The abandoned Cole’s Ford Bridge, once a part of IN Route 22, crosses the Blue River in Harrison and Crawford counties near Leavenworth, Indiana. It remains one of the oldest structures of its type and the oldest built by Wrought Iron Bridge Company.
Cole’s Ford Bridge was once part of the Corydon-Leavenworth-English Road, a primary highway that extended from New Albany west to Leavenworth, Fredonia, and Princeton. The first survey of the road was started in 1827, with a primitive dirt path graded and opened in 1832. 2 Travel was slow, especially at the ford for the Blue River near Leavenworth.
In September 1869, William M. Ellsworth appeared before Crawford County commissioners and presented a petition to construct a bridge over the river near what became known as Cole’s Ford. 3 A committee comprised of people from Crawford County and neighboring Harrison County proposed four locations:
- William Rothrock’s land, requiring a 120′ span 48′ high at the cost of $5,000
- David Cole’s property, requiring a 140′ or 170′ span 55′ tall at the expense of $6,500
- Joe Cole’s farm, requiring a 125′ span 62′ high at the price of $6,000
- Zebulum Leavenworth’s farm, requiring a 120′ span 65′ tall at the cost of $8,000
The county agreed that a bridge at Cole’s Ford be built in March 1870. 3 It would be situated more elevated than the Ohio River high water mark of 1832, with a main span length of at least 100 feet and wide enough for two teams of horses to pass. Bids for construction were opened on October 13 with a proposed completion date on or before October 15, 1871. The substructure contract was awarded to the Julius Barbaraux and Company for $9,810 while the superstructure contract was given to the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio for a square wrought iron tubular arch bridge with a main span of 130′ and a width of 14′.
The square wrought iron tubular arch, a variant of Wrought Iron Bridge Company’s bowstring arch, was patented by King Bridge Company in 1857.
During construction of the new Cole’s Ford Bridge, a heavy rainstorm caused falsework that held up the approaches during construction collapsed. 3 5 Despite this, the new bridge was ready for traffic on December 7, 1871. 3
Raging floods of 1883 and 1884 did considerable damage to the Cole’s Ford Bridge. 4 Bids were opened for its repair or replacement and five companies submitted proposals:
- Smith Bridge Company for $4,155
- King Bridge Company for $4,325
- Columbus Bridge Company for $4,512
- Wrought Iron Bridge Company for $4,223.75
- Mars Bridge Company for $4,100
The bids were rejected, re-advertised, and awarded to the Wrought Iron Bridge Company for $2,549. 4 The repaired bridge was to be completed by September 2, 1883. The new crossing consisted of three spans: a 165′ pinned Parker through truss, and two 125.4′ pinned Pratt through trusses.
In 1923, the Corydon-Leavenworth-English section of roadway, which included Cole’s Ford Bridge, was designated IN Route 22. 6
A historic flood along the Ohio River in the spring of 1937 devastated nearby Leavenworth. More than $700,000 in federal funding was used to mitigate future damage. Of that, $130,000 was spent to relocate Leavenworth out of the floodplain and relocate IN Route 62 (formerly IN Route 22) onto higher terrain bypassing Cole’s Ford. The project was dedicated on December 16, 1938.
Cole’s Ford Bridge was abandoned in 1984 and the roadway deck removed in 1987 because of structural deterioration. The crossing is being studied for restoration for use by hikers, horseback riders, and cyclists for the adjoining O’Bannon Woods State Park.
- State: Indiana
- Type: Parker Through Truss, Pratt Through Truss
- Total Length: 270 feet
- Main Span Length: 125.3 feet
- Deck Width: 11.6 feet
- Above Vertical Clearance: 13 feet
- Navigational Clearance:
- “Harrison County Bridge #76, Crawford County Bridge #40.” State Historic Architectural and Archaeological Research Database. Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Web. 31 Dec. 2015.
- Pleasant, Hazen Hayes. “Early Roads.” A History of Crawford Country, Indiana. Greenfield: WM. Mitchell Printing, 1926. 129-135. Print.
- Pleasant, Hazen Hayes. “The Seventies.” A History of Crawford Country, Indiana. Greenfield: WM. Mitchell Printing, 1926. 332-337. Print.
- Pleasant, Hazen Hayes. “The County in the Eighties.” A History of Crawford Country, Indiana. Greenfield: WM. Mitchell Printing, 1926. 353-354. Print.
- Pleasant, Hazen Hayes. “Marengo After the War.” A History of Crawford Country, Indiana. Greenfield: WM. Mitchell Printing, 1926. 454. Print.
- Pleasant, Hazen Hayes. “Political Campaigns.” A History of Crawford Country, Indiana. Greenfield: WM. Mitchell Printing, 1926. 575. Print.