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Masters Road Bridge

Masters Road Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: Spring 2007

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Masters Road Over Belle River
Rural: St. Clair County, Michigan: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1935 By Builder/Contractor: J. H. Baker and Sons of Port Huron, Michigan

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
55 Feet (17 Meters)
Structure Length
58 Feet (18 Meters)
Roadway Width
20 Feet (6.1 Meters)
1 Main Span(s)
NBI Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

View Archived National Bridge Inventory Report - Has Additional Details and Evaluation

Although not as beautiful as a through truss bridge, this bridge is still a historic bridge, and should be given at least some mention. This bridge is a depression bridge, built in 1935, with the aid of federal relief funds. People into antiques value depression glass, and similarly depression bridges have additional value because they both document a key period in history, and also are a memorial to the hard times that a lot of people suffered through.

This bridge does not have an enormous amount of aesthetic value, beyond the guardrails. The guardrails themselves are quite attractive, which curve onto the bridge at each end. These guardrails have not been maintained and are severely rusted. St. Clair County Road Commission managed to take this problem and make it worse, by only plastering double-wide Armco metal guardrails all over the whole bridge, and doing no work to the historic railings.

Cobblestone abutments are visible behind the current concrete abutments. These supported a pony truss, which the current bridge replaced.

Information and Findings From Michigan Historic Bridge Inventory

Narrative Description

MDOT Historic Bridge St. Clair CountyMasters Rd. / Belle River

St. Clair County was hit hard by the Depression. The county's road commission aggressively sought federal relief funds for road and bridge work to put unemployed laborers back to work and improve the county's deteriorating road system. The resulting bridges, usually common structural types, sometimes displayed nonstandard detailing on railings and wing walls. Many of these structures have been demolished or altered since that time. The Masters Road Bridge merits National Register designation as a well-preserved, representative example of bridges produced by Depression-era relief programs.

On 6 September 1934, the St. Clair County Road Commission opened bids for the construction of a bridge over the Belle River one-half mile east of Riley Center. Plans for the new bridge were approved by William Cox, who served as the county road engineer from 1919 to 1938. The structure was to replace a 50-foot-span pony truss, which was supported by stone abutments. Three contractors, all from Port Huron, submitted bids: J.H. Baker and Sons, $9,391; George Willits, $9,951; and the Yeager Bridge and Culvert Company, $9,959.

The contract went to the low bidder, J.H. Baker and Sons. The firm had previously undertaken a large project for the county, the paving of Gratiot Road from Port Huron to the county line. The county had received a $279,300 contract from the state highway department for this project in January 1932, which it subcontracted to Baker. The road commission took on the project, in part, to provide work for the large number of unemployed men in St. Clair County.

In March 1933, with the same motivation, the county initiated a major effort to improve some 400 miles of township roads for which it was assuming responsibility under the provisions of the McNitt Act. In July of that year, the road commission applied for a $500,000 loan and grant through the National Industrial Recovery Act. Although it is not known if that amount was received, the road commission clearly had a substantial infusion of funds when it embarked on a flurry of bridge construction in the mid-1930s. Like the road improvements, the bridge work was also prompted by the poor condition of many township structures that the county received through the McNitt Act. The Masters Road Bridge is a representative example of that effort. The structure's design, although simple, reflects the streamlined aesthetic that dominated the 1930s.


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