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Eveland Bridge

Wilson's Ferry Bridge

Eveland Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Bridge Documented: July 2, 2009

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Fulton Avenue Over Des Moines River
Rural: Mahaska County, Iowa: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1877 By Builder/Contractor: Western Bridge Works of Fort Wayne, Indiana
Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
164.0 Feet (50 Meters)
Structure Length
647.0 Feet (197.2 Meters)
Roadway Width
18 Feet (5.49 Meters)
4 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 Data Pages, PDF

The Eveland Bridge with an 1877 construction date is perhaps the oldest Des Moines River Bridge remaining today. The bridge was originally built as a four span Whipple truss, but the northernmost span was replaced in 1903 with a Pratt through truss following a major flood which wiped out that span. Today, as a bridge containing three Whipple truss spans, it is one of the only known examples in the entire country of a highway truss containing more than two Whipple truss spans.

There are several extremely rare and significant pin-connected truss bridges on the lower section of the Des Moines River. Each are distinguished as rare surviving examples of large, multi-span examples of their type. Among them, the Eveland Bridge stands out as the earliest example, and for its rare Whipple truss configuration and cast iron connection assemblies. The bridge was built by the Western Bridge Works of Fort Wayne, Indiana, in their first year of operating. The Western Bridge Works was a short lived company formed by two men, one an agent from Toledo, Ohio's Smith Bridge Company. The Western Bridge Works did well initially, but did not last long, shutting down in 1885. Based on HAER documentation, the firm was apparently known simply as as McKay and Nelson, after the names of the two people running it prior (or during) the formation of Western Bridge Works in 1877.

Most of the surviving Des Moines River pin-connected truss bridges in this region remain inaccessible due to flooding and deck damage. The Eveland Bridge is one of those bridges. Its wooden deck surface has been "shattered" by a combination of violent floods and deterioration. Many planks remain on the deck, but they are strewn all over the deck randomly.

Future preservation work should include restoration and having this bridge redecked for pedestrian use. The superstructure itself appears to be in decent shape overall, but with the exception of the southern span, a close inspection was not possible due to the deck condition. There does seem to be a major problem at the northern span, where it would appear that a vertical member has been ripped out or fallen away from the truss web an is hanging off of a couple diagonal members. Preservation work would require the repair or replication of this member.

Both Historic American Engineering Record and HistoricBridges.org completed a much more complete documentation of a single span bridge built by this same company and having the same construction details, and it is the Hardin City Bridge. Visit that page for a detailed photographs and measured drawings of the construction details of a Western Bridge Works Whipple truss bridge similar to the Eveland Bridge.

Information and Findings From Iowa's Historic Bridge Inventory

Discussion of Bridge

More commonly known as the Eveland Bridge, this large-scale structure had been contemplated by Mahaska County almost as long as people crossed the river at this point. The Eveland Ferry began operating here around 1854. After receiving citizens' petitions from time to time urging the county to replace the ferry with a permanent bridge, the county board of supervisors finally agreed in April 1875 to undertake the bridge's construction, provided that a sufficient local subscription of funds could be raised. In June 1876 the supervisors solicited competitive bids, based on a design by civil engineer C.W. Tracy; in September they awarded a contract to fabricate and build the multiple-span iron structure to McKay and Nelson, proprietors of the Fort Wayne [Indiana] Bridge Works. A Fort Wayne crew worked through on the massive stone piers through the winter and following spring, completing the bridge n the summer of 1877. The Eveland Bridge functioned as a regionally important crossing for some 90 years before its closure. It now stands abandoned, with the deck and stonework deteriorating but the superstructure intact.

The importance of the Eveland Bridge to regional commerce endured for decades, and for this the structure is historically significant. The Eveland Bridge is further distinguished as a well-preserved, large-scale example of the Whipple through truss. Basically a Pratt with diagonals that extend over two panels, the Whipple truss was seldom employed for wagon trusses in the state. Few were ever erected and fewer yet remain today. For its exceedingly rare use of wrought and cast iron components, its rare truss configuration, and its long-standing role in regional transportation, the Eveland Bridge is one of the most significant wagon crossings in Iowa [adapted from Fraser 1992].

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes


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