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Mill Creek Swinging Bridge

Mill Creek Swinging Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Bridge Documented: July 3, 2009

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Swinging Bridges Road Over Mill Creek
Rural: Miller County, Missouri: United States
Structure Type
Metal Wire Cable Suspension, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1925 By Builder/Contractor: Joseph A. Dice
Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
96.0 Feet (29.3 Meters)
Structure Length
134.8 Feet (41.1 Meters)
Roadway Width
11.2 Feet (3.41 Meters)
3 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

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

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.

This bridge is near the much larger and unaltered Grand Auglaize Bridge, which is the second largest and most historically intact Dice suspension bridge.

The Mill Creek Swinging Bridge has been extensively altered, and the majority of original bridge material and design has been lost. Thus, this bridge is given a lower Historic Significance Rating. The original cable remains on the bridge but is nonfunctional, having been bypassed by a new main cable. All suspender cables have been replaced. Floorbeams have been replaced. The anchorages appear to have been replaced or heavily altered to support  the new cable. The deck has also been replaced with corrugated metal.

This bridge has not been preserved, since the historic integrity has been lost. It is imperative that the nearby Grand Auglaize Bridge which is unaltered never be altered in this manner!

Information and Findings From Missouri's Historic Bridge Inventory

Bridge Features

Superstructure: steel cable suspension bridge
Substructure: concrete deadmen and spill-through tower pedestals
Floor/decking: corrugated steel deck over steel stringers
Other features: towers: steel I-beams; single strand, straight cables in concrete deadmen; guardrail: none

Discussion of Bridge

The Mill Creek Bridge is a steel cable suspension bridge that crosses over Mill 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. A native of Warsaw, the county seat of nearby Benton County, Dice erected up to thirty-one bridges between circa 1896 and the mid-1930s. These included Dice's most notable spans, suspension bridges over the Osage River in Benton, Miller, and Saint Clair Counties. The 135-foot Mill Creek Bridge, supported by concrete abutments and spill through piers, features straight suspension wire, rather than the widely heralded twisted wire rope made famous by Washington Roebling's 1883 Brooklyn Bridge. Additionally, the structure consists of a non-rigid substructure owing to the lack of bolts to secure the floor beams to the stringer beams and the absence of bolts to secure deck flooring to the stringers. These unusual construction techniques were evidently employed by Dice in order to conserve the meager funds procured from nearby citizens and county coffers. Dice's atypical suspension bridge design also incorporated planked flooring, which was not anchored to the abutments, and a single-lane roadway. All these design elements contribute to the structural significance of Miller County's suspension bridges and to Dice's reputation as an innovative Missouri bridge builder. 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, l 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 circa 1925, the Mill Creek Bridge has functioned in place, although a recent renovation in which the original towers and concrete pedestals were replaced and the steel cables reinforced with new cables-compromises the bridge's structural integrity substantially. Ten suspension bridges built by Missouri bridge builder J .A. Dice remain in central Missouri. 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 and utilizing atypical construction techniques. The Mill Creek Bridge, with possesses the shortest span in the state, is as a representative example of an esoteric structural type.

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes

View Original PDF Historic Bridge Inventory Sheet


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