This is a bridge with a complicated history. In 1868, a new railroad bridge was built by the Keystone Bridge Company at Dubuque over the Mississippi River to replace an existing bridge. This bridge was called the Dunlieth and Dubuque Railroad Bridge. However, the westernmost spans of the previous bridge were reused and not replaced. A few years later in 1872 however, these approach spans were also replaced, again by the Keystone Bridge Company. A historical photo of the bridge that shows these approach spans is shown to the right. In the 1890s, the bridge was replaced in a piecemeal fashion, a few spans at a time over a period of years, and at least two of the spans were salvaged and relocated to highways in Dubuque County. One span was relocated to Whitewater Drive to Cross Whitewater Creek in Dubuque County. The other span that was known to be relocated from the Dubuque Bridge also survives and is today on Heritage Trail. Another portion of the Dubuque Bridge made it all the way down to Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Both of the spans that were moved to Dubuque County highways have today been moved again onto trails where they serve pedestrians today. This bridge has been moved to cross Bergfeld Pond. Strictly speaking, it is not used as a bridge, but more just an exhibit and scenic outlook. It is fenced off at the west end, and therefore can not be completely crossed and is only able to be accessed from the eastern end. It was repainted, and it appears that minor repairs were made as needed to the truss as well. The historic integrity of the bridge has been maintained. Of the two relocated Dubuque County bridges, this is the better preserved of the two. It has been repainted, and does not show the deterioration found in the other bridge. The truss appears to retain good historic integrity.
This bridge is an extremely significant historic bridge on multiple levels. Although the main truss members are all wrought iron, the bridge still makes extensive use of cast iron making it an exceedingly rare example of a bridge that uses cast iron for substantial parts of the bridge. Notably, the portal bracing and struts are all cast iron. Cast iron is also used for the rather complex connection assemblies. The bridge is an extremely rare example of a bridge that uses Keystone Columns, a patented design of built-up beam that is similar to the more common Phoenix Column. However, Keystone Columns do not have the curved design of Phoenix Columns, and there are gaps between the sections of the column. The gaps help prevent moisture from being trapped inside like what happens with Phoenix Columns, however, the gaps also allow dirt to build up in the bottom of the columns, which does trap moisture and leads to deterioration. These sorts of problems, as well as the complicated design of the columns in general mean that Phoenix Columns and Keystone Columns were not used for many years and were soon abandoned for more standard designs of built-up beams. However surviving bridges with these columns are significant as they document the creative designs that different companies came up with during the development of the metal truss bridge in the United States. Finally, this bridge is also significant as a surviving span from a long-lost Mississippi River Bridge. No bridges from this era survive on the Mississippi River aside from the Eads Bridge and so these surviving spans are a rare look at what 1870s Mississippi River bridges looked like.
This bridge also has a lot of beauty. The cast iron details add a pleasing complexity to the bridge, and the castings for the portal bracing have a lot of ornamental details.
Given the significance and beauty of this bridge, it is great to see that its value has been recognized and it has been preserved. While some might question why it was placed in a location where it is not fully functional as a useful bridge crossing, it is worth nothing that it will never be washed away by flood waters where it is located. Many historic bridges in Iowa have been destroyed by floods. Given how often devastating floods occur on Iowa rivers, perhaps a solution like this where the bridge crosses a tranquil pond is the best outcome for a nationally significant historic bridge in Iowa.
The Historic Bridge Inventory information below also included a photo of this bridge after it had been removed from Whitewater Drive and was sitting on the ground awaiting relocation to Bergfeld Pond.
Information and Findings From Iowa's Historic Bridge Inventory
Discussion of Bridge
The White Water Creek Bridge is part of the Dubuque Wagon bridge, built in 1868 to cross the Mississippi River between Dubuque and Dunleith (now East Dubuque), Illinois. After years of promoting for a railroad bridge by various Dubuque citizen's groups, the Dubuque and Dunleith Bridge Company was formed in 1866. In January 1868* the company contracted with the Keystone Bridge Company of Philadelphia to fabricate and erect the bridge's superstructure. Reynolds, Saulpaugh and Company of Rock Island, Illinois, were hired to build the substructure. Work on the first abutment began on January 27th; on December 15th the bridge was completed. Extending 1,760 feet in length, the bridge consisted of six stationary trusses and a 360-foot swing span. All of the fixed spans featured Keystone's patented sectional-tube trusses, which made extensive use of ornamental cast iron compression members and connector blocks. Immediately west of the main bridge over the river's channel was a shorter bridge over a slough. This second structure was comprised of pinned Pratt through trusses, which also employed the classic Keystone configuration. The main bridge was replaced in parts--the swing span replaced in 1893, the easternmost fixed truss replaced with earth fill in 1899, three of the western fixed trusses rebuilt in 1899 and the remaining two fixed trusses rebuilt in 1903. The extensive timber trestle over the west floodplain was replaced with earth fill, and, at some point, the approach bridge over the western slough was removed.
Dubuque County acquired at least two of the spans from this latter structure, using them on county roads. The White Water Creek Bridge in White Water Township is one of those spans. It was moved and re-erected at an unknown date on this rural crossing near the southern county line. Here it has carried relatively light vehicular traffic. The floor system has been modified somewhat to accommodate the wider roadway, but the truss superstructure remains in unaltered and well-preserved condition.
The importance of the Dubuque and Dunleith Bridge to interstate commerce can hardly be understated. As one of the first permanent bridges over the Mississippi River, it ensured Dubuque's role as a regional trade nexus and, on a broader scope, helped facilitate the western movement after the Civil War. Removed from the context of the original, multiple-span structure, this single span's role on a minor county road is less momentous in its historical contribution. But as one of the last two remaining fragments of the original railroad structure, it enjoys a degree of significance, despite its radical change of setting. The White Water Creek Bridge is technologically significant as one of the last remaining examples in America of cast iron truss construction. Built by one of the country's premier bridge fabricators of the 1860s, it features Keystone's patented cast iron columns and ornamental cast iron connector blocks. One of Iowa's oldest surviving all-metal bridges, the White Water Creek Bridge is distinguished as a rare survivor from the country's earliest period of all-iron bridge construction [adapted from Fraser 1992].
* Recent research has revealed that the Keystone Bridge Company erected the railroad bridge over the Mississippi River in 1868; however, four years later, in 1872, the company replaced the original western approach trestles with the seven identical iron spans, of which the White Water Creek Bridge is one. For additional information, read the article by Robert Jackson, titled "Extant Approach Spans of the Dunleith and Dubuque Bridge" published in The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes
This bridge is tagged with the following special condition(s): Keystone Columns
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