There are several extremely rare and significant pin-connected truss bridges on the Des Moines River, although most are further downstream in the southeast part of Iowa. Each are distinguished as rare surviving examples of large, multi-span examples of their type. Among them, the Wagon Wheel Bridge stands out for its historic integrity, variety of span types and sizes, exhibition of an uncommon Pennsylvania truss span, and for having relatively good historic integrity. Overall, the bridge is a traditionally composed truss in terms of the design of its members and beams. However when all the spans are combined and viewed as a whole, the bridge is unique in appearance and design. The bridge features a large Pennsylvania truss span at the eastern end of the main spans. Pin-connected Pennsylvania truss bridges range from uncommon to outright rare, and each surviving example is significant not only because of its uncommon design but because they tend to be larger and more significant spans. However, the Wagon Wheel Bridge offers so much more than just a Pennsylvania truss span. The remaining three truss spans are pin-connected Pratt truss spans. However the westernmost truss span is shorter than the other two spans in the middle. This shorter span as a result has shorter trusses and slightly lighter weight members. This variety in spans on this bridge makes the structure unique and the bridge is a very beautiful bridge on account of its complex trusses that form a complex geometric art that is unrivaled by any modern bridge. This is a bridge for which preservation is absolutely essential.
From west to east the bridge is configured as followed: One six panel pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge of 96 feet (29.3 meters). Two seven panel pin-connected Pratt through truss bridges each with a length of 124 feet (37.8 meters). One twelve panel pin-connected Pennsylvania through truss bridge of 200 feet (60.96 meters) in length. Eight wooden stringer approach spans with a combined total length of 160 feet (48.8 meters).
Time and other issues prevented HistoricBridges.org from completing a documentation of the parallel historically significant Kate Shelley Bridge, a record-breaking railroad bridge. Review HAER's documentation of the bridge here.
Information and Findings From Iowa's Historic Bridge Inventory
Discussion of Bridge
"The bridge question is settled," the Boone News-Republican announced in November 1909. "The board of directors of the Boone Commercial association and the [county] board of supervisors met at the office of the former Friday afternoon and talked the matter over with a view to putting an end to the vexed question." The county and a citizens' group from Incline had been arguing for the better part of the year over the site for a wagon bridge over the Des Moines River. The county wanted to build the new structure near the existing Boone Viaduct of the Chicago and North Western Railroad, directly west of Eighth Street in Boone. The citizen's group wanted the reconstruct the Incline Bridge. "The advocates of both sites have been warm in their conquest and the dispute had become quite acrid," the newspaper reported. "The board of course objected to building two bridges and at the same time realized that neither side would take care of the demand and desires of both factions." The Commercial Association offered to buy the Incline Bridge, and the problem was thus resolved.
Using steel rolled in Pittsburgh by Lackawanna and Jones and Laughlin and in Indiana by Inland, The Iowa Bridge Company of Des Moines completed the multiple-span through-truss replacement for the Incline Bridge in 1910. The structure, also called the Wagon Bridge, the Bluff Bridge and the Des Moines River Bridge, consists of a long-span Pennsylvania through-truss over the main channel of the river, with three pinned Pratt trusses over the flood plain on the east, all supported by steel cylinder piers. The county later contracted with the IBC to build the larger Des Moines River Bridge, which was eventually incorporated into the Lincoln Highway as a major crossing of the Des Moines River. It carried increasingly heavy traffic until its eventual replacement by a new truss in 1928; the 1928 bridge has also been replaced.
In the late 19th and 20th centuries, before the Iowa State Highway Commission began using standard bridge plans, the individual counties were left to their own devices for highway and bridge construction. The counties contracted for large-scale bridges over the major rivers such as the Iowa, the Skunk and the Des Moines. Comprised of multiple pin-connected trusses, these structures have since been the focus of concerted replacement efforts, until all but a few have been replaced. The Boone Bridge is distinguished as one of the remaining large-scale wagon trusses in Iowa. A regionally important crossing of a major river, it is both historically and technologically significant--an important transportation-related resource.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes
This historic bridge has been demolished. This map is shown for reference purposes only.
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