I pass Holliday Road every time I follow the Michigan Road north out of Indianapolis. For a long time a giant Bridge Out sign blocked the road. When the sign disappeared in 2009, I figured that an old bridge back there had been replaced. So I visited bridgehunter.com, certainly the finest site about US historic bridges, to see what had once stood there. I was delighted to learn that the bridge, a Pratt through truss bridge built in the 1890s and known as the O’Neall Bridge, had been carefully restored.
In 2009 and 2010, I drove all over Indiana on road trips, photographing old bridges when I came across them. Heck, one 2010 road trip focused on the historic bridges of Putnam County. But I kept not making the 20-minute trip from my house to go see the O’Neal bridge.
Then the Boone County Historical Society invited me to speak about the Michigan Road at their April meeting this year. When I saw that the meeting location was about a mile away from the bridge, I knew my time had come. After the meeting I made my way around to Holliday Road, which was of surprisingly rough gravel, and went to see the old girl.
I don’t know the details of the restoration other than what I could observe, which was two new concrete abutments, a fresh wooden deck, and a coat of red-orange paint. I’m sure much more went into bringing this bridge back to life.
The original latticed railing, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, was even restored.
I wanted to show my sons this great old bridge, and on a lazy early-August Saturday we drove up to see it.
We climbed down the bank to see under the bridge.
It seems like governments in most Indiana communities want to replace old bridges, believing it’s less expensive than restoring them. The guys over at bridgehunter.com say that’s often not the case, but I’m no civil engineer and can’t say for sure. I do know that a truss bridge adds beauty to the view and can be a local landmark and a point of pride. Yet so many have disappeared in my lifetime. I’m just glad folks in Boone County saw fit to restore this one.
I hear that the three truss bridges I visited on Old US 50 in Illinois are scheduled for demolition. Go see them while you can, or at least check out my photos of them.