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Pugh Ford Bridge

Bartholomew County Bridge 73, Hoot Owl Hollar Bridge, Pence Bridge

Pugh Ford Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Bridge Documented: September 23, 2012

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
CR-900 North Over Flatrock River
Rural: Bartholomew County, Indiana: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1911 By Builder/Contractor: Elkhart Bridge and Iron Company of Elkhart, Indiana

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
127 Feet (38.6 Meters)
Structure Length
260 Feet (79.2 Meters)
Roadway Width
15.4 Feet (4.69 Meters)
2 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

This bridge is a noteworthy example of a multi-span truss bridge and also as a bridge built by in-state bridge built Elkhart Bridge and Iron Company. However, one of the more fascinating aspects of this bridge is its history. The only visual clue of this history is subtle: the concrete abutments with a corbelled detail on the top, somewhat fancier than typical truss bridge abutments from this period. The story is that in 1909 a concrete arch bridge designed to a Daniel Luten patent was constructed at this location. Only a year later, this bridge was destroyed in a flood, which led the county to get into a legal battle with Luten. However, it turns out the county had tried to cut corners by not using any piling whatsoever in the substructure! Despite the fact that it was the county's fault that the bridge was destroyed, the county was not interested in trying it again the right way and instead insisted on a metal truss bridge replacement. One interesting note however was that when an engineer later reviewed the concrete abutments that were built for the truss bridge, it was found that they were substantially overbuilt with steel reinforcing, more than was called for in the plans. After cheating on the first attempt with concrete, it appears that the county did a complete turnaround and went above and beyond the requirements. The county was likely not taking any chances on the concrete abutments for the truss bridge, desperate to avoid a repeat of the previous disaster.

Information and Findings From DHPA Historic Bridge Survey

Statement of Significance

The pin-connected trusses are of rather standard design. The spans retain their original members, including latticed guardrails.

"Divers resident freeholders of Flatrock and German Townships" petitioned County Commissioners in June 1903 to build a bridge across Pugh Ford, as the nearest crossing was then more than 2 miles away. This put locals at a disadvantage for transporting goods and persons to and from Indianapolis along the State Road (now US 31). Despite their concerns, the county took 6 years to begin construction.

The Commissioners caused a stir in 1909 when they awarded the bridge contract to the National Concrete Company for a concrete-arch bridge. This was completed in 1909, but was destroyed less than a year later during a February 1910 flood. The bridge's designer, Daniel Luten, remarked that he could not see how the bridge could have been washed out, given the amount of piling specified in the plans. The County, however, had ignored the plans and used no piling whatsoever. The ensuing lawsuit was settled out of court after the prestigious Engineering News investigated and found the county at fault. The two parties supposedly split the cost of the new bridge down the middle; in reality, the County paid $4,450, and Luten, $650.

With a less than pleasant view of concrete bridges now in mind, the Commissioners voted in 1911 to build an iron bridge to replace the failed concrete span. Surprisingly, they contracted Luten's company to build the new bridge abutments. The Elkhart Bridge and Iron Company, a major bridge builder in Indiana as well as Michigan and Wisconsin, completed the new span by August, 1911.

Architectural Description

Seated upon a concrete pier, abutments, and wingwalls, this two-span, pin-connected Pratt through structure extends 256' in eight panels for each span. Laced channels provide the intermediate verticals, a pair of die-forged eyebars serve as diagonals, a pair of adjustable and cylindrical rods counter the diagonals in the three most central panels. The I floor beams are U-bolted to the lower pins. The bridge carries an asphalt and metal pan deck with a 16' roadway and 14'6" of vertical clearance.

Other Information

Previous Structure: The National Concrete Company constructed a Luten-design filled-spandrel arch here in 1911 which, when washed out, became a matter of contention between the contractor and the commissioners.

Surveyed Structure: Luten and the National Concrete Company negotiated a settlement with the county in which National Concrete agreed to build abutments and pier for a new steel replacement bridge for the modest charge of $1,050. Luten and his associates also secured a special price from the Elkhart Bridge Company for the superstructure at $3,400. Contracts for the same were consummated in May 1911. H. C. Deist, a civil engineer charged to inspect the new substructure, reported in August "that the pier has been built better than the plans called for and that some steel was placed in abutments when no steel was specified." He also noted that the tops of the abutments were not as wide as the plans called for. Francis F. Gosch, the superintendent of construction of the Pugh Ford Bridge, reported that the substructure was "better and stronger than the plans called for." Seated upon the new concrete substructure, the trusses of the superstructure are each divided into eight panels by intermediate verticals of laced channels. A pair of die-forged eyebars serve as diagonals, a pair of adjustable and cylindrical rods counter the diagonals in the three most central panels. The bridge maintains 14 feet and 6 inches of vehicular clearance above the roadway. The I floor-beams, U-bolted to the lower pins, carry an asphalt and metal pan roadway.

The pin-connected trusses are of rather standard design. The spans retain their original members, including latticed guardrails.

Asphalt and metal pan deck replaced with timber by 1994 [SHPO database]

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes


Photo Galleries and Videos: Pugh Ford Bridge

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Eastbound Crossing
Full Motion Video
Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.


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