A Butler County Stone Bridge in Towanda

5th Street Towanda Culvert

We recently verified the existence of a small stone arch road bridge in Butler County, Kansas, referenced in an old newspaper. Unlike the other stone arch bridges found thus far in Butler, this bridge was built neither by township nor by county, but rather by a town, namely Towanda.

The Mention of the 5th Street Culvert

The newspaper reference that led us to find this culvert was a remarkably terse one, merely an item in a summary of a Towanda city council session. It was in the August 5, 1909, edition of The Towanda News, on page four:

“City Council proceeding Aug 2nd at regular session. Contract for stone culvert on Fifth street let to J E Dwyer to cost $84.00[.]”

The Towanda News, August 5, 1909, page 4.

The 5th Street Culvert

This small culvert is located on 5th Street between Cincinnati and Pool streets. The main part of the bridge appears stable for years to come, though the curbings and parts of the approaches are somewhat battered. This modestly sized structure has a simple, quaint charm of its own, and is located in a peaceful open area within Towanda.

5th Street Towanda Culvert
The 5th Street Towanda Culvert.

The culvert is well built, and it is clear that J. E. Dwyer was a good stonemason. This culvert is probably the smallest of the Butler County stone arch bridges, but is bound to be enjoyed by any true stone arch bridge enthusiast. It has been added to our list of Butler County stone arch bridges, map number 31.

But Wait! There is More!

In 1908, the city of Towanda was to build a stone arch bridge on 4th Street. This bridge was to be built “about 100 ft south of Cincinnati St,” as seen in the call for “Sealed Bids” in the August 14, 1908, edition of The Towanda News. However, during the construction of this culvert it was decided to put in a concrete span instead of a stone arch. Before this newspaper reference about the change of plans turned up, we went to 4th Street, Towanda, to find the stone arch bridge. Though we did not find a stone arch bridge under the road on 4th Street (not surprisingly), we did find a charming little sidewalk stone arch bridge.

A sidewalk bridge off of 4th Street, Towanda.

This little bridge is much cruder in design than the 5th Street culvert, but is, notwithstanding, a clever structure in its own right. Particularly appealing is the ingenious way in which the builder extended the arch stones at the crown of the arch to form part of the curbing for the sidewalk.

Are there more stone arch bridges in Towanda? It seems at least possible. It is clear that this town was a proponent of stone arch bridges. Indeed, Towanda Township itself was a major proponent of stone arch bridges, and it was said by The Towanda News:

“Nearly all the board culverts on the public highways in Towanda township are being replaced with good substantial stone culverts, which same is money wisely spent.”

The Towanda News, June 6, 1912, page 1.