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Minnesota's Historic Bridges
Nymore Bridge
Historic Significance

Nymore Bridge

The Nymore Bridge is historically significant as an excellent, unaltered, very early, large, urban, barrel-vault, reinforced concrete bridge in Minnesota. It is additionally significant for its use of a patented reinforcing system during the period of experimentation in reinforcing materials and systems. Designed and built in 1916, it is one of a small group of early, large, reinforced concrete arch bridge designed in the Classical Revival style, which is appropriate for the City Beautiful movement then in vogue for prominent urban structures. It was planned to connect the city of Bemidji with the village of Nymore, which was annexed by Bemidji about 1917 and became the city's fifth ward. Not only was the crossing of political significance, giving the bridge its original name, but also is a geographically important crossing. When built, Nymore Bridge carried State Route No. 2 over the Mississippi River channel between the city's two major lakes, Lake Bemidji and Lake Irving. Today, the main city traffic is carried by Mn/DOT Bridge No. 53416, located a short distance northeast on Paul Bunyan Drive.

The plans and specifications for Nymore Bridge were prepared by the Standard Reinforced Concrete Company of Indianapolis, Indiana. The firm used the assigned Letters Patent No. 820,921 for "Concrete-Bridge Reinforcement," which had been granted in 1906 to George M. Cheney, also of Indianapolis, Indiana. Cheney's system involved embedding in the concrete a metal-arch truss, which was engineered to produce a minimum amount of cracking in the finished surface. This was not Cheney's first bridge patent. In 1902, Cheney was granted Patent No. 708,463 for "Bridge Construction" (to construct reinforced concrete arch bridges and culverts), which also involved a metal arch system, including the railing, which was embedded in poured concrete.

Two contractors are reported to have bid on the Standard company's design incorporating Cheney's patent, the Illinois Steel Bridge Company and the Minneapolis Bridge Company. The Illinois firm, represented by St. Paul, Minnesota, agents John Zelch and P.T. Walton, had the winning low bid. The final bid, following negotiations with the city, was $22,772. Both firms also bid on a two-arch version and a steel bridge. Zelch had served in the Minnesota House of Representatives 1891-1893 and 1905-1909. From 1912 to 1935, either with Walton or working alone, he represented the Illinois company. The scheduled completion date for the bridge was January 1, 1917, but a series of problems, including strikes and bad weather delayed the work. As a result, the structure was not completed until the fall of 1917.

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