Historic Bridges

Sumner Bridge

Fayette county

Bridge information

Year constructed: 1916-1917
Alternate name: Little Wapsipinicon River Bridge
Bridge type: Concrete Deck Girder
National Register of Historic Places status: Listed
Length: 125 feet
Width: 18 feet
Spans: 3
FHWA: 151740
Jurisdiction: Fayette County 
Location: 159th Street over the Little Wapsipinicon River on the northeastern edge of Sumner, Section 19, T93N-R10W (Banks Township)


Located on the periphery of the small town of Sumner, this concrete bridge spans the Little Wapsipinicon River. The structure is comprised of three concrete deck girder spans, supported by concrete abutments and piers with bull-nosed cutwaters. Modest architectural expression is provided by the molded concrete balusters and slightly recessed rectangular panels on spandrel girders. The Sumner Bridge dates to 1916. That June Fayette County supervisors agreed with the supervisors of Bremer County to build this bridge on the line between the two counties. Under the agreement, each county would pay half of the cost, and Bremer County would be responsible for securing the design and contracting with the builder. On July 14th Bremer County awarded a construction contract to Fred Boedecker for $7058.00. He began worked on the substructural excavation soon thereafter, completing the bridge the following year. Since that time, the Sumner Bridge has carried vehicular traffic at this inter-county, crossing, in unaltered condition.

Around 1910 the deck girder design began to find favor among Iowa county engineers for medium-span concrete bridges. One of the first standards developed by the state highway commission in 1913 was its so-called H series, which delineated concrete deck girder bridges with 24 - to 40-foot spans. As described in the highway commission's annual report for that year, the deck girder consisted of "a thin transverse flooring [that] transmits the stress to deep and narrow supporting girders, which in turn transfer the load to the abutments by simple beam action." From the initial 1913 design, the H Series standard was periodically modified, as the next several years proved to be the heyday of the concrete deck girder. From the hundreds built throughout the state, approximately 140 concrete deck girder bridges remain in use. Of these, about 100 of these structures are single-span examples, and about two dozen are made up of two spans. Only eleven multiple-span examples have been identified. The Sumner Bridger is thus distinguished among Iowa's early concrete bridges as a multiple-span example of this mainstay structural type [adapted from Fraser 1992].


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