Destinations Magazine

Indiana Blogs: Historic Hoosier Bridges

By Jessicanunemaker @JessNunemaker

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This marks the start of a new series at little Indiana: Indiana Blogs! If you are an Indiana Blogger, please use the contact form and send me an email. You may be featured right here on little Indiana.

Indiana Blogs: Historic Hoosier Bridges

Indiana Blogs: Historic Hoosier Bridges

Historic Hoosier Bridges is an Indiana blog with a fantastic mission: to keep historic Indiana bridges safe and sound.

This blog will give you an eye-opening look at the news and history surrounding bridges across the state. Metal or covered or stone, this Hoosier blog shares about them all!

With an active Flickr page (Flickr is a popular online photo-sharing network), you can completely immerse yourself in the bridges of Indiana. Perhaps you will feel inspired to help save the historic Indiana bridges in your area!

Indiana Blogs: Historic Hoosier Bridges

Why did you start Historic Hoosier Bridges?
I like to think of “Historic Hoosier Bridges” as kind of being a Moniker of mine…much like “little Indiana” is to you. My original intent was to start a website of the same name, which someday I will. But as you know, starting and maintaining a website takes a lot of work and dedication to do it right. I haven’t gotten to the point yet where I feel comfortable with that, so I started looking for other venues in which to get the name out there.

I joined Flickr in May of this year initially just to share some of my bridge photos. I quickly realized that other than a covered bridge group for Indiana, there was no group for ALL types of bridges. And so my Historic Hoosier Bridges Flickr group was born. My group has already grown to nearly 50 members and just surpassed 500 photos in the group pool.

In looking for people that might be interested in joining my group, one of the first I came across was…YOU! And in conversation you mentioned that you were featuring Blogs on little Indiana and to let you know if I was a blogger. Well, at that time I didn’t even know what a blogger really was. It wasn’t long before I spent the better part of a July day checking out Blog sites, and before the day was over I had created Historic Hoosier Bridges…the Blog.

So, I guess good or bad…YOU got me into this!

What are three of your most favorite posts?

  • Portersville Bridge Starts A Second Life
  • More On Medora
  • Tioga Bridge Revival

Obviously, I’m a sucker for a happy ending! All 3 of these bridges were restored this year and should be around for a long, long time to come.

  • The Portersville Bridge was saved from the scrap yard by the state DNR, who decided it could be used in Indiana’s newest state park.
  • The Tioga Bridge was restored for pedestrians after plans had been in the works for many years.
  • And the Medora Covered Bridge (the longest historic covered bridge in the united states) was finally restored nearly 40 years after it was bypassed with a new bridge on a state highway in Jackson County.

What keeps you ready and raring to post? Why do you blog?
I’m trying to evolve and improve this thing as I go along. At first I just thought of it as an outlet for news about Indiana’s historic bridges, good and bad. But now I realize I want to try and attract people that might not otherwise be interested.

My plan is to start posting some informational blogs that might just stir some interest from the non-pontist people out there. It is also helping to improve my writing skills which will help me with future plans for a website and possibly a book someday…not to mention how proud my senior English teacher, Mr. Dicken, would be!

Where did this love of bridges come from?
I saw my first covered bridge in Rush County when I was about 12. I was immediately fascinated with the workmanship and details that were so painstakingly crafted into it. Back then, in the late 1970′s, covered bridges were still not completely safe from demolition and replacement. Rush County preservationists would finally prevail to save it’s iconic Kennedy bridges (built by a local family) in the mid-1980′s.

I honestly didn’t have the same initial interest in the metal truss bridges that I had in their wooden counterparts. We had quite a few of them back then in Henry County, and I guess I literally took them for granted. So when I moved back in 1993 after living in Florida for 9 years and found the last 2 in my home county being demolished I was stunned! I would later find out that many of those that were now gone had been built by the Pan American Bridge Company of New Castle. A fragile link to our local history had been lost forever…and nobody seemed to care.

So while I still enjoy visiting and photographing our rustic covered spans, my heart has really been focused on preserving the remaining metal ones. Dr. James Cooper, a friend and colleague of mine, wrote a book in 1987 about Indiana’s metal bridges called “Iron Monuments To Distant Posterity”. At that time there were about 1500 of these spans remaining in the state…fast-forward 20 years and nearly 70% of those have vanished. It is imperative for me to do what I can to help save the remaining ones.

Do you have a favorite bridge? Where is it and why?
That’s a tough question, as I have several that I like for different reasons.

Probably my favorite covered bridge is one called Offutt’s Ford in Rush County. It’s one of the Kennedy built spans that has their trademark scrolls and brackets, and unlike most covered bridges they painted them white. This little bridge is close to my home and is a wonderful spot to take the family for a picnic.
Vandals nearly succeeded in destroying this bridge several years ago…and I was happy to be a part of the group that lobbied to have it restored.

I have to mention 2 metal bridges here…to help make a point. The Wells Street Bridge in downtown Fort Wayne has been restored and might well be considered the most beautiful iron bridge remaining in the state…and one of the nicer ones in the U.S. as well. The Victorian embellishments that adorn it have to be seen to be appreciated. It has become a community landmark where several activities take place throughout the year. But I would have to go with the Fort Ritner Bridge over the White River on the Lawrence-Washington County line.

It is a majestic span that hovers high over the river in a beautiful location that sees limited traffic. But a recent report by an out-of-state firm excluded it from being one of Indiana’s “Select” bridge which makes it’s future less certain. I have a certification for bridge inspection from the state of Indiana and have spent several hours on this bridge.

The bridge CAN and SHOULD be restored to continue serving this crossing. A new bridge has been built just a couple miles to the East that can handle any farm equipment and other heavy vehicles. This bridge can be safely restored for less than what a replacement bridge would cost.

Is there anything else that you would like little Indiana readers to know about your site, Historic Hoosier Bridges?

There is a long-standing public misconception out there about historic bridges. People have been led to believe that they are unsafe and should all be replaced with ugly and overpriced concrete spans. The truth is that most of the remaining ones could be restored for a fraction of the cost and continue to SAFELY carry traffic.

I was involved with the restoration of an 1887 wrought iron bridge in Hancock County a few years ago. It was rehabilitated for roughly half of what a replacement would have cost and now carries school buses and farm trucks on a regular basis. Sadly, government corruption and misspending of taxpayer’s dollars is most prominent in transportation and bridge replacement contracts.

There is a bright spot however! Over the past 5 years, Indiana has actually become one of the best states for rehabilitating and reusing it’s historic bridges. I have seen more and more bridges restored for continued use and others relocated for pedestrian use in parks and on trails. It is an encouraging sign, especially while other states like Pennsylvania and Missouri continue to obliterate theirs’.

I’m not going to stop, however, until I see those like Fort Ritner given the respect they deserve. These bridges are a part of our history and our heritage, and once they’re gone…they’re gone!

A Link to Our Past

little Indiana couldn’t agree more. They just don’t make ‘em like they used to! Thanks Tony for stopping by little Indiana today.

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