News: Historic Bridge Conference

Do you like bridges? Summertime? Travel? New places? State fairs? Cornfields? Tours? Scholarly papers? Meeting new people with similar interests? If so, consider attending the 5th Annual Historic Bridge Conference, held August 9th – 12th, 2013 in Iowa. It will be the perfect combination of all of the above, and then some. Here is some conference information, provided by Jason Smith of The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.

Each year since 2009, the Historic Bridge Weekend  Conference has  taken place in August or September, and each year, it has drawn in more people who are  experts in historic bridges, preservation or history, as well as those who are either bridge enthusiasts or have a keen interest in how these vintage structures were built and how they played a role in American History.

This year’s Historic Bridge Weekend is coming to America’s heartland, the state of Iowa, where the history of transportation and infrastructure and the development of America as a whole go together like bread and butter.  The Lincoln and Jefferson Highways meet in the state. Iowa was the first state to introduce the No Passing Zone signs. Kate Shelley made her heroic deed by stopping a passenger train from falling through a bridge washed away by flood waters.

And the bridges?  Iowa takes pride in its bridge building. The first bridge designs, like the Marsh arch, the aluminum girder and the Thacher truss originated from Iowa.  Numerous bowstring arches were built throughout the state. Many big-name bridge builders from Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania made their mark in Iowa, while the state had its own bridge building companies located in Clinton, Ottumwa and Des Moines, which dominated the American landscape during the first half of the 20th Century.

This year’s Historic Bridge Weekend will take place August 9th through the 12th and will focus on the eastern half of Iowa, where many historic bridges dating as far back as 1870 still exist today.

Upper Paris Bridge in Linn County, IA. Photo courtesy of Jason Smith. Click for source.

Upper Paris Bridge in Linn County, IA. Photo courtesy of Jason Smith. Click for source.

The agenda will include tours throughout the state, paper presentations, and a dinner each night. It sounds like a great weekend conference, and an excellent reason to tour America’s heartland. Bring your cameras and practice your photography as Jason Smith is working on The History of Truss Bridges in Iowa and welcoming contributions.

For those who are interested in participating in the dinner and presentations, please RSPV Jason D. Smith at the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles at: or by no later than 15 July.  Information on the bridge tours and the dinner and presentations will be provided through e-mail.  Lodging and camping possibilities are available upon request.

Maybe some of you haven’t had the opportunity to attend a conference yet, or are hesitant to do so because you’re not a bridge expert, for example. Maybe you just like bridges. Don’t worry! Conferences are meant to be educational, and if you have an interest in the conference subject then you are sure to learn a lot and meet interesting people. Smaller conferences with tours and many opportunities for networking and conversing are very rewarding, much more than those conferences purely focused on paper presentations. So, if you’re considering this Historic Bridge Weekend, go for it! In addition, Iowa is a beautiful state. (And might I recommend a visit to Field of Dreams, in addition to all of those lovely bridges.)

Find the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles on Facebook, too.

If you’re attending, let me know! And remember, in the Preservation ABCs: B is for Bridge.

Featured In…

Dubuque Main Street (of Dubuque, Iowa) features an excerpt from the Muppets (2011) post in its December 2011 e-newsletter (click to read). I’ve always loved Iowa (partially because of Field of Dreams, but also because of the time I spent in Iowa while living in Nebraska), so I’m psyched to have PiP featured in this newsletter.

Show some love and check out the newsletter to learn about Dubuque’s holiday festivities, local shopping and holiday decorations. Visit the website to learn a bit about Dubuque, too.  Here’s a snippet about the Main Street movement in Dubuque to get you started:

In the 1960s and ’70s Dubuque, like many cities across the country, experienced a polarization of its retail trade from downtown to new development on its west side. This shift led to a dramatic demise of downtown with first floor vacancy levels reaching 55% and a loss of anchor department stores.

Realizing that property owners, business owners and the City needed to work together; a coordinating committee was formed in 1984. Community leaders agreed the Main Street program would act as a timely catalyst for economic development and downtown revitalization for Dubuque

In 1985, Dubuque was chosen by the National Trust’s Demonstration Program to be one of seven pilot cities for the Urban Main Street program. Following the program step by step, Dubuque Main Street has provided structure and unity to a downtown composed of many separate parts. After 26 years of success, downtown Dubuque, the longest standing urban program, has seen a dramatic renaissance, leading the state of Iowa in Main Street investment.

I haven’t been to Dubuque in about 5.5 years and my stay was brief; thus, my knowledge is limited. After doing some browsing about the city, it seems to be a midwestern gem filled with great architecture, cultural events, tourist attractions and recreational activities, all set on the Mississippi River in this hilly eastern Iowa city. Dubuque has won awards from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is ranked high for economic growth and employment opportunities. Check out this BBC video, “How A Midwestern Town Reinvented Itself.”

Neat! I think I’ll add it on my list of places to visit. Thanks Dubuque Main Street  for reintroducing me to the city.

Preservation Photos #29

A house in Walnut, Iowa as seen in summer 2006 that I really wanted to buy (it was for sale). Sadly, I do not remember the address, but I encountered it while browsing the Walnut Antique Show.