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Wood, Concrete, Stone, and Steel

Wood, Concrete, Stone, and Steel: Minnesota’s Historic Bridges

Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Wood, Concrete, Stone, and Steel
    Book Description:

    Like never before we are aware of the crucial place of bridges in our lives. Wood, Concrete, Stone, and Steel documents and celebrates a wide range of the state’s rural and urban spans. Historian Denis P. Gardner tells the remarkable stories of their construction and makes a compelling argument for the value of preserving our bridges and the cultural heritage they carry.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5647-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    (pp. IX-X)
    (pp. XI-XI)
    (pp. XII-XIII)
    (pp. 1-21)

    New York engineer Thomas Musgrove Griffith’s “fairy-like creation” was a wagon bridge over the Mississippi River, spanning the distance from Nicollet Island to what would become the city of Minneapolis. Griffith’s bridge was special because it was a rare mid-nineteenth-century example of a suspension span. And it was notable for another reason as well: it was the first bridge to reach across the Mississippi River.¹

    The bridge was constructed in 1854, although the formal opening was not until early 1855. Minneapolis was more than a decade away from incorporating as a city. It would not even become a township until...

    (pp. 23-41)

    Newspapers in late-nineteenth-century Minnesota, as in many places, welcomed florid prose. Even while describing transportation infrastructure, journalists longed for the romantic. Perhaps the poetic voice of theMinneapolis Tribunepassage quoted as the epigraph of this section is understandable, for by 1877, Minneapolis had traded its frontier fortress spanning the Mississippi River for a quixotic medieval castle.

    At least by 1873, Minneapolis, a community with a fading memory of its squatter origins, wanted a new bridge over the Mississippi River at Hennepin Avenue. Two years later, the city awarded construction of the crossing to George McMullen, a contractor based in...

    (pp. 43-115)

    Few newspaper articles today begin with verse. Perhaps present-day journalists are more objective, less apt to interject emotion into a story. But in Minneapolis in the early 1890s, the city’s population was bursting in all directions, as was the built environment necessary to support the population. It was a time when the community was morphing so quickly into a sophisticated, major metropolitan city that excitement, pride, and partiality ruled. In truth, the third Hennepin Avenue Bridge at Minneapolis was such a lovely piece of infrastructural art that, maybe, traversing it actually made some feel rather cheery.

    The bridge came about...

    (pp. 117-157)

    In the late twentieth century, Minneapolis built a new bridge across the Mississippi River at Hennepin Avenue. For a century, the steel ribbed arch completed by Horace E. Horton of Rochester, Minnesota, and the Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio, faithfully carried citizens of Minneapolis across America’s grandest river. By the 1980s, some in city government believed the bridge had outlived its usefulness and pushed hard for a new crossing. Others pushed back. Some politicians and engineers argued that the bridge was in such poor shape that even rehabilitation would not allow it to support modern traffic loads. Not...

    (pp. 159-167)

    A number of years ago, I was in leafy northern Wisconsin researching and surveying the Taylor Bridge, a tiny crossing named for a local man who helped build it. The bridge was a timber queen post, an especially rare type of truss bridge. The Taylor Bridge was so rare that it was the only known example of its type on Wisconsin’s roadways (Minnesota has none). I spent an hour photographing the delightful structure, taking notes on its construction and admiring its prodigious hornet’s nest, a magnificent goiter of humming activity drooping like a teardrop from a floor beam. During that...

    (pp. 169-198)

    Anoka–Champlin Mississippi River Bridge (Bridge No. 4380)

    U.S. Highway 169 over Mississippi River, Anoka

    This monumental reinforced-concrete, open-spandrel ribbed arch was designed by the Minnesota Department of Highways (MHD) and completed by the Minneapolis Bridge Company in 1929. A photograph of this bridge is on page 146.

    Bridge No. L0077

    Unpaved township road over St. Francis River, Glendorado


    Completed circa 1910, this bridge is a relatively early example of a steel stringer.

    Nymore Bridge (Bridge No. 2366)

    First Street over Mississippi River, Bemidji

    This Classical Revival–style, reinforced-concrete arch was designed by the Standard Reinforced Concrete Company of...

    (pp. 199-202)

    After reading this book, one cannot help being impressed by the diversity, number, and types of bridges in Minnesota. From the Hennepin Avenue suspension bridge to the rare bowstring-truss Kern Bridge, from the unusual Hastings Spiral Bridge and Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge to the solid stone arches, the state obviously has a rich cultural and architectural heritage in its bridges.

    Yet the most famous bridge incident in Minnesota happened quite recently, when the Interstate Highway 35W Bridge in Minneapolis collapsed into the Mississippi River on August 1, 2007. The collapse was the worst bridge disaster since the 1967 failure of...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 203-214)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 215-221)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 222-222)