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Otter Creek Bridge

Liberty Trail Bridge

Otter Creek Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: August 9, 2013

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Liberty Trail Over Wapsipinicon River Tributary
Independence: Buchanan County, Iowa: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
By Builder/Contractor: Unknown
Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
Not Available
Structure Length
Not Available
Roadway Width
Not Available
Main Span Count Not Available
Inventory Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This is one strange bridge. It is closest in design to a Queenpost truss, but there is the inclusion of an extremely lightweight vertical member (which is a rod indicating it was intended to be a tension member) in the middle of the truss, which is not part of a standard Queenpost truss. The Historic Bridge Inventory thought that the Wrought Iron Bridge Company might have built it, but HistoricBridges.org disagrees that the bridge looks even remotely like anything that company ever built, at least among surviving bridges. The Historic Bridge Inventory says the King Bridge Company relocated it in 1874 from a Wapsipinicon  River Bridge. If so, this would mean that this is an ancient pony truss bridge dating to before 1874. However, some parts of the bridge does not look like what one would expect to see in a pre-1874 bridge. Its use of rolled i-beam with plate riveted to the flanges is unusual to say the least. The latticed hip vertical members and the top chord and end post are all rigidly connected by rivets, which is highly unusual for a bridge that is pre-1874. Other parts of the bridge do look like an 1870s or older bridge. The use of rolled star iron in the outriggers, the use of threaded rod with nut type connections for the diagonal members and the center vertical member are things that are not surprising to see on an early metal truss bridge. Finally, it should be noted that there are a few "mystery" holes on the bridge suggesting alteration where some bridge parts have been moved or changed leaving empty holes from where rivets and such were once located. Therefore, there is a big question about this bridge. Is this really representative of a pre-1874 bridge, or has it been substantially altered from its original design? It seems like it might have been altered to some extent. The top chord with the vertical in the middle of the bridge is particularly unusual because it doesn't seem to "work" properly. The center vertical member is a rod which suggests it was intended to function in tension. Yet the top chord shows a slight sag in the middle like it would have benefitted from a compression type member in the middle of the bridge.

Regardless of whether it is altered or not and to what extent, this is certainly one of the most unusual truss bridges in Iowa. Thankfully it will be around for people to study for many years to come. It has been relocated a third time, this time in 2000 onto Liberty Trail where it serves pedestrian traffic only.

Information and Findings From Iowa's Historic Bridge Inventory

Discussion of Bridge

Originally located northwest of Hazleton, this short-span pony truss carried a gravel-surfaced county road over Otter Creek, but was moved to the Liberty Trail for pedestrian use. The structure is a wrought iron, rigid-connected Pratt truss, supported by iron tubular piers. The archaic web configuration and composition of the truss members indicates a very early construction date for this bridge, although its history in the county records remains somewhat clouded. The original construction of the bridge is undocumented, but the truss is similar in detail to others fabricated by the Wrought-Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio, in the late 1860s and early 1870s. In April 1873 the Buchanan County Board of Supervisors received a petition from William Bruce and others for a bridge near the center of Section 4 of Hazleton Township, the location of this truss. The following January the board contracted with the King Iron Bridge Company to build a new iron structure to replace the existing Cutshall Bridge over the Wapsipinicon River in Perry Township. As part of the contract, King was to move the earlier spans to new crossings--one over Count's Creek in Perry Township and the other over Otter Creek northwest of Hazleton. This truss is apparently that second span, moved by King in 1874 to this location and re-erected on iron cylinder piers. (This supposition is made somewhat more tenuous by a citizens' petition made for a bridge at this location in 1896, which may have been for a replacement span.) Although its history is unclear, this diminutive pony truss is clearly among Iowa's earliest wagon bridges. As such it is an important early remnant of transportation in the state as the counties were beginning to develop their road and bridge systems [adapted from Hybben, Roise, and Fraser 1992].

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes


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