Historic Bridges

Sutliff Bridge

Johnson county

Bridge information

Year constructed: 1897-1898
Alternate name: Cedar River Bridge
Bridge type: Pin-Connected Parker Through Truss
National Register of Historic Places status: Listed 
Length: 827 feet
Width: 15 feet
Spans: 3
Jurisdiction: Johnson County
Location: Sutliff Road over the Cedar River, 5 miles northeast of Solon, Section 11, T81N-R5W (Cedar Township)


The Sutliff Bridge spans the Cedar River in the small town of Sutliff, named after long-time resident Allen C. Sutliff. Dry crossings of the Cedar River at this location date to the establishment of the Allan Sutliff's Ferry Service in 1838. Sandbars eventually formed in the river, however, rendering the ferry inoperative, therefore forcing travelers to make a long detour in order to find a suitable crossing. Dissatisfied with this state of affairs, area residents petitioned county supervisors for a permanent structure at Sutliff. City officials finally voted in December 1896 to construct a steel bridge at the old ferry site. To design the bridge, the county turned to an engineer named G.W. Wynn who, it appears, had rather dubious credentials. Referring to Wynn, one Iowa City newspaper reported that the bridge builder's "work has been severely criticized by engineers of high standing."

Fortunately, the Sutliff Bridge proved to be a sound structure. The county awarded the contract to erect the bridge to J.R. Sheely and Company of Des Moines on January 8, 1897. Completed for approximately $12,000 in April 1898, the bridge was the longest in the county at that time. Over a thousand people, responding to a local newspaper's request for "All hands to turn out and have a good time," gathered at the new bridge on a beautiful June morning that year for its opening day ceremonies and celebratory picnic. Many decades later, area residents again rallied around their beloved bridge when they worked together to raise money to purchase the Sutliff Bridge from Johnson County in 1984. Currently used as a pedestrian bridge in connection with a surrounding public park, the Sutliff Bridge retains an exceptionally high degree of both historical and structural integrity. It is an outstanding example of an uncommon early wagon truss design [adapted from Hybben, Hess and Crow-Dolby 1992].


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