Photo Contest: Othmar H. Ammann Awards

Do you have a favorite bridge or a top-notch bridge photograph that you want to share with other preservationists and bridge lovers? The Othmar H. Ammann Awards hosted by The Bridge Hunter’s Chronicles is the contest for you.

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Railroad bridge in Pittsford, VT.

 

The contest is named after an internationally known bridge engineer, who immigrated to the US from Switzerland and left his legacy for the next generations to awe in wonder.

The categories are:

  • Lifetime Legacy Award
  • Best Snapshot Award
  • Best Kept Secret Award
  • Mystery Bridge Award
  • Bridge of the Year Award

The Author’s Choice Awards are:

  • Best and Worst Examples of Historic Bridge Reuse
  • The Salvageable Mentioned
  • Spectacular Bridge Disaster
  • The Best Find of a Historic Bridge
  • The Biggest Bonehead Story

Nominations have been extended until Sunday December 4, 2016. Voting will proceed right after the closing and continue through the month of December. For questions and further details on each category, please visit the contest page at The Bridge Hunter’s Chronicles.

Good luck!

What is Commercial Archeology?

Today’s post is a guest post from Raina Regan (also a repost from her blog). Raina is on the board of the Society for Commercial Archeology and often finds herself answering the question: “What is Commercial Archeology?”  Short answer: it’s not just archeology! Read on, and Raina will answer all of your questions and share how she got involved with the SCA. 

Starlite Drive In sign credit Raina Regan

Starlite Drive-in Theater, Bloomington, IN. Photo by Raina Regan. 

by Raina Regan

When I mention I’m currently on the board of directors for the Society for Commercial Archeology, I often get a lot of blank stares or questioning glances. “What exactly is Commercial Archeology?” they might ask.

A formal definition from the Dictionary of Building Preservation (1996) defines commercial archaeology as:

The study of artifacts, structures, signs, and symbols of the American commercial process; includes both mass-produced and vernacular forms of the machine age: transportation facilities, such as highways and bus stations; roadside development, such as diners, strip retail, and neon signs; business district buildings, such as movie theaters and department stores; and recreation facilities, such as amusement parks.

What do I define as commercial archeology? In short, structures and objects of the commercial landscape. We traditionally look at items starting in the 20th century, including neon signs, diners, theaters, and more.

Oasis Diner plainfield indiana raina regan

Oasis Diner, Plainfield, IN. Photo by Raina Regan. 

I’m not really sure how my passion for commercial archeology developed. I’ve always thought I should’ve lived during the 1950s because of my love of diners, seeing movies at drive-in theaters, and ranch houses. Since high school, architecture and history from the 20th century appealed to me the most and my interest in commercial archeology is a natural outreach of this.

My real beginnings with commercial archeology in my preservation career started in 2008. When I attended the National Preservation Conference in Tulsa, OK, I participated in a day-long field session on Route 66. We traveled a section of the historic road, with drive bys of former filling stations and repair shops. We stopped at several icons along the way, but two structures specifically inspired me as a preservationist and historian of commercial archeology.

rock cafe

The Rock Cafe, Stroud, OK, undergoing rehabilitation following the fire. Photo by Raina Regan. 

The Rock Cafe in Stroud, OK was recovering from a devastating fire at the time of our visit. But meeting with the cafe’s owner, Dawn Welch, was particularly inspiring. She told us stories about the Cafe and her passion for the road was evident. She was the basis for the animated character Sally Carrera in Cars, one of my favorite preservation-related movies. I know they reopened in 2009 and would love to go back for a visit.

Route 66 - Bridge #18 at Rock Creek, Sapulpa

Bridge 18, Rock Creek, Sapulpa, OK. Photo by Raina Regan. 

One of our first stops was at Bridge #18 at Rock Creek, Sapulpa, Oklahoma. Constructed in 1924 on the original Route 66 alignment, it is a Parker through truss and is still open to traffic on the historic Route 66. Seeing the original brick road was inspiring as a historian, allowing me to connect with all the travelers that had once traversed this bridge.

