmatic Agreement had been completed, and signed by all parties involved in its creation. We were unaware of this process at this time, and were only aware of the bridge issue at the local level, and through the WisDOT negotiations with the City of Sturgeon Bay. It was in early 1997 that the DOT presented the "first" public hearing for the 'replacement" of the Michigan Street Bridge. It was also at this meeting that a number of us wondered why they were replacing the bridge, and why it could not be rehabilitated, or restored. We were told at that meeting that it could in fact be rehabilitated, but that the costs of that endeavor would just not be feasible. We then inquired about any evaluations toward rehabilitation that might have been done, that would have determined feasibility. There were none!! II was at this time that we questioned the SHPO as to how this could happen, with such an important icon to the State of Wisconsin.

At this point we researched the Programmatic Agreement, and stumbled into the opportunity to provide objection to the to the process. It is in this process that we found avenues to have a say in what happens to our Historic Bridge, and it Is in this process that we found opportunity. We have found that the weakness in this situation, lies with our own WisDOT, and their steadfastness to hold their ground, and the mis-information they brought to our community. When Richard Moe said that, "Saving these treasures is not someone else's job!", we believe he really meant that it is everyone's job! We believe it is FHWA, SHP, NTHP, SHTP, DOT's, State, County, and City Governments, and the Public, should do everything possible, exhaust all possible avenues, toward saving valuable historic structures, and re-using them in our everyday lives, as well as those of our children. The very idea of replacing a structure as significant as our bridge, our treasure that makes us unique", should be the hardest thing do. Unfortunately, in our experience quite the opposite is true. It is this that we would like to bring to the table and discuss. We have never taken the position of "Save the bridge at all costs", but have been open to getting all" of the information necessary to make the right decision, and then would live by that decision.

Editor's Note:The above paper was written by Shawn Fairchild for the organization, "Citizens for our Bridge, Inc." a 501(c)3 organization that has worked tirelessly to save the Michigan Street Bridge from destruction, including raising funds with a weekend-long annual Steel Bridge Songfest.

Mr. Fairchild presented this paper at the Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial Acheology, held in Duluth, Minnesota on June 3, 2000. The paper has been reprinted here with the kind permission of Citizens for our Bridge, Incorporated and may not be reproduced without the consent of Citizens for our Bridge, Inc.


Bascule through truss bridge over Sturgeon Bay on Michigan Street in Sturgeon Bay
Sturgeon Bay, Door County, Wisconsin
Open to traffic
Built 1930; rehabilitated 1979; rehabilitation complete January 03, 2011
- Keller & Harrington of Chicago, Illinois
- Wausau Iron Works of Wausau, Wisconsin
Parker through truss
Length of largest span: 165.4 ft.
Total length: 1,420.0 ft.
Deck width: 24.0 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 11.5 ft.
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on January 17, 2008
Also called
Sturgeon Bay Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+44.83234, -87.38012   (decimal degrees)
44°49'56" N, 87°22'48" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
16/469953/4964395 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Sturgeon Bay West
Average daily traffic (as of 2017)
Inventory numbers
NRHP 07001420 (National Register of Historic Places reference number)
BH 34738 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection report (as of May 2017)
Overall condition: Good
Superstructure condition rating: Good (7 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Good (7 out of 9)
Deck condition rating: Very Good (8 out of 9)
Sufficiency rating: 72.5 (out of 100)
View more at BridgeReports.com

Update Log 

  • July 9, 2016: New photos from Peter Johnson
  • October 5, 2014: New photos from Douglas Butler
  • June 24, 2013: New photo from Robert Thompson
  • March 18, 2012: Merged duplicate listings; updated information; fixed links
  • March 2, 2011: New photos from Robert Thompson
  • January 4, 2011: Updated by Robert Thompson: Bridge reopened after rehab
  • August 4, 2010: New Street View added by Jason Smith
  • April 14, 2010: Updated by Robert Thompson: Corrected map location
  • April 14, 2010: Updated by Bill Eichelberger: Mapped.
  • March 6, 2010: New photo from Robert Thompson
  • August 16, 2009: Updated by J.R. Manning: Updated GPS and updated bridge data
  • May 6, 2009: New photos from J.R. Manning
  • August 19, 2008: New photo from J.R. Manning


  • J.R. Manning - thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net
  • National Trust For Historic Preservation - Section 4(f) Case Study: Michigan Street Bridge, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
  • Wikipedia
  • Bill Eichelberger
  • Jason Smith - flensburg [dot] bridgehunter [dot] av [at] googlemail [dot] com
  • Robert Thompson
  • Douglas Butler
  • Peter Johnson


Michigan Street Bridge
Posted April 22, 2016, by Robert Thompson

Time to restrict truck traffic from this bridge. There are other routing options available for vehicles that could damage the trusses.


