By Sadie Hunter
More than 15 years in the making, three Indiana counties have come together in a unique way – via a bridge spanning the White River at Strawtown Koteewi Park and White River Campground in northern Noblesville and Cicero.
This summer, Hamilton County Parks and Recreation connected three bridges, each more than a century old, to create one bridge approximately 285 feet long. Now, the department is looking to celebrate the feat with The Historic Bridges Festival Nov. 10, with a dedication ceremony beforehand.
Hamilton County Parks Director Al Patterson said the county has been working on the project since early 2000 after a friend of the Hamilton County Parks Dept., Jim Barker, let officials know of a bridge that was set to be demolished – Washington County Bridge No. 113.
“Jim literally worked as a rocket scientist for NASA,” Patterson said. “He decided that he loved Indiana and bridges more than he loved rockets. So he came back to Indiana and eventually created his own firm, specifically specializing on bridges. If you look back through history in the last 20 years, whenever there was a major incident involving a historical bridge and they talk about restoring it, repairing it, Jim Barker is in the story.”
A reconstruction of Hamilton County Bridge No. 21 – made using its original plans from 1890 – connects Washington No. 113 to Wayne County Bridge No. 229 on the Strawtown Koteewi side of the river bank.
Washington County Bridge No. 113
For nearly 10 years after the bridge was acquired, it lay in pieces, stored behind a facility at Strawtown Koteewi Park.
Hamilton County paid nothing for the bridge. It was acquired through a state preservation effort.
“Washington County was getting rid of it, and by that time, the state was creating their historic bridge inventory and restoration program to try to help save some of these historic bridges,” Patterson said. “We were one of the first people to recover and restore a bridge through this program.
“Washington 113 is a triple-intersection Warren bridge,” Patterson continued. “It was designed to be kind of the next big thing in steel-truss bridges, but by the time it became the next big thing, new technology was coming into place, going away from the big steel superstructure that you see up over the top. So, this was the only one ever built in Indiana.”
Washington 113 spans 150 feet from the White River Campground River bank to its connection to Hamilton 21.
Hamilton County Bridge No. 21
In 1990, the original Hamilton County Bridge No. 21 was demolished. But after looking at historic bridges in other counties to bring to Noblesville, the parks department began looking for something a little closer to home.
Original plans from 1890 were found at Ball State University, and the 35-foot bridge was recreated to serve as the connecting piece from Washington 113 to the 100-foot Wayne County Bridge No. 229.
Wayne County Bridge No. 229
This bridge was built in 1904 by the New Castle Bridge Company.
“Wayne County 229 also goes by the name of the American standard,” Patterson said. “It was literally built by the thousands all over the country.”
To get the bridge taken down and stored in Pierceton, Ind., where it sat for nearly 10 years, the cost was approximately $55,000.
In all, Hamilton County paid approximately $600,000 for the entire project after matching 20 percent of a $3 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration and the Indiana Dept. of Transportation.
Upon entering the White River Campground off the south side of Strawtown Avenue, the huge, royal blue steel beams stick up from the trees over the river. Patterson said nobody knows what color the bridges were in their original state, but in an effort to make it stand out, Hamilton County Parks and Recreation chose something that would contrast with the earth tones surrounding it.
A dedication ceremony for the three bridges will begin at noon Nov. 10 and last until approximately 2:45 p.m. The Historic Bridges Festival will kick off later that afternoon at 4 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public. The festival will include a performance from My Yellow Rickshaw, food trucks, a scavenger hunt and family activities like corn hole and a bounce house.
WANT TO GO?
What: The Historic Bridges Dedication Ceremony and Festival.
When: Noon to 2:45 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. Nov. 10.
Where: White River Campground, 11299 E. 234th St., Cicero.