This bridge originally crossed Worthington Road over Wilson Creek. As of 2007, the relocated bridge serves a trail. The trusses have been rendered decorative by the installation of load-bearing pre-stressed concrete box beams. Nevertheless, the bridge trusses remain extremely rare examples of an unusual patented bowstring design that was built right here in Wilmington. The bridge dates to ca. 1875-1880.
Information and Findings From Ohio's Historic Bridge Inventory
The bridge carries the 4C Bicentennial Bike Trail in Wilmington over a stream in a setting of woods and fields. The bike trail was built in 2007 and skirts the south side of Wilmington College. This is 1 of 2 bowstring trusses on the trail system in Wilmington; the other is 14XXXX2, built by the Massillon Bridge Co.
The 1 span, 35'-long, bowstring trusses have been rehabilitated and attached to the sides of a modern concrete slab bridge on a bike path. It is now serving 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.
Relocated in 1992. Original floorings system replaced (2007?).
Summary of Significance
The ca. 1875-80 Champion bowstring truss is the former Worthington Road Bridge over Wilson Creek, just southwest of Wilmington. It was moved to the park in 2007. Although the flooring system is modern, the truss lines survive intact and continue to convey the technological significance of the rare patented type/design. 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). 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 it has been altered by the removal of the original flooring system.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes
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