To provide to the public historic bridge photos, documentation, consultation, and presentations in an attempt to share with others their beauty, history, and feasibility of preservation, while at the same time revealing the demolition risk that historic bridges face, while also providing consultation and restorative options for historic bridges.
HistoricBridges.org was founded in June of 2003 under the name Historic Bridges of Michigan and Elsewhere by Nathan Holth. It originally began as a website that provided photos and information for historic bridges in Michigan and nearby places, giving rise to its original name, Historic Bridges of Michigan and Elsewhere. From day one, Holth placed a priority on photo-documenting bridges as extensively as possible, including both overview photos and detail photos which show the structural design and condition of a bridge. Also from day one, there was been a commitment to the advocacy of historic bridges, through public awareness efforts and communication with elected officials. Holth later teamed up with Rick McOmber, another historic bridge enthusiast and photographer, to expand the geographic coverage of the website. Holth and McOmber combined the costs of travel to make longer out-of-state trips, and the site rapidly began to cover surrounding states. At the same time, Luke Gordon, a historic bridge enthusiast with a construction and engineering background, joined the team. Gordon brought the technical knowledge and hands-on experience needed to allow the website to move beyond documentation and also provide consultation and advising services for historic bridges. By 2009, amidst the growing coverage area and range of services offered, Historic Bridges of Michigan and Elsewhere was renamed to HistoricBridges.org. The name is simple, yet reflects not only a strong web presence, but a range of features and services that are not restricted to a geographic location. View the current number of Bridge Browser listings by location.
Today, HistoricBridges.org is the one-stop-resource for all types of historic bridges except wooden covered bridges. Wooden covered bridges are not a part of HistoricBridges.org because providing information and services on this well-known and extensively preserved bridge type would be redundant and a waste of HistoricBridges.org resources. HistoricBridges.org today remains a committed leader in providing information, photos, and consultation on metal and concrete historic bridges.
I was born with a passion for historic bridges, because I took notice of old bridges even when I was only a few years old. The old Military Street Bridge's fancy railings and the arch shapes of the Griswold Road Bridge girders caught my eye before I even started kindergarten. At the same time in my life I always disliked modern bridges with New Jersey Barriers because I could never see anything over the ugly barriers!
Later when I was in high school, the collapse of the Ford Road Bridge in 2002 caused me to develop my current passion and commitment to historic bridges. The loss of this bridge inspired me to to learn about, find, and photograph more old bridges that were still standing. As I learned more about how diverse truss bridges and historic bridges in general were, as well as how at-risk they were, my interest grew. I finally decided to combine my skills in basic web design and basic graphics design with my interest in bridges to create a website.
Since that time, I have gained a high level of experience in the field of historic bridges acquired from visiting, studying, researching, and working in the field of historic bridges. Today, I have developed a strong passion for historic bridges. Historic bridges are my vocation and life's calling, and I will vigorously fight for and defend them. -Nathan Holth, 2010
Nathan Holth holds a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education with a Political Science Major and a History Minor. He has over ten years experience studying and working with historic bridges. Since 2008, he has volunteered and/or been hired by a several experts in the historic bridge field. He has done website work, photography, grant-seeking, and historic bridge inspection/documentation for Vern Mesler of VJM Metal Craftsman, a well known expert in historic bridge restoration. He has done historic bridge website work for Indiana bridge historian James Cooper. He has also been called upon by the Historic Bridge Foundation for a variety of tasks including historic bridge research and consultation, website work, and graphics design. Holth has personally visited and photo-documented thousands of old and historic bridges. He has given a number of historic bridge related presentations and speeches to groups of varying size, as well as speaking at historic bridge ribbon-cutting ceremonies. A member of the Society for Industrial Archaeology, he has presented at their annual conference. He has also worked with communities to save historic bridges by providing services such as assistance getting a bridge considered eligible or listed in the National Register of Historic Places, researching and assessing the history and design of a bridge, writing letters of support, and recommending experts for additional assistance and support. He has also participated as a consulting party for Section 106 Review of historic bridges in the states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Maine, Indiana, Virginia, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Washington State. In 2011, Holth was commissioned to author a book titled Chicago's Bridges, which was published in 2012.
