This bridge sits next to the equally rare and beautiful
Keystone Bridge. The Ramsay Bridge is an impressive example of a concrete
girder bridge, as it sweeps over the small valley of the Black River. Such
use of the concrete girder bridge was not often seen in Michigan; concrete
girders were generally used for smaller crossings that did not have a valley
to them. The bridge is significant as the largest remaining example of a
straight chord through girder bridge in Michigan. Unfortunately, the bridge
has not been maintained and serious concrete spalling has marred the beauty
of the structure. It is paramount that this bridge be restored, with
attention paid to bringing back the original appearance of the bridge. As a
significant and impressive example of this structure type, it should be
receive more attention than it currently has been.
This three-span concrete bridge carries
Main Street over the Black River in the center of the village of Ramsay.
Built in 1922-1923 from a design by the Michigan State Highway
Department, the Ramsay Bridge is comprised of a 50-foot concrete through
girder, flanked on both sides by similarly configured, 40-foot girders.
The superstructure is supported by concrete abutments and spill-through
piers with tapered columns and straight diaphragms. It features typical
MSHD detailing with two straight girders that carry the
asphalt-surfaced, concrete slab deck. The modest architectural
expression is provided by recessed rectangular panels in the girder
walls, which are capped with heavy concrete corbels. Bronze "State
Reward Bridge" plates are mounted on the girder's sidewalls. Other than
minor concrete spalling, the Ramsay Bridge remains essentially unaltered
and in physically good condition.
Beginning in 1884, the village of Ramsay developed around Hubbard and
Weed's sawmill on the Black River over a 19th century truss bridge,
which, by the late 1910s had become a deteriorating bottleneck for
vehicular traffic. In response, the Gogebic County Road Commission
petitioned the state highway department for a replacement structure
here, to be funded in part with State Reward monies. In 1922 MSHD
engineers delineated this three-span concrete structure.
The structure that MSHD engineered for this crossing employed a
well-tested standard. The department had first delineated a concrete
through girder bridge design in the 1913-1914 biennium. Featuring
relatively heavy, straight-topped girders in five-foot increments
between 30 and 50 feet, these plainly detailed structures were used for
a variety of small- and medium-span applications in the 1910s and 1920s.
"The reinforced concrete through girder is the design generally employed
for spans from thirty to fifty feet in both the eighteen and twenty-foot
clear roadway from curb to curb," MSHD stated in its Seventh Biennial
Report. "This design lends itself in the majority of cases on account of
its very shallow floor system, thereby giving the waterway a maximum
clearance under elevation of roadway crossing the bridge." By 1930 the
through girder had largely fallen out of favor with the state and county
highway departments, but before it was discontinued, perhaps hundreds of
these utilitarian structures were built throughout the state. The
overwhelming majority of these were single-span structures, built over
relatively low substructures. With its three-span superstructure held
aloft by gracefully tapered concrete piers, the Main Street Bridge in
Ramsay is a noteworthy exception. As the central river crossing in this
small village, it is historically important for its contribution to
local transportation. And as a visually striking, multiple-span example
of what is ordinarily a mundane structural type, it is technologically
significant as well.
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