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Alley Ford Bridge

Franklin County Bridge 48

Alley Ford Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Dave Michaels

Bridge Documented: January 27, 2008

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Pipe Creek Road Over Pipe Creek
Rural: Franklin County, Indiana: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1927 By Builder/Contractor: Jones and Bunzendahl of Connersville, Indiana and Engineer/Design: John L. Stewart
Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
100.0 Feet (30.5 Meters)
Structure Length
105.0 Feet (32 Meters)
Roadway Width
18 Feet (5.49 Meters)
1 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

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

This bridge is an attractive, traditional example of a riveted Pratt through truss. Its beauty is derived from its structure of trusses which form a complex geometric art that no modern bridge of pre-stressed concrete box beams can replicate. This bridge has been rehabilitated, and HistoricBridges.org is offering pre-rehabilitation photos to document the bridge prior to the project. Today, the bridge looks much nicer, with a vibrant red-orange paint. Post-rehabilitation photos are here.

Information and Findings From DHPA Historic Bridge Survey

Statement of Significance

One of two structures fabricated by this Indiana firm toward the close of the era for constructing through Pratts, this simple and substantial structure retains its original members, including decoratively latticed guardrails.

Architectural Description

J. L. Stewart, engineer, designed and Jones and Bunzendahl contracted to build this single-span, all-riveted Pratt through truss which is seated upon concrete abutments and wingwalls. Intermeditate verticals of heavy I beams subdivide the 100' truss into most of its six panels. Heavy I beams provide the diagonals: each stretches toward center span from the top panel point to the bottom of all except the endpost panels; there are no counters. Riveted to gussets below the lower chord, I floor beams carry the concrete deck with its 18' roadway and 16' of vertical clearance.

Detailed History and Information

Pipe Creek Road: Even before 1876, a road paralleled Pipe Creek as it meandered northward from Haymound or St. Mary's in Butler township across Sections 18, 7, and 6 of Metamora township. The road followed the eastern side of the creek from St. Mary's until it reached a steep hill at the Alley farm in Section 18, at which point travelers forded the creek. The road then continued north on the west side of Pipe Creek. The ford was noted on the township map as early as 1882. From Ford to Bridge: Although Pipe Creek Road never became a major farm-to-market thoroughfare, it remained a strong secondary collector for the schooling, church, and farming needs of those living in the south-central part of Metamora township. The Alley ford apparently met the needs of the area until the 1920s when residents finally petitioned the county commissioners for a bridge. In January 1925 the commissioners approved the petition for a bridge at Alley ford and placed construction on the agenda for county council appropriation for 1926. The board of commissioners repeated this exercise in May of 1926, this time adding an order to John L. Stewart, the county engineer, to draft plans and estimate costs for the construction "of a steel bridge." The board sought an appropriation from the county council at its September meeting for the 1927 budget. With an appropriation finally in hand, the commissioners ordered the advertisement of a letting for the Alley Ford and the Koetter Ford bridges (Franklin County Bridge #36) on 21 May 1927. At the letting, the commissioners opened three bids for the Koetter Bridge and one for Alley Ford. While all the bids were below the county engineer's estimates, the commissioners first delayed a decision on an award for a month and in June ordered a new letting in early July. The July bids included two for Alley Ford and three for Koetter. The only original bidder of more than regional note, the Brookville Bridge Company of Brookville, Ohio, did not rebid in July, probably because its proposal for the Koetter Bridge was the highest of the three submitted. Brookville Bridge, however, was replaced by a new heavy-weight builder, the National Concrete Company of Indianapolis which proposed a pair of concrete structures of Luten design. Their proposal for Alley Ford, however, was close to a thousand dollars above the engineer's estimate for a steel-truss bridge. After some negotiation, the commissioners finally accepted the bid of Jones & Bunzendahl [J&B] to build the two bridges to the county's plans and specifications for a total of $31,000. Interestingly, the winning J&B proposal was $2 higher than their May bids combined. If the commissioners delayed contracting as a strategy for reducing cost to county taxpayers, the ploy did not succeed. The sticking issue, though, might have been about the capacity of J&B to complete successfully what they proposed.

John L. Stewart, Designer: Stewart followed the typical pattern of the county surveyor doubling as the county engineer to, among other functions, draft plans for bridge construction. In most cases, the early surveyor-engineers were experienced as surveyors and untrained, pick-up engineers. Their plans and specifications tended to be quite specific about a bridge substructure and very general where, for example, a metal superstructure was sought. The "plans" for the superstructure might specify only structure length and deck width. Sometimes they included language about load-bearing capacity. At a letting, metal bridge fabricators would then typically submit plans with their proposals, and the commissioners would award a contract for a specified plan at a given price. But the pattern just described belied the reality in Stewart's case. Stewart was a trained engineer-indeed, one of the state's early licensed professional engineers--and his superstructure plans were specific, not general. He designed the superstructure as well as the substructure that Jones & Bunzendahl were contracted to build for the Alley Ford Bridge. Born in Ripley county, Indiana, Stewart came to Franklin county at the age of 20. He was first elected as county surveyor at age 24 in 1916, only to have one form of service replace another when the United States entered the First World War in1917. The army sent Stewart to the Engineering School at Camp Zachary Taylor, Kentucky, for training, and then assigned him to military duty in Montgomery, Alabama, making war maps. When discharged from service in Montgomery, Stewart returned to Franklin county where the commissioners appointed him as surveyor, an office to which he was regularly reelected until 1931. From 1931 to 1933, he held the presidency of the Indiana Engineer's Association. During these same years, he worked as city engineer from time to time for Batesville and Connersville and served on the staff of the state of Indiana Conservation Department.

