Pin-connected truss bridges of any kind are very rare in Ontario today, and this particular bridge is one of the finest examples of a pin-connected truss bridge in Ontario. This beautiful bridge also appears as though it may be one of the oldest pin-connected truss bridges in Ontario. The style of this bridge alone is suggestive of an older truss that perhaps dates to the 1880s. The bridge's most visually striking feature that sets it apart from other bridges of this type is its attractive and unusual pedimented portal bracing. Unusual ornamental designs like this are more commonly found on the older pin-connected truss bridges. Another design feature more commonly found on older pin-connected through truss bridges is the "boxy" manner in which the top chord ends abruptly over the end post, rather than blending into the end post without a vertical face at the end. The ends of the top chord are faced with cast iron builder plaques which list the Hamilton Bridge Company as the builder, but do not list a construction date.
Nancy Mathews provided some insight into the area and the bridge. The area around this bridge in 1881 was owned by James Kerr. A Euphrasia history book notes a bridge on 21-22 Sideroad was known as Kerr's Bridge, which presumably is this bridge. (Naming of bridges after nearby landowners was a common practice for rural bridges in the 19th Century.) The Euphrasia history book mentions that Kerr's Bridge was declared unsafe in 1880 and replaced in 1881. It is not known if the bridge seen here today is the bridge that was built in 1881. Stylistically, the details of the bridge certainly would be appropriate for a bridge built in 1881, and the Hamilton Bridge Company was in operation during this time, with the Norwich Bridge supporting both of these statements.
There is one major mystery however. The abutments for this bridge are concrete, and concrete abutments would not be expected in an 1880s bridge. It is possible that the concrete seen today was added later and encases an original stone abutment. It is also possible that the bridge abutments were replaced, with the truss being set aside during the replacement and placed back on the new abutments when complete. Finally, it is also possible that the 1881 bridge mentioned in the Euphrasia history book was replaced entirely including superstructure and substructure, and the bridge seen today is a ca. 1880s bridge that was relocated here from some other location to be reused as a replacement here. As unusual as this may seem, these bridges are easy to relocate, and this was done frequently. A bridge on a busy road might have needed to be replaced with a wider bridge, but the bridge being replaced might be perfect for a quieter road like this Sideroad.
The truss is composed as follows. Top chord and end post: back-to-back channels with v-lacing and cover plate; Vertical members: Back-to-back channels with v-lacing on each side; Hip Verticals: up-set style eyebars with supplementary rods added at a later date; Diagonal members: up-set style eyebars; Bottom chord: up-set style eyebars, except for center panels which are replaced with channel; Portal bracing: Unusual pedimented design composed of paired angles connected by v-lacing and plate, and with curved knee braces composed of a single angle; Struts: two pairs of angles with v-lacing, and knees compose of a single piece of angle; Overhead lateral bracing: Square rod with turnbuckles; Floor beams: replacements, composed of modern rolled Wide flange beams; Lower lateral bracing: replacement rods.
As noted above, there are some alterations to the bridge. The replacement of the floor beams and several panels of bottom chord are the most noteworthy alterations. The original floor beams would have been either built-up riveted beams, or rolled "American Standard" shape i-beams. The eye bars that were replaced would have matched the surviving original eye bars in the bottom chord. While these items were not replaced in-kind and instead replaced with modern substitute materials, and as such are an unfortunate loss to original bridge design and materials, because they are below the deck, they are not major detriments to the visual qualities of the bridge. As such, they should not be considered detrimental to any heritage designation for the bridge. Above the deck level, the bridge enjoys outstanding historic integrity, with the only notable alteration being the replacement of the original railings, which is a minor loss. Another even less noteworthy alteration is the addition of small rods to the hip verticals; because the original hip vertical eyebars were left in place, this is not a concern in evaluating the historic integrity of the bridge.
The bridge is presumably composed of wrought iron as opposed to steel, which would have been typical in the time that this bridge was built. Wrought iron is a tough material that enjoys far greater resistance to deterioration than steel, and in fact sometimes functions much like weathering steel. This is indeed the case with this bridge: although the paint is nearly completely missing from this bridge and has been for many years, there it no discernable section loss or pack rust on the bridge trusses. The truss remains in excellent condition.
Recommended preservation work for this bridge is the replacement of the existing guardrail system on the bridge with a new system that is more visually appealing and less visually obstructive. It would also be worth considering changing the guardrail system so that it is not directly bolted onto the truss members, and is instead mounted into the bridge deck. The existing railing is mounted directly onto the truss members, and as such provides little to no protection for the truss from a potential vehicle collision. A deck-mounted guardrail system will provide the same quality of protection for cars, while also protecting the truss from damage due to car collision.
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