Currently, 6017 of the bridges listed on the HistoricBridges.org Bridge Browser include photographs by Holth.
HistoricBridges.org maintains a close working relationship with the below entities, although they are not actually affiliated with HistoricBridges.org in any way.
Bach Steel, www.bachsteel.comHistoric Bridge Foundation, www.historicbridgefoundation.com
Most of the photos on HistoricBridges.org were taken by team members Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber. Occasionally, photos from other photographers may be used. In particular however, the below individuals have provided a greater quantity and quality of photos than any other outside photographer. The work of these photographers appears on HistoricBridges.org in greater numbers because these individuals have distinguished themselves by the quality and thoroughness of their historic bridge photo-documentation. Their name and primary coverage area is shown below. Some of these contributors have also directly aided HistoricBridges.org photographers; this is also mentioned.
John Marvig (http://johnmarvigbridges.org/) (Photos for many railroad bridges, also has contributed extensive dates, dimensions, and history for many railroad bridges, the result of many hours of exhaustive archival research.
Dave Michaels (Photos primarily for the Ohio River valley and southeastern United States. Also provided transportation and lodging for Nathan Holth.)
Tom Winkle (Photos for Illinois River and Chicago Area and Photos From Perspective of a Boat. Also provided boat transportation for Nathan Holth)
James Rouse (Photos for Gogebic County, Michigan)
Randy Mulder (Photos for West and Northern Michigan)
Elaine Deutsch (Photos Primarily For Southeastern Pennsylvania)
Caleb Gordon (Ontario)
Marc Scotti (New York State Department of Transportation)
Most of the information appearing on HistoricBridges.org is derived from on-site visits to bridges combined with the expertise of the HistoricBridges.org team. In addition, the National Bridge Inventory, State Historic Bridge Inventories, National Register of Historic Places Nomination Forms, and Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) documentation are all common sources for historic bridge information presented on HistoricBridges.org. Websites seen on our Links page also have served as sources. In addition, the below people have provided information and assistance.
Eric DeLony (Chief Emeritus, Historic American Engineering Record)
Frank J. Hatfield (Ph.D., P.E.. Emeritus Professor)
James Baughn ( www.bridgehunter.com )
James Cooper ( www.indianahistoricbridges.com )
Kitty Henderson (Historic Bridge Foundation)
Lê Thị Dung
Lloyd Baldwin (Michigan Department of Transportation Historian)
Michael Clark (St. Clair County Road Commission County Highway Engineer)
Marc Scotti (New York State Department of Transportation)
Ron Jones ( www.oldohiobridges.com )
Todd Wilson ( www.bridgemapper.com )
Tom Byle (Kent County Road Commission Assistant Engineer)
Vern Mesler ( www.historicbridgerestoration.com )
Historic bridges are among the most threatened of historic structures in North America, and their frequent demolition is often also an example of how taxpayer dollars are being wasted to demolish and replace these historic structures at a higher cost.
"From 1987 to 1999, poor planning and conflicting interests led to the loss of 62 percent of Indiana's metal bridges built between 1860 and 1930."
"While communities appreciate the historic value of their bridges, planners often recommend demolition before seeking local input. The end result: historic bridges are being torn down even though rehabilitation is generally cheaper than new construction."
"While appreciation for Indiana's covered bridges has increased, the destruction of other types of historic bridges has escalated at an alarming rate."
"Most of the historic bridges are threatened by county governments' drive to replace them with modern structures at the recommendation of consulting engineers. Replacement of historic bridges with new ones typically costs taxpayers much more than restoration, and it destroys landmarks that are an integral part of local communities throughout the state."
"Indiana needs a bridge preservation plan that takes a comprehensive look at these endangered resources throughout the state and sets clear priorities for preservation, with funding to allow for rehabilitation. Preservation advocates must be consulted as individual bridge projects are considered, to ensure that preservation and rehabilitation alternatives are fully explored."
