In Pawhuska, Oklahoma, there is an enormous triple-arch stone bridge. This imposing structure carries the busy blacktop Lynne Avenue over Bird Creek, and, as stated by the granite plaque mounted atop one of the bridge’s buttresses, was built in 1912.
Osage County, Oklahoma, in which county Pawhuska is located, had a respectable heritage of building stone arch bridges, and the triple-arch Lynne Avenue Bridge is a major part of this history as well as Pawhuska’s heritage.
Stone Bridges for Osage County
Stone bridges were not new to Pawhuska or Osage County, Oklahoma, by the time the Lynne Avenue Bridge was built. In 1909, Walter Sharp (famous for his work on the stone bridges of Cowley County, Kansas) built a stone bridge over Clear Creek at Pawhuska. Though this was not the first stone bridge in Osage County, it was a relatively early one, and was also a decidedly large and major one. The success of this bridge prompted The Osage Journal, a Pawhuska newspaper, to say:
“Since the completion of Clear Creek Bridge just west of town and the opening of the road on the west, much of the travel coming from that way uses the new road and the bridge. The bridge is constructed of rock, forming two large arches. Abutments and approaches are built of rock, giving the bridge a both solid and substantial appearance. It is conclusive evidence that in Osage county, where we have an abundance of good building rock, that all bridges should be constructed with it. This bridge will stand for ages a monument to the builder and to the commissioners who ordered and oversaw the work regardless of floods and high water.”“Clear Creek Bridge,” The Osage Journal, October 28, 1909.
It is not surprising, given the rock available and the success had with the large Clear Creek Bridge, that Osage County, Oklahoma, ended up building stone arch bridges regularly for several years.
Advertising for the Lynne Avenue Bridge
Bids for the Lynne Avenue Bridge were advertised in the second half of the year 1911 by Osage County. This call for bids did not give much information on what the stone arch bridge was to be like, merely telling prospective bidders to see the plans in the county clerk’s office. This advertisement for bids did prompt The Osage Journal to say:
“The county commissioners have authorized the building of a stone arch bridge at Hominy and are advertising for bids for the construction of another near the southeast corner of this city. The particularly interesting feature about this is the apparent determination to build lasting improvements wherever any are built. Stone arch bridges, similar to the Clear creek bridge built by the last board will be doing service for future generations long after the idea of steel structures has passed away. Native stone is found in quantities and places convenient for probably every bridge needed in Osage county. Its use necessitates the employment of home labor entirely thereby keeping the cost of construction at home.
“Townships boards should and in many places are utilizing the rock for both bridge and culvert purposes.”“Building Stone Bridges,” The Osage Journal, September 21, 1911.
The bridge was awarded to J. W. Barlow & Company (later references to the Lynne Avenue Bridge’s builders say “J. W. Barlow & Mackey”), and was expected to cost somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000. J. W. Barlow was one of two bidders for the Lynne Avenue Bridge, and also had the job of building the stone bridge near Hominy mentioned in the above quote from The Osage Journal.
J. W. Barlow was, for a long time, a blacksmith in Kansas. Deciding to enter the political ring, he rose to become mayor of the town of Caney, Kansas, then moved on to become a county commissioner of Osage County, Oklahoma. Shortly before he built the Hominy and Lynne Avenue bridges, J. W. Barlow resigned his position on the Osage County commission. However, by July of 1912, he was back in Osage County politics running for county treasurer, though he did not win that election.
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