Road Trips

A bridge that will never inspire an artist or a poet

Artists and poets have long employed bridges in their work for their grace and beauty. Monet famously painted bridges, including one in his Japanese garden. Van Gogh painted the same bridge over and over again. Harold Hart Crane wrote probably the most famous bridge poem, about Brooklyn Bridge. Wordsworth’s heart was so stirred by the view from a bridge that he composed a poem while standing on it.

This plain bridge stirs nobody’s heart. Artists and poets look at it and think, “meh.”


Three bridges have spanned the White River on US 50 in Shoals, Indiana. This is the third one. The first, a Whipple through truss, was built in 1880 and served until 1932. The second was a three-span Parker through truss. When it was time for that bridge to go, the era of Interstate-style ugly concrete eyesore bridges (UCEBs) was in full swing, and so this is what Shoals got. This is pretty much the only kind of bridge built anymore.

Fortunately, someone saved this concrete plaque from the 1880 span. It was placed here, marking that bridge’s location, when the 1932 bridge was built. It has style, unlike the modern bridge.

Shoals, Indiana

One day this UCEB will need to be replaced. Nobody will lament it; there will be no commemorative plaque, no paintings or poems.

I happen to think that steel truss bridges are beautiful.

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11 thoughts on “A bridge that will never inspire an artist or a poet

  1. Charlie says:

    I dunno. It’s got clean, streamlined lines. I’m feeling a fleeting inspiration to go paint it… The bridge Van Gogh painted looks very functional too. I think it only looks quaint now because it’s antiquated…

  2. From a distance at least, that plain bridge strikes me as quite beautiful. It’s simple, symmetrical, and it conforms to the surrounding landscape.

    There are other ways for bridges to be beautiful, of course. It undoubtedly lacks individuality. And I didn’t see it up close.

  3. You’re right. That’s one ugly, uninspiring bridge. I understand why it was built that way. They needed a bridge, and they didn’t want to spend a lot of money, but still.

    • Bob, I’ll be back in Shoals sometime later this summer to finish my Indiana US 50 journey, so I’ll be sure to look for Jug Rock. Thanks for the tip!

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