The United States government and the 50 states define a historic bridge as a bridge listed in or officially found eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register of Historic Places is a listing that has specific requirements called Criterion that a bridge must meet to be eligible or listed. HistoricBridges.org believes that the National Register is a useful tool, but has some serious problems. Bridges that display an appearance and/or design not found in modern bridges may help give a community a sense of identity and origin, and they may tell us a great deal about our transportation heritage, yet may be ineligible for the National Register. Also, the National Register provides no clear indication of the varying significance of old bridges. Some bridges are more rare and significant than others and deserve greater effort toward preservation, however the National Register provides only a "Yes" or "No" finding for eligibility or listing. Furthermore, the way the United States operates, if a bridge is not listed or eligible, it is given no consideration for preservation by the federal government, even if the bridge offers some level of heritage value (even if not meeting National Register Criterion) and would be feasible to preserve... yet such bridges are instead demolished with no consideration given to the feasibility of preservation.
It should be noted that some communities in the United States have municipal designations for historic structures. In some cases, such as the City of Chicago's Landmark designation, the criteria for these listings is quite different from the National Register of Historic Places, and furthermore, these listings may offer greater protection for the designated bridge.
In Canada, heritage designations are largely handled by municipality-level designations. There are provincial designations as well, such as the Ontario Heritage Bridge List. Also, Ontario has a unique point-based system for evaluating the heritage value of historic bridges. Like the National Register Criterion in the United States, the Ontario procedure has its own unique faults and shortcomings, however as a point-based system it acknowledges a range of significances which the U.S. National Register does not.
HistoricBridges.org lists many bridges, ranging from nationally significant historic bridges that have one or more official designations, down to bridges that may have very little significance or might even be heavily altered from their original design, but still have something to tell us about the history of transportation or bridge construction.
Because of the wide variety of historic significance among the bridges listed on HistoricBridges.org, and because of the shortcomings of official designations, HistoricBridges.org instead uses a unique proprietary system to asses the historic significance of bridges on the website, called the Historic Significance Rating (HSR). Click here to learn more about the Historic Significance Rating. This page also explains the range of bridges included on this website. Sometimes, a HistoricBridges.org narrative will discuss whether or not a bridge should be considered eligible for or listed in the National Register, but this is separate of the HSR rating.
As such, do not visit HistoricBridges.org expecting to see only rare historic bridges that are officially designated. At the same time, use the HSR rating to help sort through the bridges that are really important or rare versus those that are more common and less significant. Visitors interested in only rare and highly significant bridges should be able to use the HSR ratings to single out those bridges. At the same time it should be noted that HistoricBridges.org does pride itself in not including modern bridges built after 1970. In only a few cases are post-1970 bridges shown on this website, and when they are, they are clearly marked as modern bridges. This is a website about transportation past, not transportation present.
HistoricBridges.org's deviations from following systems like the National Register and exclusion of modern bridges sets this website apart from other bridge websites, as well as apart from the philosophies of other bridge experts and scholars. It is the intent that these differences do not diminish the usefulness and credibility of the content offered on HistoricBridges.org, but instead offer a new and unique perspective to the heritage value of bridges.
want you to stand up and speak up for historic bridges. Yes, you!
From the creation of this website in 2003, we have never placed advertisements on this website, nor have we asked for donations from website visitors to cover the costs and immense time/effort required to keep this website available for you, nor we do not intend to do this in the future. Instead, we ask you to consider supporting this website by contacting someone, such as your legislators (local, state, and federal) and/or the Obama administration and expressing support for historic bridges. Also consider a short note to your legislators and lawmakers in your area expressing concern over the use of this funding to destroy historic bridges, and request that they support and protect historic bridges.
A simple email telling them that you like historic bridges and want to see them preserved instead of demolished is all that is needed. Alternatively, you can get technical in your emails/letters if you wish.
It is not hard to send an email. Support this website by supporting historic bridges.
Email government officials in support of historic bridges today!
