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Today (May 27) is the Golden Gate Bridge's 75th Anniversary - What Do We Know About the History of Kansas Bridges?


The Golden Gate Bridge is 75 years old today - what do people know about the history of Kansas bridges?

This is the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. Perhaps no other single architectural event, with the exception of perhaps the Empire State Building, is so well known around the world when people think of America.

I've gone over the Golden Gate Bridge countless times since I've been here. It never ceases to amaze me.

Here are photographs and two videos of today's events:



But I also wonder about Kansas bridges.

Here is a view from Mulvane, of the bridge which Larry and Barbara built.


I am sure that the Journal-World carried an article about this bridge in Kansas, but if they did, I can't find it today.

The San Francisco Chronicle did, however, carry a special article today about Kansas' Golden Gate Bridge. It is a fascinating story. "At about 2:30 in the morning, I woke up [in the airplane] and saw a tower. I said, Wow, that's the Golden Gate Bridge. If I'd known we were crossing, I'd have stayed awake." From there, he went on to Vietnam.

When he came back to Kansas, he decided to build a small version - Kansas' Golden Gate Bridge - on his land in Mulvane.


Here are some photos of that bridge:


Perhaps, for the 75th year celebration, he might find some special way to decorate his Kansas version of the Golden Gate Bridge. It could be pictures taken by students from schools throughout Kansas, of bridges near where they live, or oral histories of each bridge - but I'll leave it up to him and his wife to see what they can discover.

Surely people remember when these bridges were built throughout the state, and maybe there is a special story about each bridge. For example, my father, when he was young, stepped on quicksand (this was Western Kansas) and he almost didn't recover. There was no bridge over the river at that time.

I'm looking forward to finding out what some of those stories might be.

This would be a good project for schools and for oral history groups next year.

But meanwhile, I'll leave you with an article and some great photos of today's event.

First, incredible pictures of the bridge under construction:


And then-today's events:


Be sure to look at the photographs and videos. The words are by one of San Francisco's great writers, now passed away, but never forgotten.


Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 11 months ago

When I was young, we lived in St. Francis, Kansas, and there was a somewhat long and very narrow concrete bridge that we regularly drove over, and the school bus also drove over it. When you are young, you don't question things, and so the 'Bridge Over Nothing' did not seem unusual at all to me. That's what we called it, and for all I knew, there was a 'Bridge Over Nothing' in many places.

The 'Bridge Over Nothing' was almost certainly constructed in the 1920s, or possibly very early 1930s, in a style that was very common at that time. There are a couple examples of that type of bridge construction around Lone Star Lake. But they do go over something, and so not one of them is a 'Bridge Over Nothing'.

On May 31, 1935, a disastrous flood swept down the Republican River, through Cheyenne county, an estimated 113 people were killed, and there was many millions of damage done. But, due to inflation, $1 in 1935 is equal to about $16 today, so the amount of damage would be in the many tens of millions of dollars today.

But even that is misleading, because there are so many more structures, roads, and highways along the Republican River today than there were in 1935. So, a similar flood today would result in hundreds of millions of dollars of damage.

Bonny Dam (Yes, they call it 'Bonny Lake' in other places, but people who lived near it have always called it 'Bonny Dam') was built by the federal government in 1951 to prevent a similar disaster occurring again. But, it has since been drained, and may not be ready for the next disastrous flood, which is sure to occur someday.

And here's where 'The Bridge Over Nothing' came to be: The course of the Republican river was changed so much by the flood of 1935 that the concrete bridge over it was almost a quarter mile from the new course of the river afterwards.

'The Bridge Over Nothing' has since been removed because it was rather dangerous, because it was so narrow, and it had concrete railings on each side. Only one car could pass in either direction. And, the sides of it were in the 1920s and 1930s style, so they presented a hazard for anyone trying to tow anything of any size.

But, I certainly do remember 'The Bridge Over Nothing', which was only 3 to 4 feet above the ground, over nothing at all.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 11 months ago

A number of years ago, Lone Star Lake was emptied when a leak developed in the dam. A small bridge was exposed when the lake was drained. A couple of things took my attention. First, the creek that backed up behind the dam found that bridge again, though there really was no reason it should have. The silt that settled on the bottom should have made the lake bottom pretty smooth and regular, giving the creek no particular reason to find the bridge exactly. Maybe some geologist will explain why the creek should have found the bridge, but I can't think of any good reason. The second thing that grabbed my attention was the initials carved into the bridge, with years and all. They looked as clear as the day they were carved. Very interesting. Of course, after the dam was repaired and the lake filled, that bridge went under again. Perhaps some day, should the dam develop another small leak, some future generation will walk on the lake bottom and wonder why the creek again finds the bridge.

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