IRON MOUNTAIN - The historic Twin Falls Bridge located four miles north of Iron Mountain was built in response to Peninsula Power Company's plans to build the Twin Falls Power Dam.
It made it necessary to replace the existing bridge crossing the Menominee River because upon completion of the dam and the gates closing the bridge would be under water.
The bridge spans the Menominee River and served horse wagon, buggy and auto traffic to and from Florence, Spread Eagle and Iron Mountain and points east and west for 60 years closing to all truck and auto use in approximately 1972.
THE TWIN FALLS Bridge, is located north of Iron Mountain and is now 100 years-old.
The Twin Falls Bridge and road was turned over to Dickinson County and the town of Florence.
Dickinson and Florence counties each initially paid half of the construction costs of the bridge. A new bridge located a mile downstream was completed in 1934.
Designed by M.W. Torkelson, a Wisconsin bridge engineer, the Iron Bridge was built in 1909-10 by the Central States Bridge Company at a cost of $5,106.
The contract to build the earthen approaches from the Wisconsin and Michigan sides was let by Gilbert "Bert" Carpenter, Dickinson County Engineer to B.W Hicks of Vulcan at a cost of $7,500.
The earthen approach on the Wisconsin side was constructed by using narrow gauge railroad tracks with a small steam locomotive to pull side dumping flatcars that were filled from a borrow pit on the Wisconsin side.
The period between 1914 and 1920 was a busy time for saloons which sprang up a mile from the Twin Falls Bridge because Michigan was "dry" and Wisconsin was "wet" causing liquor being run across the boarder from Wisconsin to Michigan.
To control the rum running, the state of Michigan assigned constables to check all autos, buggies and wagons for liquor at the Twin Falls Bridge.
The Twin Falls Bridge is clearly one of the most historically significant bridges in the region. In Michigan it is the only known example of a highway pin-connected, Camelback, through truss bridge in the state. In Wisconsin it is one of only two known to exist.
The bridge and the causeways have been frozen in time as a reminder to all of days gone by. Little has changed around the bridge since it was constructed with the exception of the erection of the Carpenter Memorial and the construction Twin Falls Power Dam which created the Twin Falls Flowage to which the bridge and causeways now span.
The Iron Bridge and approaches have been neglected and are in need of repairs. The nomination process is under way to have the bridge listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As part of the nomination process representatives from the Town of Florence and the Dickinson Co. Rd. Commission will be contacted for local input. If listed, money will be more easily available for restoration. If concerned individuals and organizations don't organize and come forth to the respective owners with ideas for restoration and potential uses in the near future, demolition is immanent.
A monument at the north end of the bridge was erected and was dedicated on Memorial Day 1923 in honor of Gilbert Vilas Carpenter who lost his life during World War II when the steamer on which he was returning from Cuba was sunk by an enemy submarine. He survived the torpedo attack but lost his life when the life raft in which he was in overturned. His body was never recovered.
The monument was unveiled by Leonora Carpenter, his daughter.
Included on the program was William Kelly, Chairman of the County Board of Road Commissioners.
In a short address he eulogized the life of Dickinson County's beloved road engineer.
"The boulders in this monument," he declared, "are firm and solid and honest as he was."
"Bert Carpenter did not graduate from any college and had no degree as an engineer," the speaker said. "Yet he had all the qualities of an engineer. He was acquainted with the laws of nature, he was an observer of what was to be seen and he was able to make the proper deductions from what he saw and he was able to apply his knowledge."
A high tribute was paid to Mr. Carpenter by Frank E Rogers, State Highway Commissioner who was present at the service. Mr. Carpenter was a "natural born engineer," he said, "and the highway construction in Dickinson County was a testimonial to his ability."
At the close of the commissioner's remarks Mr. Kelly read the inscription on the tablet.
A legion firing squad then gave the salute for the dead, taps were sounded and the services were ended.
Mr. Carpenter was born in 1873 and died in 1918.
From 1906 to 1918 he served as engineer of Dickinson County and during World War I. He did road construction work at Camp Grant, Ill. He was in the service of his country at the time of his death.
Mr. Carpenter also served during the Spanish-American war, being attached to the Hospital Corps. Although not a surgeon, he was promoted to the rank of Captain because of his ability.
Mr. Carpenter was directly involved in the construction of the Twin Falls Bridge and Causeways, there is no more fitting place for his memorial. He had many road building accomplishment in Dickinson County but in my opinion this was his crown jewel.
The cost of the monument was defrayed by the Dickinson County Road Commission and the tablet in bronze with suitable inscription was furnished by the Michigan State Highway Department.
Interested persons and organizations can send their comments concerning the nomination of the Twin Falls Bridge to the Nation Register of Historical Places to both: Timothy Bomberg,
Town of Florence Chairperson, P.O. Box 251, Florence Wi. 54121, and to Ron Milbrath, Chairman, Dickinson Co. Rd. Commission, P.O. Box 519, Iron Mountain Mi. 49801.