This is a truly unique setting. Here, there are two parallel drives side-by-side, and each carries an extremely rare 1870s cast and wrought iron bowstring truss, and each bridge is by a different builder. View the page for the other bridge here. The photo to the right shows the other bridge in the background. The bridges and drives appear to be private property, but are next to a public park called Old Town Reserve. The park marks the birthplace of Tecumseh.
This bridge is a cast and wrought iron bowstring truss bridge built by the Champion Bridge Company. Like many companies during the 1870s, Champion Bridge Company designed and patented unique details for bowstring bridges it built. The design that the Champion Bridge Company patented stands out as one of the more unusual designs however, both in terms of technical design and visual appearance. The most unusual and visually distinctive component is the top chord, which is extremely complex in design. It is composed of three curved bars that are held together by pipes, bolds, and cast iron blocks which are specially shaped to fit. The top chord almost has a skeletal look to it, like a spine/backbone of some strange animal.
This bridge's trusses no longer function and have been mounted on a modern bridge. They serve a decorative purpose only. There is visible bending and deformation in the bowstring arch. Aside from these complications, the bowstrings otherwise retain integrity of design and materials and effectively convey their design.
The bowstring that this bridge is parallel is a nice comparison to this bridge. Built by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company, the other bridge is still a unique design patented by its builder, but displays a less bizarre design of top chord. The other bridge's trusses have not been made decorative and are functional.
Only three Champion Bridge Company bowstrings are known to survive today. Only one, the Egypt Pike Bridge has trusses that continue to perform a load-bearing function.
Information and Findings From Ohio's Historic Bridge Inventory
The bridge carries a private drive (1356-58 Old Springfield Pike) over a stream in a suburban setting north of Xenia. The drive provides access with the Old Springfield Pike for the houses on the east side of Old Town Creek. Between the creek and the Old Town Pike, to the west of the bridge, the drive passes through Old Town Park, which includes recreational fields, parking lot, picnic pavilion, and access to a bike trail. This is one of two parallel drives that serves this purpose. The other drive, located to the south of this one, is carried over the stream by another bowstring truss (29XXXX3). A historical marker beyond the bridge's northwest quadrant indicates this area is near the site where the Native American leader Tecumseh was born.
The 1 span, 60'-long bowstring truss is no longer carrying loads and its flooring system has been removed. Live loads are now carried by a precast concrete slab superstructure with the bowstring trusses attached as railings. The bowstring arches are the characteristic patented Champion Bridge Co. design with three iron plates bowed in an arch shape and stiffened by a zigzag web of rods, bolts, and cast-iron connecting pieces. The verticals and diagonals are a cross-shaped section. The diagonals are rods with threaded ends. The lower chords are wrought-iron bars that have bolted splices and that are looped around special cast iron shoes at the bearings. The bridge is supported on concrete abutments.
The bowstring trusses have been altered by replacement of the original flooring system. Although no longer functioning to carry live loads, the truss lines themselves are complete. There is some impact damage to the northern truss at its eastern end that has caused deformation of the arch. It does not appear that this is the truss's original location.
Summary of Significance
The ca. 1875 Champion Bridge Company, patented bowstring truss bridge has lost some integrity of original design due to the replacement of the flooring system and impact damage. The integrity issues are secondary, however, to recognizing the high level of significance of this uncommon bridge type/design by a prominent Ohio fabricator that did its most innovative and significant work in the 1870s and 1880s. It is 1 of 3 identified examples in the ODOT historic bridge inventory (5/09).It is 1 of 3 identified examples in the ODOT historic bridge inventory (5/09).Bowstring trusses are characterized by arched top chords and a trussed or lattice web. They rank among the rarest and most technologically significant of 19th-century metal truss designs since they appeared early in the evolution of iron bridge development and were almost always based on the patents or proprietary designs of bridge builders and engineers. The progenitor of the form was the famed engineer Squire Whipple of New York, who built the first example in 1840 over the Erie Canal at Utica. After the Civil War, Ohio was a center for the development of the bowstring with its concentration of metal bridge-building companies. Companies such Wrought Iron Bridge, Champion Bridge, Massillon Bridge, and King Iron Bridge built their reputations on successful bowstring designs with a dizzying number of variant ways of forming and connecting the truss members. The companies emerged in time to fill the burgeoning demand for an economical, prefabricated bridge for use on American roads. Bowstring trusses thus document this exceptionally inventive and technologically significant period in the development of American metal trusses from the 1860s to early 1880s. The ODOT inventory has identified 22 surviving examples dating from ca. 1864 to 1880 (Phase 1A, 2008).Established in 1872 by Zimri and Jonathan Wall and incorporated in 1878, the Champion Bridge Company is among a handful of Ohio's many bridge-building companies that have survived from the late 19th century to the present day. Like many of its competitors, Champion built its early success on a patented wrought-iron bowstring truss, and then later grew into building more conventional truss designs including Pratt and Warren trusses, steel stringer/multi-beam, and girder-floorbeam bridges. During the 1880s and 1890s, the company expanded aggressively into the south opening sales offices in Atlanta and Birmingham. According to the company's own published history, Champion outlasted many similar companies that folded in the early 20th century because of its strong sales in southern states, particularly Florida during the boom years of the 1920s. The company was a prolific builder of relatively modest-length bridges for county and local governments in states from Michigan to Florida. The Great Depression brought difficult times, and Champion's shareholders voted to liquidate in 1934, only no outside buyer could be found. In 1935, three of the company's long-time employees - general manager Ralph J. Miars, shop superintendent Cash L. Richardson, and sales engineer Edward J. Rose - purchased the assets of the company. Taking any work they could find, including building sidewalks and repairing old bridges, the three partners made it through the Depression and World War II. After the war, the firm continued to fabricate and erect steel bridges with most of the work in Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. Champion reported that it had a reputation among those state's county engineers for its quality work and knowledge of older truss bridges and ways to repair or strengthen them economically, "thus stretching limited county funds." Champion remains an active steel fabricating company today.See HAER OH-83 (SFN 65XXXX1) for more on Champion and its bowstring designs.
The bridge is one of the 22 extant bowstring truss bridges that survive in the state. Having so many is remarkable, and even though they are "common" based on their numbers, each is an important and irreplaceable record of the development of the metal truss bridge and the ingenuity associated with the Ohio industrial development. The bridge has moderate significance because its flooring system has been replaced. The truss lines are important.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes
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This bridge and drive appear to be private property, but are next to a public park.
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