A Record Stone Arch Bridge Span in Butler County, Kansas: The Diller Bridge

Diller Bridge

The stone arch bridge with the longest single span in Butler County, Kansas, today carries NE Price Road over the Walnut River near Cassoday. This bridge, originally known as Diller Bridge, was built in 1908 by C. C. Jamison.

Notable Long-Span Arch Bridges in Butler

The longest single-span stone arch bridge in Butler County ever built was a 66-foot-span bridge over the Whitewater River west of Augusta where U.S. 54/400 now crosses the river. Though it had the longest arch span in the state at the time, this bridge, which was completed in 1904, did not receive very much recognition, and perhaps for a good reason. Carter Bridge, as it was called, lasted only a matter of months before completely succumbing to flooding.

The stone arch bridge with the second longest span ever built in Butler County spanned the Whitewater River near Potwin. Built by Walter Sharp in 1903, this 50-foot-span stone arch bridge did not last for very long, collapsing immediately after a car passed over it in 1915, spawning a variety of sensationally headlined newspaper articles in various Butler County papers in the middle of April 1915.

At 45 feet, Diller Bridge was a record span in Butler in its own right. It had the second longest arch span in Butler County when built, the Carter Bridge having already come and gone. The primary competition for span length compared to Diller Bridge was the 50-foot Whitewater River bridge near Potwin mentioned above. However, the Potwin bridge collapsed after barely over a decade of use, whereas the Diller Bridge is still actively on the road network.

Diller Bridge
The Diller Bridge, which carries NE Price Road over the Walnut River near Cassoday, is the longest single-span stone arch bridge in Butler County, Kansas, today. This picturesque Bridge was built by C. C. Jamison in 1908.

A New Era in Butler Stone Arch Bridge Building

By the time Diller Bridge was built, a new era was just dawning in Butler County bridge building. Under the management of County Engineer Buskirk, “scientific” stone arch bridges were being built, specifically designed to address waterway and foundational problems so common to the early stone arch bridges. Based on date and design, it appears likely that Diller Bridge was one of these scientific stone bridges. One notable improvement Diller Bridge had over the traditional stone arch bridge construction, so the March 12, 1908, edition of The Cassoday Times informs us, was the use of concrete at the waterline. The reason for this was that limestone does not fare well over the years in contact with water, usually disintegrating over time due to freeze-thaw cycles. Concrete tends to be less vulnerable to this freezing and thawing action; hence concrete was used instead of stone at the point of the bridge where this would be a threat. Though this feature of Diller Bridge is now obscured by scour aprons, a good example of this type of construction can still be seen in the 1910 Henry Creek stone arch bridge near Potwin.

Concrete Stone Arch Bridge Foundation
An example of concrete used at the waterline of the 1910 Henry Creek stone arch bridge near Potwin, Butler County, Kansas. This type of construction was also used in Diller Bridge, though in the case of Diller Bridge the scour aprons now obscure this feature.

The Construction of Diller Bridge

The contract for Diller Bridge was awarded to Charles C. Jamison in March 1908 as stated in the March 13, 1908, edition of the El Dorado Republican. The price for this large bridge, which was named after a local landowner, was only $875. Construction appears to have gone reasonably smoothly for this bridge, which had been long requested by the local residents of the Cassoday area. C. C. Jamison had already built many stone arch bridges in Butler County, and it was generally recognized that he did a good job when he built bridges. By October 1908, the Diller Bridge was completed. While the larger record-breaking stone bridges of Butler County failed prematurely, the 45-foot-span Diller Bridge is still in use, over 110 years later. Beyond a doubt, the Diller Bridge was a success.

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