Preservation, Road Trips

Destroyed: 1892 Holliday Road bridge

The tractor driver said he didn’t know that the attachment he was towing was wider than the bridge. And so the bridge on Holliday Road, near Zionsville in Boone County, Indiana, met its end.

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Boone County Sheriff’s Office photo

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Boone County Sheriff’s Office photo

It’s a crying shame, because in 2009 this bridge completed a lovely restoration. I told what I know about it here.

The bridge on Holliday Road

There just aren’t many truss bridges left in and near Indianapolis. I visited this one many times since its restoration. It was a lovely, quiet place to stop.

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This bridge looks to me to be damaged beyond repair. But then, so did the 1880 bridge in Paoli that was destroyed by a semi two years ago (story here) — and it reopened this summer. So maybe there’s hope for the bridge on Holliday Road.

 

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Preservation, Road Trips

The Bean Blossom Covered Bridge

One of Indiana’s best-known covered bridges isn’t actually in our famous covered-bridge region (Parke and Putnam Counties). Rather, it’s in a deep valley in scenic Brown County, near the tiny town of Bean Blossom.

Bean Blossom Covered Bridge

And it’s the oldest covered bridge in the state, built by Joseph Balsey in 1880. While so many of Indiana’s covered bridges use the distinctive curved Burr arch truss, this one is built as a Howe truss.

Bean Blossom Covered Bridge

This bridge used to be on the main road from Bean Blossom to Nashville, at least until State Road 135 came along and bypassed it.

BeanBlossom

Imagery and map data © 2017 Google.

SR 135 has an interesting history here, so allow me this sidebar to tell it. When it was added to the state highway system in 1930, as SR 35, it had two segments. The first led from Indianapolis to Morgantown a few miles north of Bean Blossom. The second picked up in Brownstown, about 35 miles southeast of Nashville, and led to Mauckport on the Ohio River. That left out all of Brown County plus a little of two other counties.

By 1931, 35 was extended through Bean Blossom. You could keep driving straight and cross this covered bridge to reach Nashville, but it wasn’t state highway. Instead, 35 was routed west a few miles down what is now SR 45 to Helmsburg and then along the Helmsburg Road to Nashville, where it became Main Street. This persisted through 1934, when the modern alignment was built as a brand new road between Bean Blossom and Nashville. By 1936, US 35 had been extended into Indiana, leading SR 35 to be renumbered SR 135.

And so at no time was this bridge part of the state highway system. I don’t blame the state for not routing 135 over this bridge — the road leading away from it to the south is quite steep. The new road was built up high enough to solve that problem, as the photograph I shared yesterday shows.

Bean Blossom Covered Bridge

On the day we visited this bridge, as we left heading south we found the gravel to be mostly washed away and the dirt surface to be washboarded. My front tires had trouble keeping traction as I coaxed it up the hill.

Bean Blossom Covered Bridge

But I experienced that trouble only after we had lingered here for a while. This scene is probably much the same as it was going on 140 years ago when Balsey was building this bridge. It was lovely to soak in a little Indiana as it was.

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Misty morning Bean Blossom 4-9 1

Misty morning in Bean Blossom
Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom
2007

One chilly April morning my sons and I headed south on State Road 135 all the way to Corydon, Indiana’s first capital, to see the first statehouse and the elm tree under which delegates drafted our state’s constitution.

On the way we passed through tiny Bean Blossom, perhaps best known for the annual festival bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe started there. But this day, our favorite attraction was the mist that hung over this deep valley. I paused for a quick photograph, and then we drove into the valley and under the mist.

Tomorrow I’ll show you an 1880 bridge on an old alignment of this road.

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Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Misty morning in Bean Blossom

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Preservation, Road Trips

Endangered: 1925 pony truss bridge on southern Indiana’s Dixie Highway

This is one of my favorite old highway bridges. It’s tucked quietly away on a short old alignment of Indiana State Road 37, the old Dixie Highway, just south of Martinsville. Here’s a photo from my first encounter with it, in 2007.

Pony truss bridge

My friend Dawn (standing on the bridge below) and I visited it together one autumn morning in 2012. We saw few cars here, as modern SR 37 bears the traffic burden just 500 feet to the west.

Pony trusses

But on our return visit a few weeks ago, we found that this bridge no longer carried cars at all. I’ve known for a couple years that the bridge had been closed, but nevertheless it saddened me greatly to see it.

Abandoned bridge on Old SR 37

It’s remarkable, isn’t it, how quickly nature begins to reclaim our built environment when it is no longer used and maintained?

Abandoned bridge on Old SR 37

Not that this bridge had received very much maintenance in its later years. At its last inspection, its superstructure was rated in Serious condition and its substructure in Poor condition. That was enough to see it immediately closed to traffic.

Abandoned bridge on Old SR 37

She does look a little battered. But I’ve seen bridges in worse apparent condition still carrying traffic. What do I know? I’m no civil engineer.

Abandoned bridge on Old SR 37

I’ve read that this bridge is slated for replacement, but I’m not sure I believe it. The only properties on this mile-long old alignment are south of the bridge, and all anyone has to do to reach them is enter the alignment at its south end.

Abandoned bridge on Old SR 37

The north end of this old alignment is likely to be dead ended when the current project converting SR 37 into I-69 is complete. At least, that’s how I read the plan maps.

Abandoned bridge on Old SR 37

If so, here’s hoping this old bridge can simply be left in place as a reminder of a highway era long since gone by.

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Road Trips

Their own private highway bridge

37BluffIndy

Imagery and map data © 2017 Google

Once upon a time, State Road 37 (also the Dixie Highway) passed through Indianapolis on a two-lane alignment. But as the main artery to Bloomington, I’m sure that traffic could overwhelm such a narrow highway. Over the years, this road, like so many others, was improved.

One improvement was to build a new four-lane expressway between the two cities. The big new road began about a mile west of Bluff Road at the I-465 highway, which looped the city.

But after about four and a half miles the new road merged into the path of the old. The old road was dead-ended.

But there was a house right there at old-road’s end. And the old road crossed Pleasant Run just before reaching it, on a bridge built in 1954. That bridge remains, as does the original concrete pavement which probably dates to the 1920s or 1930s.

Bluff Road

The railing is of a style I’ve not seen elsewhere on Indiana highways.

Bluff Road

This is a reinforced concrete slab bridge; those arches are decorative, not load-bearing.

Bluff Road

At its last inspection it was rated as Structurally Deficient for poor substructure and eroding banks. But given that it serves just one house, I’m sure the city isn’t giving this bridge a second thought.

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Abandoned bridge on Old SR 37

Gazebo
Pentax K10D, 28-80mm f/3.5-4.7 SMC Pentax-FA
2017

My old friend Dawn and I made our annual road trip recently. We tried to tour the old alignments of State Road 37 between Indianapolis and Bloomington. But from a bit south of Martinsville we were stymied: SR 37 was actively being reconstructed to become I-69, and the old alignments were no longer reachable.

The last old alignment before the construction zone includes this 1925 pony-truss bridge over Indian Creek. On earlier tours of this road I was able to drive across this bridge, but it is now closed and slated for demolition. Sad, sad face. I’ll share more photos in an upcoming post.

Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Gazebo

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