Wishing Well Motel Franklin Indiana

Wishing Well Motel, Franklin, IN, off US 31. Photo by Raina Regan. 

What makes commercial archeology special? From a preservation point of view, I see commercial archeology as accessible to everyone. The nostalgia factor of commercial archeology means everyone can connect to these resources in some way. These are places in our every day life that we grow to love, and as they age and gain historic significance, they become a cultural icon. Many spots are located on highways or other roads, which means they become well-known and idolized within our communities.

ski-hi drive-in

Ski-Hi Drive-in, Muncie, IN. Photo by Raina Regan. 

Structures such as diners, motels, gas stations, and theaters are ideal for continued use or adaptive reuse. However, commercial archeology mainstays including drive-in theaters, amusement parks, and neon signs may present more difficult challenges for preservation. For example, the Ski-Hi Drive In outside Muncie, Indiana is slated for demolition. Although the 1952 drive-in theater is a local icon and has strong local support for its preservation, it is located at the crossroads of IN-3 and SR 28 in rural Delaware County. Raising the money needed to return the site back to a drive-in is difficult, while there are not many adaptive use options for such a site. I attribute the strong local support for its preservation because of nostalgia and strong personal connection many have to the site.

As a board member of the Society for Commercial Archeology, I try to advocate for the preservation of these resources whenever possible. As preservationists, we should use these resources as ways to connect preservation to a broader audience.

Brookfield Floating Bridge

Brookfield, Vermont is the sort of town that refuses to have its roads paved. In fact, the National Register of Historic Places nomination specifically mentions the dirt roads as character defining features of the village. It is also home to one of the few floating bridges in the world. The floating bridge means just as much, if not more, to its residents as the dirt road. It, too, is listed in the National Register – as a contributing resource to the Brookfield Historic District.

The story goes that a man fell through the ice one winter and drowned, prompting residents to lay logs across the water and tie them together in the winter of 1820. When the ice melted the log bridge remained, creating a floating bridge. Over the centuries, the bridge was replaced many times, with wood barrels to float the deck and eventually plastic barrels. Remember this photo from 2010? That’s when it was the sinking bridge, and closed to traffic. This 1976 bridge was the 7th floating bridge across Sunset Lake, but it had seen better days.

December 2010, Brookfield, VT.

Because of the bridge’s historic significance and the determined people of Brookfield, the Vermont Agency of Transportation designed a new floating bridge to replace the deteriorating 1976 bridge. The bridge opened on May 23, 2015 in grand celebration, with probably more people than Brookfield’s seen in decades! I worked on the project a bit while at VTrans, so it seemed like a fitting celebration to attend. Here are a few photographs from the day.

Dirt roads through the center of Brookfield.

Dirt roads through the center of Brookfield. The main road is actually State Highway 65.

Hundreds gathered for the bridge opening.

Hundreds & hundreds gathered for the bridge opening.

Food, souvenirs, bands, red, white and blue!

Food, souvenirs, bands, red, white and blue!

The brand new floating bridge still contributes to the Brookfield Village Historic District.

The brand new floating bridge still contributes to the Brookfield Village Historic District.

All details were discussed.

All details were sweat over in the design process – including bridge railings, guardrails, and the connection from the bridge to the roadway.

View across Sunset Lake.

View across Sunset Lake.

View from Ariel's Restaurant in town to the bridge.

View from Ariel’s Restaurant in town to the bridge.

If you’re in Central Vermont, visit the Floating Bridge (and drive across it). It’s a trip!

Preservation Photos #229

The lenticular truss bridge in Highgate Falls, VT.

The lenticular truss bridge in Highgate Falls, VT.

This two-span wrought iron lenticular truss bridge was constructed in 1887 by the Berlin Iron Bridge Company in Highgate Center. It currently serves pedestrians. A bit about lenticular truss bridges (and other metal truss bridges here):

Lenticular trusses consist of both upper and lower curved chords, giving the bridge the shape of a lens (hence the name lenticular). This bridge type gained popularity during the early 1880s, and a number were constructed in Vermont. 

