In the early 20th Century, a unique Missouri bridge builder named Joseph A Dice built a large number of unique suspension bridges for local governments in Missouri. He did not engineer his bridges and he did not draw plans for his bridges, instead he simply eyeballed the place where the bridge was to be built and figured out how much material he needed and what configuration that bridge should have.
A true tribute to Dice's skills, his bridges have in many cases, including the Grand Auglaize Suspension Bridge, lasted longer than newer bridges built by corporate consulting engineers with their fancy AASHTO regulations and high-tech engineering computer programs. One of the largest of the remaining Dice bridges, and also with the highest level of historic integrity, the Grand Auglaize Swinging Bridge is truly a testament to results of a man who was skilled, dedicated and hard working. The bridge is a tribute not to engineers, but to a craftsman.
The Grand Auglaize Bridge is the second longest surviving Dice suspension bridge in the state. It also retains the highest degree of historic integrity. Original towers, cables, railings, and floorbeams are present on the bridge. Many of the other Dice suspension bridges have had large portions of original bridge material bypassed or replaced.
Driving across the bridge is quite an experience largely on account of the incredible noise that the wooden planks on the bridge make when crossing. Due to the flexibility of the suspension design, a rigid deck is not possible, so the wood planks must be placed on the bridge loosely.
Information and Findings From Missouri's Historic Bridge Inventory
Superstructure: steel cable suspension bridge with
steel cable towers
Discussion of Bridge
The Glaize Bridge is a steel cable suspension bridge that crosses over Grand Auglaize Creek some two miles southwest of Brumley in Miller County. The bridge was designed and built by Joseph A. Dice, a well-known regional bridge builder. The 414-foot Glaize Bridge features a single steel cable suspension span, supported by steel towers made up of members rolled in Pittsburgh by Bethlehem. The two main cables consist of parallel-strand galvanized wires, supported on each end by massive, tapered concrete deadmen. To each main cable are attached the wire suspender cables by means of simple wrapping and tying. The steel floor beams are similarly attached to the suspenders' other ends. Steel stringers, which carry the timber plank deck, bear directly on these floor beams. County records contain little or no written documentation pertaining to Dice's suspension bridges in Miller County, which suggests that they were built for local road districts. Preferring to operate on a verbal and spatial basis, the prolific contractor apparently did not retain any written records either. The self-trained bridge builder never drew up any plans or specifications for the structures he erected, instead, relying solely on his memory. Dice illustrated this unorthodox practice by explaining, "with a ball of string to stretch across the river a couple of times, I could just sort of feel the correct measurements." The majority of the "swinging bridges" Dice designed were built by raising money through local subscription and were simply constructed using timber harvested from along stream and river banks. Since its erection in 1922, the Glaze Creek Bridge has functioned in place, with only maintenance-related repairs. Missouri bridge builder J.A. Dice built over 30 suspension bridges between 1896 and 1940 in central Missouri, ten of which remain in place today. As a group, these spans comprise the state's most important examples of vernacular bridge construction, designed and built without benefit of detailed structural analysis or computation. Dice built his lightweight suspension bridges empirically using easily obtainable materials, and, as a result they cost substantially less than comparable steel truss spans. They were breathtakingly light, however, and have fared poorly in subsequent years. The Glaize Bridge, which is the oldest and longest of the Dice bridges still carrying traffic, is distinguished as one of the best-preserved among his remaining spans. It is a superlative example of an esoteric structural type - among Missouri's most important early vehicular spans.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes
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Crossing The Bridge
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