Troy's Adams Street Bridge: A Long-Ago Recycling Story
By Judy Deeter
TROY - This postcard has an image of the old Adams Street bridge in Troy. The card was made by the R.E. Wenger Company of Greenville, Ohio, probably between 1913 and 1920—the time period that the bridge was used. Though the bridge lasted only a few years, it has an interesting and unique history.
It was second of four bridges that have spanned the Great Miami River at Adams Street. The postcard image is identified as the second bridge because that was the only one of the four that was made of concrete and had four arches.
The history of bridges on Adams Street begins in the 1870s. Back then, there were three bridges near Troy that crossed the Great Miami River: the Market Street bridge, Broadford bridge and Eldean covered bridge. Miami County Commissioners heard pleas from local residents to build another bridge upstream from the Market Street bridge. In 1877, they built an iron bridge at Adams Street.
In the early 1900s, it was decided that the iron bridge should be replaced by a concrete bridge. In September 1911, Miami County Commissioners gave a contract to the Hackendorn Construction Company of Indianapolis, Indiana to build a concrete bridge. The company had previously constructed the nearby Broadford bridge. The contract with the company called for the work to start around October 1, 1911 and to be completed on July 1, 1912. The iron bridge was torn down in 1912 and construction of the bridge in this postcard picture was started.
However, local historical documents indicate that the bridge was still under construction when a great flood hit Troy in March 1913.
In fact, newspaper stories from the time say that the Adams Street bridge construction was a cause of increased flood damage in Troy. Loose bridge pilings flowed toward downtown streets and pushed river water that way too. An article in the Troy Daily News on March 25, 1963 (written for the 50th anniversary of the flood) says, “The pilings on the Adam(s) street bridge, just under construction, tore loose and swept down towards the main part of town. Al Bretland saw a piling headed for the boat he was rowing, a boat crowded with people. He pulled hard and the huge piece of wood swirled by just missing them all.”
After the March 1913 flood, people throughout southwest Ohio were determined that such a destructive flood should never happen again. Leaders throughout the area discussed flood prevention measures. A hydrological engineer named Arthur Morgan was hired to find a way to prevent damage from future floods. Morgan suggested the construction of earthen dams and flood plains along the Great Miami and Stillwater rivers. In 1914, the Ohio Legislature passed a law named the Vonderheide Act (also known as the Ohio Conservancy Law). An outgrowth of the law was the creation of the Miami Conservancy District in 1915.
Between 1915 and 1922, the Miami Conservancy District changed the local landscape. Dams were constructed—nearby at Lockington, Taylorsville and Englewood. Flood plains were created to catch rising river water. In Troy, the Miami Conservancy District built another bridge on Adams Street (the third bridge).
The Great Miami River once had a bend between the Adams Street and the Market Street bridges. The Miami Conservancy District dredged the river and took out the bend. Both a levee and flood plain were built along the Troy river banks. The result of this work was that there was a greater distance between the two banks of the Great Miami River. The third bridge to be built needed to be longer than the second bridge, which is shown in the postcard. It was built with three more arches—seven instead of the previous four.
Yet, the old 1913 bridge did not go away. Remarkably, the replacement bridge was built on top of the 1913 bridge. An historical marker on the current bridge (built in 2011-2012) tells the story: The project was considered a model in engineering and economic efficiency. On April 12, 1923 the ‘Engineering News-Record’ featured an article entitled ‘Building a New Concrete Bridge Over an Old One Across the Miami River.’ The article stated that the construction method of reinforcing and reusing the existing piers was unprecedented. In addition to utilizing the old piers, the 1913 arches were used as a temporary falsework to construct the new arches, leaving the waterway unobstructed.
Credit for building the 1922 bridge over the 1913 bridge is also on the historical marker. It states: Thanks to the ingenuity of J.H. Kimball and H.G. Peterson under the direction of A.F. Griffin and Superintendent W.D. Rogers at the Miami Conservancy District, the idea of building the new bridge on top of the old one eliminated the potential danger of floods washing out a timber falsework, reduced the amount of concrete and timber needed, and used the existing right-of-way….
The Adams Street bridge is believed to have been the first concrete bridge ever built with recycled parts.
Today’s bridge has both historical markers and a photograph of the 1922 bridge that tell of its history. Two lights from the 1922 bridge are on permanent display in the front yard of the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center, 301 West Main Street in Troy.
Historical documents and photographs regarding the Adams Street bridges, the 1913 flood, and the Miami Conservancy District are available for research at the Troy-Miami County Public Library Local History Library, 100 West Main Street.
For further information, contact The Troy Historical Society at (937) 339-5900 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pictured below are: a picture of the Adams Street Bridge after the Flood of 1913 from the Troy Historical Society.(Note Riverside Cemetery in the background). An historical marker from the current Adams Street Bridge. One of the bridge lights now in the front yard of the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center. The Adams Street Bridge as it appears now.