Michigan Street Bridge film made of construction in 1931
Posted November 11, 2013, by Robert Thompson
Twin leaf bascule bridge over Fox River on Racine Street in Menasha
Posted September 17, 2013, by aperry (purpleravenlady [at] gmail [dot] com)

May I use one of your images of the Racine Fox River Bridge for a one time presentation to a client? It was taken in October 2011. It would not be printed or distributed. Twin leaf bascule bridge over Fox River on Racine Street in Menasha

Michigan Street Bridge
Posted June 25, 2013, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Bach Ornamental & Structural Steel in Holt, Michigan is responsible for a lot of our work in Michigan. The link Robert found is for a firm run by Steve Howell who has riveted on bridge projects also. In terms of large rivets, its pretty much only a matter of getting bigger equipment. Steve rivets using hydraulic riveting, which adds to the available methods to rivet. Also, please note that the landmark Longfellow Bridge in Cambridge, MA is being rehabilitated with riveting part of the project. This may be the largest bridge project to use riveting in modern times.

Hot riveting
Posted June 25, 2013, by Robert Thompson (rkt [dot] engineering [at] gmail [dot] com)

Looking around the web, there are a few shops that do riveting. I don't know if many can handle the large (5/8 inch and larger) rivets used in major structural work.

I found a cool site, though:


Hot riveting
Posted June 25, 2013, by Anonymous

I was unaware there were any fabricators capable of hot riveting. Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay was the last shipbuilder capable of doing it; their rivet crew would often find themselves with plane tickets to other countries to do repair work on riveted ships. I haven't heard of them doing any riveted work in at least a decade. Repairs on riveted ships are now done CAREFULLY with welded joints.

Who are these fabricators? I'd like to know where they are located. While I haven't had to deal with riveted construction for a number of years, it would be worthwhile to know where to find talent able to address repair work.

Michigan Street Bridge
Posted June 25, 2013, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

The James Bond movie "A View To Kill" has a scene where a bascule counterweight crushes a car. The news story mentioned reminds me of this.

Robert: Browsing through your photos, I noticed a comment that "no fabricator today is equipped to do hot riveting." If Wisconsin DOT or some other authority was claiming this they were plain wrong. There are many reasons why rivets may have not been used on this project, but at the time this rehab was undertaken, fabricators as close as Michigan and Indiana would have been able to complete a contract that specified use of rivets.

Michigan Street Bridge
Posted June 24, 2013, by Robert Thompson

This is why remote-controlled bridges may not be such a good idea...


Michigan Street Bridge
Posted March 25, 2013, by Robert Thompson

A 1000 foot freighter passes through the Michigan Street and Oregon Street bridges.


Michigan Street Bridge
Posted June 22, 2011, by Robert Thompson

I thought I did the old cut-n-paste. Odd.

Michigan Street Bridge
Posted June 21, 2011, by Spanfan (susorcar [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Hi, Robert-

I was just perusing the posts & noticed your effort to try to contact this person. It looks like you added an extra "n" in "bonnea"-that may be why it didn't go through.


Michigan Street Bridge
Posted June 21, 2011, by Robert Thompson (rkt [dot] engineering [at] gmail [dot] com)

I emailed you, but got this:

Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:


Technical details of permanent failure:

Google tried to deliver your message, but it was rejected by the recipient domain. We recommend contacting the other email provider for further information about the cause of this error. The error that the other server returned was: 550 550 5.1.1 User unknown (state 14).

My email addy is at the top, but you will have to replace (dot) with . and (at) with @

Michigan Street Bridge
Posted June 21, 2011, by Erika (bonnea17 [at] uwgb [dot] edu)

Mr. Thompson, I am hoping you may be able to help me. You seem very knowledgeable about the Michigan Street Bridge, and I was hoping you would be willing to contact me via my email, bonnnea17@uwgb.edu. I work for Voyageur Magazine and we are writing an article about the bridge and its history. Please contact me if you happen to receive this, I'm sorry to put this up on here but I simply cannot find any contact info for you.


Michigan Street Bridge
Posted May 8, 2009, by Christie Weber (christieweb [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Thanks so much for adding this to your site! Please join us for Steel Bridge Songfest June 11, 12, 13 and 14th as our guest. Christie

Michigan Street Bridge
Posted September 6, 2008, by J.R. Manning (thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net)

The bridge is, according to authorities, safe for vehicles up to five tons. Selfish morons who travel the bridge with vehicles over five tons have done enough damage to require law enforcement to keep the overloads off the bridge.

Michigan Street Bridge
Posted August 19, 2008, by david yates (david_y [at] bellsouth [dot] net)

While the bridge is eight hundred feet long, what was really interesting is that it had a five ton weight limit which was strictly enforced by having policemen monitor both ends of the bridge full time. Is the bridge really safe? I can only assume the third picture shows its more sturdy replacement