Since this website began in 2003, we have noted a steady increase in the number of ticks encountered while photographing bridges. Since the best places to photo a bridge often involve walking through weeds and brush you inevitably end up in their natural habitat. However, they seem to be becoming more numerous. Of even greater concern is the noted increase charted by the Center for Disease Control in incidents of Lyme Disease, a very miserable and potentially dangerous disease that can be somewhat time consuming and expensive to get rid of. Areas of concern can be roughly determined based on where cases of Lyme Disease are reported. Click here to view the most recent map from the Center for Disease Control. Also note that eastern Canada also has Lyme disease. If you are photographing bridges in these areas and you are the sort of person who wants to walk off the road to get good photos, consider caution in these areas. Check your body at the end of the day for ticks. We also recommend treating your clothing with permethrin (available online at many stores) which can kill ticks that wander onto your clothing, and also spraying bug spray containing DEET to further deter them.
This Version Adopted January 11, 2012 (Previous Version: November 25, 2011)
Legal Status of HistoricBridges.org
HistoricBridges.org is a volunteer project, and is NOT currently a 501(c) organization of any kind. HistoricBridges.org is NOT funded by any business or governmental interests.
HistoricBridges.org and the people who run HistoricBridges.org are private volunteers. HistoricBridges.org is NOT a government agency, does not represent or work with any governmental agencies, nor is it a hired consultant for any government agency, nor is it in any way associated with any government agency. HistoricBridges.org is not associated with any for-profit firm. HistoricBridges.org is not associated with any non-profit organization.
While we strive for accuracy in our factual content, HistoricBridges.org offers no guarantee as to the accuracy to information offered as fact on HistoricBridges.org or any HistoricBridges.org correspondence, and will not be held responsible for any consequences resulting from the use of such information. Information is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied. Information could include technical inaccuracies or errors of omission. Those making use of information from HistoricBridges.org have the responsibility of confirming and verifying its accuracy. HistoricBridges.org also offers numerous opinions and commentary on the website and in correspondence and communications, and these opinions are the opinions of the respective HistoricBridges.org member who made them and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone else either within HistoricBridges.org.
HistoricBridges.org is a private volunteer group, and government agencies and other owners of bridges have the responsibility to understand the legal status of HistoricBridges.org and its members. HistoricBridges.org content, correspondence, and communications is not and may NOT be used in place of official content, correspondence, and communications of governments and any government agency or organization. HistoricBridges.org is NOT responsible for any consequences resulting from the use or misuse of HistoricBridges.org content, correspondence, and communications in this manner. Owners and users of bridges have the responsibility of correctly following all applicable laws, rules, and regulations, regardless of the circumstances.
No personally identifiable information is automatically collected from you by this website. Visitors may supply personal information to HistoricBridges.org by contacting HistoricBridges.org by email or the website's Contact page. Such personally identifiable information is never automatically collected, and is available to HistoricBridges.org only if visitors physically type such information into an email or form. Any personally identifiable information collected in this manner will only be used to respond to questions or fulfill requests. No information will be shared with advertisers, spammers etc.
As many websites on the Internet do, anonymous information may be collected when you visit this website. Such information includes, but may not be limited to the following. One way HistoricBridges.org collects such information is an HTTP_USER_AGENT. This is a string of text that your internet browser contains and sends to websites you visit, and usually lists the name of the browser and operating system you are using. A common example: HTTP_USER_AGENT: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.8.1) Gecko/20061010 Firefox/2.0. Another type of anonymous information collected is referrer information. This identifies what website you used to get to the HistoricBridges.org website, such as Google or Yahoo, and such a listing may also contain what search terms you used that returned the HistoricBridges.org website as a result. Such information collected is only used to ensure that the HistoricBridges.org website content is best designed for the type of browser most visitors are using, and also to ensure that the HistoricBridges.org website is easy for visitors to find in search engines. None of this information is personally identifiable.
HistoricBridges.org also makes use of Google Analytics to learn more about the general nature of website traffic. This is a popular program and many websites on the Internet use this program. No personally identifiable information is collected, however information such as general geographic location is collected by this program.
All email is routed through a third party junk email filter called MX Guarddog for the sole purpose of removing spam messages.
