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Cooke Road Bridge

Gaddis Ford Bridge

Cooke Road Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: August 12, 2012

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Cooke Road Over Tributary North Branch Kokosing River
Rural: Knox County, Ohio: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1896 By Builder/Contractor: Buckeye Portland Cement Company of Bellefontaine, Ohio and Engineer/Design: William H. Pratt
Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
50.0 Feet (15.2 Meters)
Structure Length
52.2 Feet (15.9 Meters)
Roadway Width
13 Feet (3.96 Meters)
1 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

View Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) Documentation For This Bridge

HAER Data Pages, PDF

This small and unassuming bridge is one of the oldest concrete bridges in the country. With a Melan-style reinforcing system, it is also one of the rarest types of concrete arch bridge. The Melan system does not use rebar (reinforcing rods) to strengthen the concrete, but instead uses a steel arch embedded in concrete. In this case, the steel arch is created by use of bent railroad rails. The bridge retains original railings on one side only. The original railings are an unusual riveted metal fence style railing.

The bridge is a nationally significant historic bridge, yet is in a severely deteriorated condition. While bad for the bridge, the deterioration has exposed a section of the Melan style reinforcing, enabling photography of this normally hidden detail. It is hoped that this bridge will be restored.

Information and Findings From Ohio's Historic Bridge Inventory


The bridge carries a 1 lane road over a stream in a rural area of active farms.

Physical Description

The 1 span, 52'-long and 15'-wide concrete arch bridge uses bent 52-pound rail placed on 2' centers as the reinforcing, in imitation of the Melan system. The flat, thin shape of the arch was preferred by the fabricator. The bridge is finished with wrought iron railings set atop the curbs. The railings have impact damage. There is considerable spalling of the cement past leaving exposed and lost aggregate, but only limited exposed reinforcing.


Significant loss of original fabric from deterioration, but there appears to be sufficient cover material to have protected the steel beams. The iron railings are original.

Summary of Significance

The 1896 steel and concrete arch bridge was built by the Buckeye Portland Cement Co. (est. 1888), the first Portland cement maker in the state, and is very much in the tradition of the Melan-type arch rather than the design using reinforcing bars that came to dominate the bridge type early in the 20th century. Here 56-pound rails are bent into the elongated elliptical shape and placed on 2' centers to provide the reinforcing, then packed with Buckeye's Portland cement to provide cover material for the steel. This short version of a Melan arch was designed by William H. Pratt (1852-1900) who was the general manager of the Mount Vernon Bridge Company from 1888 until 1898. He was also an early proponent of monolithic concrete bridges (as opposed to stone). Under his leadership, the company grew into a prominent national fabricator of metal bridges. A native of Vermont, he married Elizabeth Devin of Mount Vernon woman and is buried locally. This bridge represents the era of experimentation that surrounded the introduction of "armed" concrete in this country. The bridge is the second oldest example of a "reinforced concrete" arch in the state.

Melan arches were introduced during the early period of development of reinforced-concrete technology and were built in the U.S. from the mid 1890s to early 1910s. Although eventually surpassed by the use of the Ransome-system of twisted, deformed reinforcing bars, they are considered significant in the evolution of the technology. The bridge was designed by Fritz Von Emperger of the Melan Arch Construction Co., the leading American promoter of the technology, which was imported from Europe. The Melan design was used in Ohio for long span arch bridges into the 1920s, particularly in Dayton.

The eligible recommendation of the prior inventory remains appropriate.


The bridge is one of the earliest "reinforced concrete" bridges in the country. It has national significance. It merits extraordinary measures and consideration for its preservation.

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes


Photo Galleries and Videos: Cooke Road Bridge


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Southbound Crossing

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Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.


Maps and Links: Cooke Road Bridge

Coordinates (Latitude, Longitude):

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Bridgehunter.com: View listed bridges within 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) of this bridge.

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2021 National Bridge Inventory: View listed bridges within 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) of this bridge.

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