The Esch’s Spur Bridge (called Kirk Bridge on the plaque) is a well-known triple-arch bridge outside Dexter, Cowley, Kansas, that is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Built in 1913 by Walter Sharp, this bridge has spanned Grouse Creek for over a century. Arguably the most renowned of the Cowley bridges, it is certainly a must-see for any stone arch bridge enthusiast. It is a very long bridge, and, though perhaps a little difficult to capture in a photograph, the sheer … [Read more...] about The Esch’s Spur Bridge
When building bridges, it is always necessary to take into account the hydraulic effects of the structure. Piers in a river, for instance, always cause interesting water-related phenomena. Not only is a pier vulnerable to being undermined by the action of water, a pier can obstruct trees and other floating objects in the river until an effective dam is created, unless precautions are taken. In extreme cases, like the old London Bridge, too many too-wide piers can pose a major obstruction of … [Read more...] about The Hydraulic Properties of Stone Arch Bridges
There is still a great urge to build stone arch bridges. Not, perhaps, on the massive scale of old, but as attractive, durable footbridges over small streams. When done right, the results are quite rewarding, and the building process itself can be enjoyable. Furthermore, a stone arch bridge should need but little maintenance, especially compared to wooden structures. One of the main considerations to think about is: how thick should the arch ring be? Calculating the Arch Ring The … [Read more...] about Building Stone Arch Bridges: Arch Thickness
Traditionally, the choice of the stone used in stone bridges was primarily a reflection on what was locally available. Geological Variances In New England, there are many stunning stone arch bridges made out of the locally available granite boulders. These structures attest to the ingenuity of the masons who were able to create lasting structures using such irregularly shaped material. In the Midwest, the stone arch bridges are typically made of sedimentary rocks — … [Read more...] about The Choice of Stone for Stone Arch Bridges
Arguably the most difficult part of building a stone arch bridge is “turning the arch.” This phrase simply refers to keeping the correct angle on each individual stone so that the arch goes in a circle — not as easy, perhaps, as one might think. The Gothic Arch To begin with, some arch shapes are easier to turn than others. The Gothic arches in medieval bridges are surprisingly forgiving. As they terminate in a point at the top, this point takes much of the necessary angle to be made, allowing … [Read more...] about Stone Arch Bridges: Methods of “Turning the Arch”
Many of the old stone arch bridges around the world have names which, after a fashion, tell a tale of the history of the structure and, sometimes, the area around it. Others have obvious names that are not particularly informative, beyond, perhaps, what body of water the bridge is spanning. In Kansas, many of the stone bridges are named after various landowners who lived in the vicinity of the structure and whose land the bridge was on. Bridges in Ireland Frequently, bridges have more than one … [Read more...] about What’s in a Name?
The foundations of a stone arch bridge are the single most important factor in determining the life of the bridge. If the foundations are good, the bridge can last for centuries — or even a millennium! If the foundations are bad, the bridge may last but a few years, or even a few months. Failure of the foundations is by and large the most common cause of stone arch bridge failures. Curiously, stone arch bridges frequently have but shallow foundations. Setting the bridges a short distance … [Read more...] about Stone Arch Bridges: Foundations
Cowley County, Kansas, is reputed to be the stone arch bridge capital of Kansas and has many historic stone arch bridges. It is, however, unclear what the first stone arch bridge in Cowley County was. The reason for this is very simple — not all stone arch bridges were built by the county, and for some of them the documentation is very poor. Some were built by railroads, and others seem to have sprung up from nowhere. Stalter Bridge The Stalter Bridge, Cowley, Kansas, is an … [Read more...] about Four Early Cowley Bridges