HistoricBridges.org has chosen to display limited numbers of text advertisements through the AdSense program offered by Google. These advertisements are limited to small boxes appearing to the left of the main bridge photo for newer pages in the Bridge Browser. HistoricBridges.org has chosen to use any income generated from these advertisements solely for the purpose of operating and maintaining this website, which is and always will be freely available for public viewing. The two primary costs of operating and maintaining the website (given that our volunteers are not paid for their work on the HistoricBridges.org website) are annual website hosting costs and the cost of traveling to and photo-documenting bridges. In this sense, even though HistoricBridges.org is not an official non-profit organization, income generated from advertisements is regardless being used in a "non-profit" manner.
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Users may opt out of the use of the DART cookie by visiting the advertising opt-out page.
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Absolutely no copyrighted content from the HistoricBridges.org website, including photos, may ever appear on other websites including but not limited to Wikipedia, and any website based off of Wikipedia.com, including but not limited to www.answers.com, or any unregulated visitor-compiled website for any reason without the express written permission of HistoricBridges.org. An exception is that a hyperlink to any HTM or PHP page on HistoricBridges.org is permitted in the External Links or Works Cited section of a Wikipedia article. Directly linking to images is also never allowed for any reason on any website. Small portions of textual content on HistoricBridges.org may be quoted or paraphrased (in compliance with "Fair Use" of copyrighted material), but this must be done in strict accordance with an acceptable citation method that allows viewers to quickly trace that content to the HistoricBridges.org website. Wholesale copying of entire narratives is not allowed without express written permission from HistoricBridges.org.
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Written permission to reproduce/publish images must be secured from HistoricBridges.org prior to publication. HistoricBridges.org will confirm your request with a Letter of Agreement and invoice. Payment must be made in US dollars at the time of publication to "Nathan Holth." HistoricBridges.org does not accept credit card payments.
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Publishers shall furnish HistoricBridges.org without charge one copy of each publication where reproduction appears.
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A discount of 25% off total publication fees is available to documented non-profit organizations. Non-profit status must be submitted with order; 501(c)(3) document preferred.
Absolutely no copyrighted content from the HistoricBridges.org website, including photos, may ever appear on Wikipedia, any website based off of Wikipedia.com, including but not limited to www.answers.com, or any unregulated visitor-compiled website for any reason without the express written permission of HistoricBridges.org. An exception is that a hyperlink to any HTM or PHP page on HistoricBridges.org is permitted in the External Links or Works Cited section of a Wikipedia article. Directly linking to images is never allowed for any reason on any website. Textual content on HistoricBridges.org may be quoted or paraphrased, but this must be done in strict accordance with an acceptable citation method that allows viewers to quickly trace that content to the HistoricBridges.org website.
Use of content in presentations.
Special privileges are granted to those who wish to use information and photos contained on HistoricBridges.org in presentations given for non-profit purposes and promoting the preservation of or increasing public knowledge of historic bridges, whether a specific bridge or historic bridges in general. Please contact HistoricBridges.org when doing so, as we like to track when our content is used to gauge whether visitors find it of use and can also verify that your intended use does not violate our policies. HistoricBridges.org is also happy to work with you to ensure that you can freely use content from HistoricBridges.org to create a seamless presentation, while also making sure that HistoricBridges.org receives some form of credit. Exceptions to the below requirements may be granted if your presentation has a specific need, but such exceptions are only allowed with express permission. Be safe and contact us first to avoid violation of our policies.
All photos on the website that are not explicitly credited are the property of Nathan Holth, Rick McOmber, or Luke Gordon. With these photos, simply including a reference to the HistoricBridges.org website during the presentation, perhaps including the logo at the end of the presentation is sufficient credit, and may be of benefit to your viewers who may find the HistoricBridges.org content of interest. However, with photos explicitly credited to someone else, the express written permission of HistoricBridges.org or the owner of said photo(s) is needed before they can be used, as there may be specific restrictions with such photos.
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Right To Adjust Policies
HistoricBridges.org may, from time to time, make adjustments to these policies as deemed necessary for the successful operation of the website and its services. Website visitors are responsible for checking this page for any changes to policies.
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