Historic Bridges of Iowa

Ely's Stone Bridge

Jones county

Bridge information

Year constructed: 1893
Alternate name: Wet Creek Bridge
Bridge type: Stone Masonry Arch
National Register of Historic Places status: Listed
Length: 68 feet
Width: 15.5 feet
Spans: 3
FHWA: 209010
Jurisdiction: Jones County
Location: Stone Bridge Road over Wet (Deer) Creek, 1 mile northwest of Monticello, Section 17, T86N-R3W (Lovell Township)

Details

Ely's Stone Bridge, as this three-span structure is known, spans Wet Creek in Lovell Township in northern Jones County. This rare stone masonry arch traces its history to 1893. Early that year the Jones County supervisors let a construction contract to Reuben Ely and his son, both from Monticello, to build a stone bridge at this location. By November the court had authorized a $400 warrant "to pay Reuben Ely for building a stone arch bridge near William Wood's place in Monticello Township." Monticello Township no longer exists, but part of its original area is now included in Lovell Township. One year later, the county expended $55 for unspecified minor repairs to the bridge. In more recent years, the bridge's pier foundations have been reinforced with concrete in order to protect the stone from water scouring. Ely's Stone Bridge, barring these maintenance-related additions, continues to carry traffic while maintaining an extremely high degree of both historic and structural integrity.

Reuben Ely Sr., a native of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, moved in the 1820s to Monticello, Iowa, where he established a family farm. Nearly seventy years after he moved to Iowa, Ely and his son constructed this impressive stone arch over Wet Creek in 1893, presumably to facilitate local travel. The 68-foot structure is notable for its three centered elliptical arches. Donald Jackson's classic preservation book, Great American Bridges and Dams, notes that the "stone for the piers and spandrel walls came from the local stream bed, while the dressed stone used for the voussoirs was obtained from the quarries at Anamosa." Now more than one hundred years old, Ely's Stone Bridge continues to carry traffic across Wet Creek. Displaying an exceptionally high degree of indigenous craftsmanship and historical integrity, the bridge has been individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places [adapted from Hybben, Roise and Fraser 1992].