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River Street Bridge

Richard Welden Bridge

River Street Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Bridge Documented: July 1, 2009

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
River Street Over Iowa River
Iowa Falls: Hardin County, Iowa: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1922 By Builder/Contractor: Welden Brothers Construction Company of Iowa Falls, Iowa and Engineer/Design: Marsh Engineering Company of Des Moines, Iowa
Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
140.0 Feet (42.7 Meters)
Structure Length
150.0 Feet (45.7 Meters)
Roadway Width
20 Feet (6.1 Meters)
1 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

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Iowa Falls is a city that is known for its historic concrete arch bridges, with three open spandrel arch bridges in town all listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and indeed have been included as part of a historic tour. This is a historic bridge that fits in beautifully with its natural and man-made surroundings, including the scenic rocky Iowa River and the other historic arch bridges in town. Aside from the replacement of a deck and railings, this single-span bridge retains good historic integrity. The bridge is historically significant for its association with James Marsh, an Iowa engineer noted for his patent of a bridge type today known as a Marsh Rainbow Arch bridge type.  As a deck arch bridge, this structure is noteworthy as an example of work by James Marsh outside the rainbow arch field.

This bridge has a plaque making the bridge a memorial to a Iowa State House Representative (1966-1986) named Richard Welden. The bridge's contractor was a Iowa Falls company called Welden Brothers, a company that which this representative was the president of. This may be why this particular bridge was dedicated to him.

Information and Findings From Iowa's Historic Bridge Inventory

Discussion of Bridge

This long-span concrete arch carries River Street across the Iowa River in the city of Iowa Falls, in north-central Hardin County. Preceded by an earlier structure at this crossing, the existing bridge traces its history to 1921, when plans and specifications for the structure were drafted by Des Moines civil engineer James B. Marsh in behalf of the state highway commission. For this urban crossing, Marsh delineated a single open spandrel arch, with three massive arch ribs carrying a series of concrete columns. The bridge would be handsome in its simplicity, as observed by J.H. Ames, bridge engineer for the Iowa State Highway Commission, to a member of Iowa Falls Community Club: "I am sure that you are going to be pleased with the type of construction that is proposed, as it will make a very artistic and substantial bridge." Moreover, it would be far more stable than the earlier span. "The bridge that crosses the river at that point has been there many years," The Iowa Falls Sentinel reported, "And it is getting in bad condition."

There was some disagreement among the city, the county and the state highway commission regarding the height and location for the proposed structure, but when the county suggested dropping the project altogether, the city reacted strongly. Local citizens actively supported the bridge, citing the important commercial value of the project. Eventually the residents prevailed in securing financial backing for the bridge's construction, and commissioners advertised for competitive bids in late spring of 1922. Awarded the contract that summer, the Weldon Brothers Construction Company of Iowa Falls began work in July by demolishing the earlier bridge. Completed without incident in 1924 for the aggregate sum of $16,900, the Iowa River Bridge continues to carry steady traffic in its urban settings. The structure maintains good physical integrity, with a 1958 widening of its deck and removal of the original guardrails and electroliers as the most serious alteration.

The River Street location has been a pivotal one in Iowa Falls development. Initially a simple ford, the crossing was followed by a timber bridge, then an iron structure, then a 140-foot steel Pratt truss. As the fourth bridge here, the existing concrete arch represents the development of bridge technology in Iowa. Its open spandrel configuration is unusual in Iowa. Relatively few such arches were ever built (all in urban locations like this one), and even fewer remain in use today. Designed by one of the state's foremost bridge engineers, it is an excellent example of its structural type [adapted from Crow-Dolby and Fraser 1992].

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes


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Maps and Links: River Street Bridge

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