Jones and Bunzendahl, Contractors: George C. Jones and Fred W. Bunzendahl of Connersville had a well established contracting partnership that tackled the construction of roads and concrete bridges in the counties contiguous to Fayette. The two men's paths first crossed in Orange township in the southwest corner of Fayette county bordering both Franklin and Rush. Jones was born in Kansas where his father and mother tried their hand for eight years as homesteaders, before the family returned to farm in Orange township. George had already started as "a contractor and carpenter" before the Great War. Born near Brookville, Fred W. Bunzendahl moved when he was five with his parents to Orange township in Fayette county. At age 20 in 1895, Fred became "a construction superintendent with the Great Southern Railroad, building bridges and tunnels" in the southern United States. He returned before the Great War to Orange township where he won a number of contracts for road improvement, including culverts and small bridges, in Rush county. At the end of the First World War, both Jones and Bunzendahl moved to Connersville. There Jones opened the Jones Construction Company and regularly advertised in the city directory: "No Contract Too Small. None Too Large to Receive the Same Careful Attention." Fred W. Bunzendahl served as vice-president of Jones Construction, but also contracted on his own, especially in concrete work. By 1927, when they bid successfully for the Alley Ford and Koetter Bridges in Franklin county, the two men were operating under the name of "Jones and Bunzendahl - contractors and builders." Soon wracked by the onset of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the partnership ended with the death of Jones at the age of 44 in 1931. Fred W. Bunzendahl then turned the construction business over to a son and became Fayette county's road supervisor. Bunzendahl family members remained prominent in Connersville life, one serving as mayor and others continuing in construction contracting up to the present time. The Alley Ford and Koetter Bridges are the only metal-truss structures known to have been constructed by Jones and Bunzendahl. 'I`he Franklin county authorities probably delayed their decision on awarding a contract immediately after the letting in part to determine whether a collection of local folk could indeed successfully design and erect a pair of through-truss spans. Their county surveyor was far more versed in engineering than most in that office, Jones and Bunzendahl had experience in bridge-building well beyond that of the average contractor, and the commissioners finally voted to support their local team. J&B began with the Koetter Bridge and completed it by early 1928. In the spring of 1928, they started on the concrete abutments for Alley Ford. In the fall, they erected the superstructure. Although the commissioners named a special "assistant engineer" to superintend construction of each bridge, John L. Stewart also kept a close eye on construction until successful completion.

Description: The 100-ft. (center-to-center), through-truss, steel span is an all-riveted Pratt subdivided into six panels (@16' 8") seated on concrete abutments. The truss depth is 19-ft. and 6-in. (out-to-out). The end-post and top-chord members were each made from a pair of channels, cover plate, and lacing bars all riveted together. The lower chord members consist of a pair of angles riveted together with battens. The truss web is simple and quite uniform. The verticals and the diagonals are all made from 8-in. wide-flange I-beams riveted to gussets at the top and bottom chords. There are no counter-braces in the structure. Gusset design is not uniform. The plates vary in size and shape according to the needs of the particular panel point. To support the 18-ft. wide deck, five 24-in. I-floor-beams are riveted to angles and then to the gussets and verticals below the lower chord. Seven runs of 8-in., wide-flange, I-beam stringers carry the 6-in. concrete roadway and 16 feet of vertical clearance. Braced-A portals made from a pair of angles riveted together, intermediate struts of I-beams riveted through angles between inner upper-chord channels at panel points, and knee-braces of a pair of angles help to stiffen the trusses. As added insurance against the stresses of moving loads, the span also has upper and lower lateral bracing of angles. The upper angle laterals are attached to gussets riveted above the top chord cover plate at panel points. One end of the angle brace is riveted to the top of the gusset, the opposite end to the bottom. The fewer laterals are riveted to the floor-beams through angle connectors. The trusses are lined with latticed hub-guard railings.

Other Information

Pipe Creek Road is a long-standing internal transportation link in Franklin county, and the creek crossing at Alley ford appears equally established. The Alley Ford Bridge appears to be the only structure to have spanned this crossing. It is quite unusual to find the designer and builder of a metal-truss structure to be, on the one hand, so locally-rooted, and, on the other, to bring a great deal of national training and experience to their work. The county surveyor who did the design work was extraordinary at this time in being a militarily-trained and state-licensed professional engineer. The contractors-especially Fred W. Bunzendahl--came with extensive experience in heavy-duty bridge-building, although Jones and Bunzendahl are not known to have built other metal-truss structures (besides, of course, Koetter Bridge). The superstructure represents the last period of Pratt design and fabrication. The pattern is stripped to its essentials, and most of the members are fabricated from mill-rolled stock, much of it of the same size. Still there are some secondary home-grown features to the design and fabrication--like the extraordinary variation in the sizes and shapes of gusset plates and the over/under attachment of top lateral braces. There is also an anomaly: the latticed hub-guard railing is a horse-and-wagon feature which lost much of its purpose in the age of the automobile, a transportation change that taken hold in Franklin County before this bridge was built. The Alley Ford Bridge is the only metal-truss structure remaining on the Franklin county highway system. Fortunately, it retains all of its original members and even its latticed hub-guard railings.

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes


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