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Cowley Bridge

Kelso Bridge

Cowley Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: November 10, 2014

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
West Stevens Creek Road Over Elk River
Rural: Lincoln County, Tennessee: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1878 By Builder/Contractor: King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
170 Feet (51.8 Meters)
Structure Length
171 Feet (52.1 Meters)
Roadway Width
13.8 Feet (4.21 Meters)
1 Main Span(s)
NBI Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

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This cast and wrought iron bridge, with a 170 foot span, is one of the longest-spanning iron bowstrings in North America. It is also the longest known surviving bowstring span by the King Iron Bridge Company, one of the most prolific builders of this today-rare pioneering metal bridge type that was most popular in the 1870s. Because of its span length, this bridge should be considered to have national significance. Additional state-level significance arises from the fact that this is the only known surviving iron bowstring in Tennessee. In addition to the significance due to its size, this bowstring truss has several details not found in most surviving King Bridge Company bowstrings. The presence of lattice on the verticals is not typical for King bowstrings, and this is likely a result of the length of the atypically tall vertical members needed for the unusually long span length. The other unusual detail is the floor beams which feature a rare design including tension rods, which supplement the main part of the floor beam which is composed of two channels.  A small number of King truss bridges have this detail, but it is not common, especially on bowstrings.

The bridge has been abandoned. A high priority should be placed on the full in-kind restoration of this bridge, either here, or perhaps in a new location on a trail or in a park for pedestrian use. The bridge retains good historic integrity. However, some diagonal members are damaged or have been the victims of welded alterations that likely will need to be addressed during restoration. One of the verticals also was partially broken off at the base. What is important however, is that most of the cast iron connection assemblies appear to be in good condition and remain in place on the bridge.


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