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Fremont Mill Bridge

Central Park Bridge

Fremont Mill Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Bridge Documented: July 2, 2009 and August 10, 2013

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Central Park Trail Over Park Lake
Central Park: Jones County, Iowa: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1873 By Builder/Contractor: Massillon Bridge Company of Massillon, Ohio
Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
127.0 Feet (38.7 Meters)
Structure Length
127.0 Feet (38.7 Meters)
Roadway Width
16 Feet (4.88 Meters)
1 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

View Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) Documentation For This Bridge

HAER Drawings, PDF - HAER Data Pages, PDF

View The First Patent For This Bridge Design

View The Second Patent For This Bridge Design

This bridge was originally erected on the Military Road to cross the Maquoketa River. The Military Road that this bridge originally served was created some years before the construction of this bridge to provide access to the western frontier of the country. As a surviving remnant from that roadway, the bridge is significant as a structure that likely contributed to the settlement of the western United States. The bridge and roadway was also locally important as a way for farmers to get their goods to market. In 1929 the bridge was relocated to Fremont to cross Buffalo Creek. The bridge was 56 years old at this time. In 1985 the bridge was relocated to its current location in Central Park.

This bridge is one of the largest and most complete examples of a Massillon Bridge Company bowstring featuring the unique designs that the original bridge company founder, Joseph Davenport designed, in particular his unique built-up beams. There are two patents which include his form of built-up beam that is composed of plates with a pipe webbing. It is this pipe webbing that makes the design unique, as well as the Howe truss configuration formed by these pipes contained within the built-up beam. This pipe and plate format was commonly used by the company for built-up top chords on bowstrings, as well as for the composition of a truss girder as seen in the Longman Road Bridge. The design was also used for floorbeams, sway bracing, and portal bracing. The company's use of this built-up beam form seems to have declined and ended in the 1880s in favor of more traditional beams. The Fremont Mill Bridge is one of the most comprehensive examples of the breadth of uses that Massillon Bridge Company found for its built-up pipe/plate beams. These beams are found on the Fremont Mill Bridge in some floorbeams, in the sway bracing, and in the top chord.

Overall, the Fremont Mill Bridge is also an extremely important example of a bowstring truss bridge. With an 1873 construction date it is a very old surviving example of a bowstring truss, and among the earliest examples of the Massillon Bridge Company, of which it is also an excellent representative example because despite the age of the bridge it remains nearly unaltered with remarkable historic integrity.

Among Iowa's most important historic bridges, the Fremont Mill Bridge is nationally significant for its representation of a key period in bridge construction and an early and unaltered representative example of one of the most prolific bridge companies of the period.

Additional Information and Resources

View Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) Overview Of Iowa's Bridges (PDF)

Historic American Engineering Record created a large and very informative historical overview and context for Iowa's bridges, and it is offered here by HistoricBridges.org in convenient PDF format for easy printing or offline viewing. The HAER source for the documents composing the PDF is here.

View Bowstring Arch Bridges of Iowa, An Online Book By Michael Finn (PDF)

Michael Finn has composed a concise and detailed overview of Iowa's beautiful historic bowstring bridges. It has been made available for free by Iowa Department of Transportation.

View Historic American Engineering Record's Structural Analysis of Iron Bowstring Bridges (PDF)

Historic American Engineering Record created a large and very informative structural analysis of how bowstring truss/arch bridges function. Everything from basic discussion of the engineering behind the bridges to advanced mathematical equations are available. The HAER source for the documents composing the PDF is here.

Information and Findings From Iowa's Historic Bridge Inventory

Discussion of Bridge

The Fremont Mill bridge now carries a pedestrian path in Central Park in Jackson Township, seven miles east of Anamosa. This wrought iron bowstring through arch-truss originally crossed the Maquoketa River in Monticello. The previous structure at that site was destroyed by a perilous ice flow in the winter of 1873, necessitating the erection of the bowstring. Five companies presented sealed competitive bides to the Jones County Board of Supervisors in the Spring of 1873. County officials followed the customary method of letting out two construction contracts, one for the truss itself and one for the foundations. The contract for the superstructure was awarded to the Massillon Iron Bridge Company of Massillon, Ohio, which bid $23 per lineal foot. The second contract for the substructure was let to James Milne of Scotch Grove, Iowa. The overall contractual deadline for the bridge's completion was initially June 20, 1873, but it was not until October of that year that board minutes reported that the structure was finished. Total cost was $5,428.05, $2,944 of which went to Massillon for the superstructure. In January 1930, the truss was moved to a site spanning Buffalo Creek, and then again to its present location in Jones County's Central Park in July 1936. The well-traveled Fremont Mill Bridge, with few alterations of note, now only carries pedestrians visiting the park.
The bowstring arch-truss was the iron span of choice for Iowa counties in the late 1860s and 1870s. Marketed exclusively throughout the Midwest by such Ohio-based industry giants as the Wrought Iron Bridge Company, the King Iron Bridge Company and the Massillon Bridge Company, these often-patented bridge configurations featured a wide range of span lengths, economical fabrication cost and relatively quick erection. The proliferation of the bowstring corresponded with the initial development of Iowa's road system, and as a result, perhaps thousands of these prototypical iron spans were erected throughout the state. The bowstring had some rather severe structural flaws, however, relating primarily to lateral stability of the arches, and it was largely superseded by the pin-connected truss in the early 1880s. Despite this, some bowstrings were still erected in Iowa in the 1880s, although the number dwindled precipitously by the decade's end. Through subsequent attrition, almost all of Iowa's bowstrings have since been replaced and demolished. Through its association with the Massillon Bridge Company and owing to its excellent state of preservation, the Fremont Mill Bridge is an outstanding early transportation-related resource [adapted from Hybben, Roise and Fraser 1992]

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes

This bridge is tagged with the following special condition(s): Reused


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