Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Columns

May 27, 2008

PAT SMITH: Stone arch bridges and their history

A Different Kind of Bridge Tournament? With a History Lesson, too! You've driven over them, walked over them, admired them, and wondered about them. In fact, three of them are within a stone's throw of South Park Cemetery. And now you and I have an opportunity to learn something about these old beauties, glorious stone arch bridges.

Sure, next Saturday there will be graduation parties and cook-outs all around the county, but I must tell you about a competitive event that you may regret if you miss. You don't have to stay for hours but do make an effort to stop in next Saturday (May 31) to see the bridge photo contest entries on display at the new Art on the Square gallery on the north side of the Courthouse Square, beginning at 9 a.m. The Decatur County Alliance for Preservation (DeCAP) is hosting this stone arch bridge photo competition for a 2009 calendar. It will be seasonal photographs of historic stone spans of Decatur County.

Judy Rust, president of DeCAP, said, "Bridges of Madison County has nothing on us!" There will be 16 framed entries, 16x20 inches each, all competing to earn a place on the calendar and available for purchase. DeCAP, in conjunction with the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, invited the Southeastern Indiana Photography Club to record the stone arch bridges of our county. Our collection of stone arches is second to none in the nation, primarily because our quarries provided the specific type of limestone needed and we had the craftsmen who knew how to put them together in the way that makes them endure.

The winners will be announced Saturday evening beginning with refreshments at 6 p.m. and a 7 p.m. address by Dr. Jim Cooper, noted bridge historian and author, who will present the story of the stone arch bridge and its connection to Decatur County. He’ll explain the historic significance and value of these grand, impressive structures, and will, I imagine, tell us something about the designers and manufacturers of the bridges. Dr. Cooper, an historic bridge consultant, is a Professor Emeritus of History at DePauw University, and President of the Board of Directors of the Historic Bridge Foundation of Austin, Texas, the most prominent national bridge preservation organization. He has written several books about various styles of bridges including, "Repairing and Restoring Historic Bridges - Keeping Faith With Their Makers," "Restoring Historic Metal Truss Bridges," "Artistry and Ingenuity in Artificial Stone - Indiana's Concrete Bridges 1900-1942," and "Iron Monuments to Distant Posterity - Indiana' metal Bridges 1870-1930."

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