This bridge is extremely significant as not only what may be the last example of a bowstring bridge built by its builder but also for its distinctive details that set this bowstring apart from bowstrings built by other companies. The most noteworthy detail of this bowstring is its unusual top chord which is composed of back-to-back angles with corrugation running between them. A similar detail is found on the beams under the deck that support the outriggers. Because of the unusual composition of the top chord, unique cast iron connection assemblies were used to form the top chord connections. These castings are located between the channels and are riveted to the channels. These assemblies have holes that allow the vertical and diagonal members to make a connection with the top chord via the threaded rod and nut method. Threaded rod and nut connections were common during this period. The remainder of this bridge is more traditional in terms of a bowstring truss bridge. Cast iron connection assemblies are located along the bottom chord, and the bottom chord is composed of plates with eyebars where pin-connected splices occur. Vertical members and outriggers use the cruciform beams or "star iron" that was common in the 1870s and on bowstring truss bridges.
Historic bridge expert James L. Cooper invested considerable time and research to unravel the mystery of this bridge. It had for many years been uncertain who built the bridge and when. His research revealed that the bridge was built in 1875 by the Smith Bridge Company of Toledo, Ohio, with noteworthy regional bridge contractor William T. Washer of Troy in Perry County being the on-site contractor for the substructure and bridge erection. Please view Cooper's complete report for an outstanding... and far more complete... exploration of this bridge's history, design, and significance.
This bridge was relocated and preserved in a commercial area of Petersburg on old highway alignment. As part of the restoration, unsightly modern steel additions that had kept this bridge open to vehicular traffic were removed.
The preservation of this bridge came at a price... a less significant but nevertheless unusual and historically significant highway through plate girder with sidewalk and original railing was demolished and replaced to make way for this bridge. It is unclear why this bowstring could not have been preserved in a location that did not require the demolition of the bridge. The restoration of the bridge was subcontracted to bridge restoration experts Bach Steel. Unfortunately Bach Steel did not have the contract to remove the plate girder, otherwise the plate girder might have been salvaged and placed into storage for resale.
Information and Findings From DHPA Historic Bridge Survey
Statement of Significance
The county's consulting engineers (1980) are correct to consider this "a unique structure of historical importance." The arch is unusually fabricated, the single example of its kind extant in Indiana. The unadorned structure retains most of its original members, although the original structure now carries only a part of the stress. The only firm known to have used the ribbon lacing found here in the chord arches was the Indianapolis Bridge Company.
This single-span bowstring pony of 94' and ten panels was rebuilt in 1978. Now seated upon concrete abutments and wingwalls, some of the weight of the revised structure is carried by a substantial wood beam superstructure. The original arches are fabricated from channel beams laced together in ten sections which were then riveted. Cruciform-shaped verticals and cylindrical eyebar diagonals (crossed in all except the endpost panels) are bolted through the arch and the lower chord. Two die-forged rectangular eyebars comprise the lower chord and were bolted to the original floor beams of die-forged rectangular eyebars laced together.
Now seated upon concrete abutments and wingwalls, some of the weight of the revised structure (1978) is carried by a substantial wood beam superstructure resting upon channel beams and reinforcing channel floor beams attached below the lower chord. Therefore, although the unadorned structure retains most of its original members, the original structure now carries only a part of the stress.
Ohio Valley Engineers, Bridge Inspection Survey and
Report: Pike County (Evansville, 1974).
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes
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