The Polecat Creek Bridge

Polecat Creek Bridge

Polecat Creek Bridge is a simple, single-arch bridge in southwest Butler County, Kansas. This bridge is located near Douglass, spanning Polecat Creek on 230th Street in Richland Township. It is the only stone arch bridge in Butler County that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Polecat Creek Bridge
Polecat Creek Bridge

The Setting

Polecat Creek Bridge is an old structure — built well over a century ago in 1901 — that consists of a single 24-foot-span Roman arch. The area is low-lying, and lightly wooded.

For years the bridge has been a favorite attraction in the area. People enjoy stopping here to rest, view the picturesque structure, or fish. Like the large Andes Bridge in Cowley County, historically this bridge was located at a popular local “swimming hole.”

The Original Cost and Builder

Like many of Butler’s stone arch bridges, Polecat Creek bridge was surprisingly inexpensive. The bridge cost a mere $284.

C. C. Jamison built the bridge under the supervision of N. Russell, the trustee of Richland Township at the time. The contract was awarded to Jamison, whose bid was $9 less than that of the next lowest bidder — Walter Sharp, who offered to build the bridge for $293.

Who was C. C. Jamison?

C. C. Jamison was Butler’s most prominent stone arch bridge builder, even surpassing Walter Sharp in the county. Despite the rather premature failure of his first stone arch bridge, C. C. Jamison quickly went on to gain a reputation for building premium-quality structures.

He was a good stonecutter. His work testifies that his men were good stone masons as well. One key that appears to have played a huge role in C. C. Jamison’s success was his masonry skills. It is evident that the stones used in his bridges were chosen as ideal for a given spot, saving stonecutting. This fact is alluded to in a bio of him which appeared in the March 23, 1906, edition of the Walnut Valley Times.

C. C. Jamison
A photograph of Charles C. Jamison taken from the March 23, 1906, edition of the Walnut Valley Times.

Polecat Creek Bridge is one of the earliest remaining of C. C. Jamison’s stone arch bridges.

Repairs

Polecat Creek Bridge is kept in excellent condition. Despite damage sustained during devastating flooding in 2016 and again in 2019, the bridge has been restored to its former condition.

Part of the trouble with many historic stone arch bridges is that they are rather too small and too low to adequately handle floods, so they end up being submerged completely when the water is high. During the floods, Polecat Creek Bridge lost quite a bit of stonework. The damage sustained during 2016 was particularly serious, with the result that it was originally feared the bridge was not salvageable. However, the bridge was successfully restored.

The bridge underwent another round of abuse in 2019, but has been repaired again. It is clear that new stones have been cut to replace originals lost. Overall, the restored Polecat Creek Bridge presents a scenic, original appearance. The work done on this historic bridge is excellent.

Polecat Creek Bridge
It is unclear what was damaged when, but what is obvious is that some of the stonework on top of Polecat Creek Bridge has been replaced with new cut stones. The new work matches nicely the character of the original.

Polecat Creek Bridge is a beautiful rustic structure that has been carrying the road for over a century. This historic bridge is kept in excellent, authentic condition.

Additional resource: Index of the Stone Arch Bridges of Butler County, Kansas