Preservation Photos #196

The lenticular truss bridge in Highgate Springs, VT.

The lenticular truss bridge in Highgate Springs, VT. Currently closed, in need of repairs, but otherwise a pedestrian bridge. 

Bridge Memories

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And the days of work at the Lake Champlain Bridge and Chimney Point are coming to a close. Every day out there brings back memories to my early days in Vermont. A preview here is Pier 3 of the old bridge with Pier 6 of the new bridge in the background. What a difference!

Preservation Photos #192

The Taftsville Covered Bridge undergoing rehabilitation.

The Taftsville Covered Bridge undergoing rehabilitation.

Yes, there is actually a bridge under all of that falsework. Remember what it looked like un-covered? Take note of the new roof. You can see the arch on the right, in between the blue scaffolding.

Preservation Photos #186

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Bridge railings, like this pedestrian railing of a Poultney, VT metal truss bridge are defining characteristics of historic bridges and contributing features of historic districts.

A Winter Drive

“Let’s go for a drive.”

Do you ever just drive to drive? Did you and your families take Sunday drives through the countryside for some family entertainment? In the days before automobiles, city dwellers took trolley rides out to the parks for picnics or carnivals or other entertainment. Sometimes they visited cemeteries, as many were designed as parks. When the automobile arrived on the scene, trolleys fell out of favor. (Read more about trolleys here.) With automobiles on the scene, people had greater freedom of mobility for work, travel and everyday things.

Surely as teenagers, we all drove around because we could. Nothing said freedom like driving around with your friends, whether it was to the beach, the diner or nowhere in particular. If you’re a professional now with a 9-5 job (or some form of 9-5) and “adult” responsibilities, do you still have the urge to drive? Maybe you don’t have the time for a road trip, but what about for an afternoon? Do you drive for any other reason than you have to?

This past weekend, Mother Nature graced Vermont with sunshine and blue skies (before she throws a March snowstorm at us this week). I could think of no better way to spend a late sunny Sunday afternoon than cruising the Vermont highways for a while.

US Route 2

US Route 2

US Route 2

US Route 2 (I-89 to the left)

A truss bridge in Richmond, VT

A truss bridge in Richmond, VT

VT Route 100, near the 100B junction.

VT Route 100, near the 100B junction.

Blue skies make up for the bare winter trees.

Blue skies make up for the bare winter trees.

Since a summer road trip seems so far off, these afternoon and day drives will have to suit me for now. What about you?  Stay warm and drive carefully in this upcoming storm.

Preservation ABCs: K is for King Post

Preservation ABCs is a series that will work its way from A to Z, bringing words into conversation that are relevant to historic preservation, whether it’s an idea, feature or vocabulary term. The idea is to help you see preservation everywhere you look and wherever you go. Enjoy! See previous letters.

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K is for King Post (Truss)

Pine Brook Bridge in Fayston, VT: A king post truss bridge. Source: Library of Congress. Click for source.

Pine Brook Bridge in Fayston, VT: A king post truss bridge. Source: Library of Congress. Click for source.

A king post is a type of truss, and can refer to building or bridge construction. Being able to identify a truss is an important part of preservation conversation, whether you are working on an architectural description or talking to a contractor or an engineer. As an introduction to trusses, start with an easy one: the king post truss. It is a simple truss and most often used for short spans. Think of it as a triangle. An easy definition of a king post is borrowed from Cyril Harris’ book, American Architecture: an Illustrated Glossary:

A structural support for a roof formed by two inclined rafters joined at the apex of their intersection. A horizontal tie beam connects the rafters their lower ends, and a vertical central member (called the king post) connects the apex with the midpoint of the tie beam. 

See the triangle? This triangle is a truss and can repeat in bridges (then called multiple king post truss) and structures. They are easiest to identify on covered bridges or metal truss bridges or in attics. Take a look next time your passing over a bridge or hanging around an attic.

Got it? You can always jump to the HAER truss poster and dive right into studying.