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M-156 Bridge

Murray D. Van Wagoner Memorial Bridge

M-156 Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: Fall/Winter 2006 and November 6, 2021

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
M-156 (Taft Memorial Highway) Over Silver Creek
Morenci: Lenawee County, Michigan: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1935 By Builder/Contractor: W. H. Knapp Company of Monroe, Michigan and Engineer/Design: Michigan State Highway Department

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
45 Feet (13.7 Meters)
Structure Length
45 Feet (13.7 Meters)
Roadway Width
33 Feet (10.06 Meters)
1 Main Span(s)
NBI Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

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

This bridge is next to the Sterling Road Bridge, which is a relocated truss bridge.

The M-156 Bridge is a historic steel stringer bridge that was rehabilitated in 2000. While the original metal railing panels remain, modern two tube railings have been bolted onto them in the front. MDOT selected two tube railings that blocked less of the original railings than the big, ugly Armco railings which are usually used. This is a process that they have used on other historic bridge projects. The railing panels are the Type R4 style used in Michigan from 1932 through 1963. The concrete posts for the railings have a less-common decorative design set into on them used on the earliest R4 railings only up until around 1940. After 1940 they switched to a keyhole design on the railing posts. The bridge itself, structurally is really not that noteworthy, and is a relatively short example, although it is one of the few preserved pre-1940 bridges with R4 railings on them. As nice as this bridge is, it would be nice to see MDOT restore some of the larger or more unusual stringers on trunk line roads in a similar fashion.

Information and Findings From Michigan Historic Bridge Inventory

Narrative Description

M-156 / Silver Creek

The city of Morenci, which was platted in 1852 and incorporated as a village in 1871, served the county early on as an important industrial and grain mill center. The present bridge over Silver Creek was constructed in 1935 at a cost of $35,700 by the W.H. Knapp Company, a contractor based in Monroe. The bridge replaced an older 40-foot Pratt pony truss at the site that was in very poor condition. Funding for new construction came from the Hayden-Cartwright program, a national federal relief effort. As a part of a larger national development of the Taft Memorial Highway, the bridge project represented a cooperative venture by the state highway department and the Taft Memorial Highway Association. The association had been established in 1930 to honor the nation's twenty-seventh president by creating a memorial highway extending from Florida to Michigan.

Attended by more than 5,000 people, the bridge's dedication ceremony on 31 July 1935 featured a main address by the state highway commissioner, Murray D. Van Wagoner, after whom the city council had named the structure. Van Wagoner headed the Michigan State Highway Department from 1933 until 1940, when he was elected governor. Other notable guests included the president of the Taft Memorial Highway Association, the mayor of Morenci, a state senator, the head of the state highway department's bridge division, and the department's district engineer.

Statement of Significance

The Murray D. Van Wagoner Memorial Bridge is eligible for the National Register for its association with a memorial highway and the related tourism industry, and as a named bridge at a state border.

Information and Findings From Michigan Historic Sites Online

Narrative Description

Lying just south of the central district of Morenci, this bridge is skewed 30 degrees to follow the curve of the two-lane highway as it approaches the Ohio border immediately south of the crossing. The bridge's substructure consists of concrete abutments and decorative stepped wingwalls. These wingwalls are flared at the northeast and southwest corners, and U-form on the northwest and southeast. The roadway over the bridge is edged by railings formed from ornamental metal lattice sections fixed between concrete posts accented by recessed panels. Flexible-metal approach rails are bolted to inner face of each end post. Concrete sidewalks run along each side of the structure.


Taft Memorial Hwy
In 1930 organizers from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida formed the Taft Memorial Highway Association to promote automobile tourism. Named after the nation's twenty-seventh president, William Howard Taft, the highway stretched from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan to Fort Myers, Florida. Inspired by hundreds of similar associations across the country, founding members lobbied for modern roads and bridges along there selected routes. Morenci organizers participated actively in the association. Although the association ceased operations during World War II, the state highway bridge over the Silver Creek remains a legacy of local effort in a national movement.

Murray D. Van Wagoner Memorial Bridge
The Michigan State Highway Department built the steel-beamed Murray D. Van Wagoner Bridge over Silver Creek in 1935 at a cost of $35,700. The federal relief project helped the community by providing work during the Great Depression. The Morenci community, and boosters from the Taft Memorial Highway Association, held a dedication ceremony attended by 5,000 people. Namesake Murray D. Van Wagoner, head of the State Highway Department and a future governor of Michigan, made the keynote speech. Adjacent is the 1893 Sterling Road truss bridge, relocated in 2004 from nearby Hillsdale County by the Michigan Department of Transportation for use as a crossing on the pedestrian trail.

This bridge is tagged with the following special condition(s): Unorganized Photos


Photo Galleries and Videos: M-156 Bridge

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Bridge Photo-Documentation
A collection of overview and detail photos. This photo gallery contains a combination of Original Size photos and Mobile Optimized photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
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Additional Unorganized Photos
Original / Full Size Photos
A supplemental collection of photos that are from additional visit(s) to the bridge and have not been organized or captioned. This gallery offers photos in the highest available resolution and file size in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
View Photo Gallery
Additional Unorganized Photos
Mobile Optimized Photos
A supplemental collection of photos that are from additional visit(s) to the bridge and have not been organized or captioned. This gallery features data-friendly, fast-loading photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer


Maps and Links: M-156 Bridge

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