This bridge is an exceedingly early example of a bridge built by the American Bridge Company, built in the first couple years of the company's existence, and the oldest known highway example in Indiana. American Bridge Company was formed from many 19th Century bridge companies. American Bridge Company is historically significant as a leading bridge builder throughout the 20th Century, and this bridge represents the roots from which the company grew. Today in the 21st Century, the company is so familiar it is often simply called "American Bridge."
M. D. Curran is cast into the concrete abutments of this bridge, indicating a substructure contractor.
Because it is an early example of on of the most important bridge builders of the 20th Century, this bridge is an extremely important historic bridge, documenting the formative years of the company. Its preservation should have come with a "Select" commitment under the Historic Bridge Inventory, however the hired consultant and InDOT refused to include this bridge in the list, despite the bridge's high potential at the least for relocation and reuse in a new location. This decision calls into question the completeness of the bridge management program, if it did not find a bridge with such historic significance to be Select. Now the bridge's future is uncertain as Section 106 takes place. It is essential that this bridge be preserved.
The bridge has been post-tensioned with cables, however this has been applied in a simplistic manner (simply wrapped around the top chord, rather than attached to the pin) and without any accompanying rehabilitation of the truss. Also, the tension cables have been placed on all of the vertical members, which with the exception of the hip verticals, are elements of the bridge which would should in compression, so the purpose of this is unclear. Post-tensioning can be a very effective tool for increasing the weight limit of certain truss bridges, when done in conjunction with a comprehensive rehabilitation. However, it is normally only applied to tension members (as the name post-tensioning suggests). In the interest of historic bridge preservation, HistoricBridges.org does not recommend the use of post-tensioning alone to address deterioration of a truss, when the deteriorated truss itself is not being rehabilitated. Post-tensioning without truss repair may temporarily strengthen the bridge, but it does not correct the underlying problem of the original historic bridge material deteriorating, and thus it can allow the bridge to continue to "get by" serving traffic, while the actual historic truss members deteriorate to an even greater degree, perhaps beyond the point of repair. It would be more important to first begin repairs and rehabilitation to the truss, and only then follow up with post-tensioning if the need to further increase the weight limit existed, and if engineering analysis showed that post-tensioning would be effective to accomplish that goal.
At this time, it appears the bridge's original material retains sufficient structural integrity to be restored without any unusual difficulty or cost.
Information and Findings From DHPA Historic Bridge Survey
Statement of Significance
The oldest of two Pratts remaining in Indiana built by this prolific out-of-state firm, the bridge retains its original members, including latticed portals and guardrails.
The American Bridge Company fabricated this single-span, pin-connected Pratt through truss which is seated upon concrete abutments and wingwalls. Intermediate verticals of laced channels subdivide the 121' truss into most of its seven panels. Eyebars provide the diagonals: pairs of die-forged and rectangular ones stretch toward center span from the top panel point to the bottom of the 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th panels; cylindrical eyebars with turnbuckles counter the others in the 3rd and 5th panels and cross the 4th or center panel. Attached below the lower chord, floor beams carry the timber deck with its 15'6" roadway and 16'6" of vertical clearanc.
In June 1893, Philip Albaugh and others petitioned the commissioners to span Crow Ford on a long-established roadway from the county seat to Bainbridge and Groveland. The petitioners pointed out there was no bridge across the Big Walnut within ten miles of the ford. It took the board nearly a decade to meet the pleas of petitioners. The commissioners voted in May 1901 to have a June letting for a bridge at Crow Ford. No timber-truss builder contested with the seven metal fabricators at the letting, and the fledgling American Bridge Company made the lowest proposal by far for pinned, steel trusses at $1,873. M. D. Curran, a local contractor, won the contract to build the concrete abutments and wing-walls for $1,590. In 1900, J. P. Morgan and Elbert H. Gary had bought twenty-four bridge companies and amalgamated them into American Bridge under the umbrella of United States Steel. In these early years, Wallace Marshall, last president of the Lafayette Bridge Company (Lafayette, Indiana) before it was absorbed into American Bridge, served as Midwestern agent for the new company. He probably negotiated the sale of Crow Bridge which was likely fabricated in Lafayette. The old Lafayette plant served American Bridge until U.S. Steel opened its new works in Gary, Indiana, in 1911. Payment in March of 1902 to American Bridge certified completion of the new structure. This pin-connected Pratt through-truss span extends 121 ft. in seven panels. A pair of rectangular eyebars hang as each hip vertical; the intermediate ones are composed of laced channels. Pairs of die-forged eyebars provide the diagonal sets. Cylindrical eyebars with turnbuckles counter the diagonals in the 3rd and 5th panels and double as counter and diagonal in the 4th or center panel. The trusses are braced with latticed portal struts and laced intermediate ones. The upper (and lower) lateral bracing consists of round rod adjusted through their threaded ends. Rolled I-floor-beams hang from the lower pins and carry the runs of I-beam stringers which, in turn, support a timber deck with a 15 ft. and 8 in. roadway with 16 feet and 6 inches of vertical clearance. The trusses are lined with narrow latticed rails.
Sometimes called "The Jumping Bridge," Crow has long served as a local landmark where generations of Putnam county folk have come along a well-established county road to swim and to picnic at this crossing. The work of two important regional/national fabricators in process of becoming one, the bridge's superstructure retains its original members, including latticed portals and guardrails. This is one of no more than a couple of American Bridge Company trussed bridges to survive and the oldest example of ABCo fabrication in Indiana. The substructure, furthermore, is the work of an established local contractor.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes
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