Pawhuska’s Big Stone Bridge: Part 3

Arch of the Pawhuska Bridge

The Completion

The Lynne Avenue Bridge in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, was finally opened to traffic in early December of 1912. A good summary of the structure was published by the Oklahoma Free Press:

“One of the most substantial stone bridges erected in the state has just been opened to traffic.

“The dimensions of the bridge are 375 feet in length, the bridge proper 20 feet wide, and the approaches 30 feet in width.

“The bridge has three arches, 30 feet in height above normal water line and the approximate cost was $17,000. Barlow and Mackey were the contractors.

“Much delay has been caused by the inability of the city commissioners and the city commissioners [county commissioners?] to get together on the filling and grading[.]

“The county commissioners finally purchased the material for $82 from a lot near the south end, and contracted with J. B. Thomas for the [handling] of about 2400 cubic yards at 40c per cubic yard. Mr. Thomas has had several teams at work and the bridge was opened to traffic today.

“This will be of great help to the farmers and will result in great benefit to Pawhuska as the old ford was impassable at certain seasons necessitating the farmer to only put on one half a load when coming to market.”

“New Stone Bridge Opened to Traffic,” Oklahoma Free Press, December 6, 1912.

The Flood of 1915

The Lynne Avenue Bridge was a success, even surviving an unprecedented flood on September 15, 1915, in which Bird Creek rose so high that Pawhuska was flooded. Many bridges were destroyed during this flood event, including one on Main Street in Pawhuska, but the stone arch bridge stood the test. A detailed account of the flood can be found on the front page of the September 16, 1915 edition of The Osage Journal.

Pawhuska Flood
Two views of Main Street Pawhuska during the September 15, 1915, flood as seen in the September 23, 1915, edition of The Osage Journal.

There were rumors floating around in Oklahoma after the flood that the stone bridge had been stripped of all stonework above the arches, but the September 23, 1915, edition of The Pawhuska Capital put this story down among reports of the Pawhuska flood that were “maliciously exaggerated by outside press.” According to The Osage Journal, what happened to the stone bridge was as follows:

“Fear was felt for the stone arch bridges but they stood like statues being divested of their trimmings. The railings copings and fillings washed away but the arches yet remain and but little expense is required to place them in as good condition as they were before the flood.”

“Excessive and Continued Rain Turns City into Raging Torrent,” The Osage Journal, September 16, 1915.

Taken as a whole, it would appear that at the very least the fill in the Lynne Avenue Bridge had been washed out to a degree; this is borne out by The Pawhuska Capital:

“The approaches to the stone bridge south of the city were washed out but Commissioner Saddler now has a force of men at work filling in and the bridge will be ready for travel by the first of the week.”

“Floods over Kansas and Oklahoma,” The Pawhuska Capital, September 16, 1915.

From The Osage Journal that came out the same day:

“Commissioner Saddler requests the Journal to say that there will be no delay, as soon as the water is down so teams can cross, sufficient force will[ ]be put on the stone arch bridge to make it passable in short time. Traffic will be resumed in a few days. In the mean time we must get along the best we can without hearing from the outside world.”

“Will Be No Delay,” The Osage Journal, September 16, 1915.

Commissioner Saddler proved to be as good as his word, for:

“THE STONE ARCH BRIDGE to the South of the city is passable,— the [approaches] have been filled and County Commissioner Saddler should be given credit for prompt action on the work.”

“Personal and Local,” The Pawhuska Capital, September 23, 1915.

The Lynne Avenue Bridge’s performance during the catastrophic flood of 1915 prompted The Osage Journal to say:

“The terrific pressure against the bridge at the southeast corner of town during the flood should be sufficient evidence that the stone arch is the only kind of bridge to build.”

“Suspension Bridge Completed,” The Osage Journal, September 30, 1915.

Thus, though the Lynne Avenue Bridge was put to the test, it came through the ordeal successfully, proving the durability of a well-built stone arch bridge.

The Lynne Avenue Bridge Today

The Lynne Avenue Bridge is clearly a well-built bridge. The bridge is truly massive, and is also a heavily used one, carrying a busy blacktop as well as two sidewalks.

Lynne Avanue Bridge, Pawhuska OK
The Lynne Avenue Bridge is an imposing structure and is heavily used.

The Lynne Avenue Bridge has several interesting characteristics. The most noticeable feature of the bridge is its sheer size; this is one of the largest stone bridges in the area, even larger than most if not all the relatively nearby Cowley County, Kansas, stone arch bridges. The piers of the Lynne Avenue Bridge are fairly thin, rest on bedrock, and are not obscured by protective concrete aprons. Due to the quality of the rock, the piers appear to have not suffered much if at all from over a century of flowing water. Though the arches are large and high, the long approach gives the bridge a more or less level driving surface. One of the more subtle features of the bridge is mason’s marks on the arch stones. Mason’s marks were historically used to tell the masons where exactly a cut stone was to be placed in a structure, or to identify the stonecutter who cut the stone in question. These marks appear on the Lynne Avenue Bridge in the form of holes drilled into the stones in various patterns and are most prominent on the arches. Their exact purpose is not entirely clear, however.

Arch of the Pawhuska Bridge
A view of one of the arches of the Lynne Avenue Bridge. Notice the holes drilled in patterns on the face of the arch.

The Lynne Avenue Bridge in Pawhuska, Oklahoma is beyond a doubt an impressive structure, and certainly will be of interest to any stone arch bridge enthusiast. That this imposing structure still serves a heavily used road reflects well on the quality and care that went into the building of this monumental bridge.

Click here to see Part 2 of this series.