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Upper Bluffton Bridge

Iowa Bridge Number 348810

Upper Bluffton Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Bridge Documented: June 30, 2009

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
West Ravine Road Over Upper Iowa River
Bluffton: Winneshiek County, Iowa: United States
Structure Type
Metal 8 Panel Pin-Connected Pratt Through Truss, Fixed and Approach Spans: Metal Pin-Connected Queenpost Pony Truss, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1880 By Builder/Contractor: Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
116 Feet (35.4 Meters)
Structure Length
154 Feet (46.9 Meters)
Roadway Width
14.8 Feet (4.51 Meters)
1 Main Span(s) and 1 Approach Span(s)
NBI Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This bridge no longer exists!

View Archived National Bridge Inventory Report - Has Additional Details and Evaluation

This historic bridge was demolished and replaced!

View an essay about this bridge by Jason D. Smith

This bridge's through truss main span is a textbook Wrought Iron Bridge Company bridge, meaning it retains unparalleled historic integrity and is essentially an exact copy of a design that can be found in catalogs for the company at the time. Most noteworthy is it retains the distinctive cast iron caps over the top chord / end post connection at the hip vertical, which the company placed on bridges built during this period. Cast iron bearing plates and bridge shoe details are present on this bridge. It also is very noteworthy for its approach span, which is an extremely rare example of a Queenpost truss.

Information and Findings From Iowa's Historic Bridge Inventory

Discussion of Bridge

In the 1870s Winneshiek County embarked on an ambitious bridge construction program, in which many of the earliest wooden structures were replaced with more substantial iron spans on stone substructures. Beginning in 1873, the county, under the direction of bridge commissioner George Winship, built several bowstring arch-trusses, most of which were supplied by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company, of Canton, Ohio.

By 1880 the county had erected a total of 32 iron bridges, all built under Winship's supervision. That year the county contracted with WIBCo for two medium-span bridge superstructures. The first was the Lawrence Bridge. The other was a 166-foot-span Pratt through truss replacement structure for the Upper Bluffton Bridge, placed over the Upper Iowa River on existing abutments. Costing $2,831.23, the Upper Bluffton Bridge featured a pin-connected Pratt truss based on patents held by David Hammond, WIBCo's president.

The Upper Bluffton and Lawrence Bridges marked a watershed for bridge building in Winneshiek County. The county supervisors had contracted for small-scale, all-iron trusses in the 1870s (Pratt half-hips and bedsteads, primarily), but these two trusses marked the first time that the county purchased longer-span trusses instead of bowstrings for rural crossings. The bridges presaged the building trend in the county for the rest of the 19th century. Winneshiek County continued to build iron, and later steel, trusses on its rural roads in the 1880s and 1890s. This change in character of bridges occurred well within the mainstream of state and national trends, for after the 1880 bowstring was specified increasingly less frequently for roadway crossings. WIBCo, at the forefront of bowstring innovation in the 1870s, was also a leader in the shift toward other structural configurations a decade later. David Hammond foresaw the decline of the bowstring in the mid-1870s, as his company was reaching its zenith on the basis of bowstring sales, and he directed his patent activities more toward straight-chorded trusses after that point.

WIBCo maintained an extensive catalog of bridge types that ranged from the exotic to the commonplace. With its pinned connections and patented Pratt web configuration, the Upper Bluffton Bridge represented the former rather than the latter. It was one of thousands of such pinned Pratts erected throughout Iowa in the late 19th century. The Upper Bluffton Bridge is technologically significant as a very early, well-preserved example of this mainstay wagon bridge type. In Winneshiek County it represented the first time the county used a truss rather than a bowstring for a rural crossings. A local harbinger of prevailing bridge trends, the Upper Bluffton Bridge is a significant transportation-related resource [adapted from Crow-Dolby and Fraser 1992].

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes


Photo Galleries and Videos: Upper Bluffton Bridge

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Jason D. Smith Gallery
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A collection of overview and detail photos, taken by Jason D. Smith This gallery features data-friendly, fast-loading photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer


Maps and Links: Upper Bluffton Bridge

This historic bridge has been demolished. This map is shown for reference purposes only.

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