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Twin Falls bridge nominated

Breitung, road commission support preservation of historic bridge

May 17, 2012
By LISA M. HOFFMANN - Staff Writer , The Daily News

IRON MOUNTAIN - Dickinson County officials are in support of placing the Upper Twin Falls Bridge, Causeways and Carpenter Memorial on the National Register of Historic Places.

Located four miles north of Iron Mountain, the Upper Twin Falls Bridge and road over the Menominee River in Breitung Township and the town of Florence, Wis. will be considered for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places by the Michigan Historic Preservation Review Board on Friday and by Wisconsin officials on Aug. 18.

If recommended by both states, it will be sent to the National Register for consideration.

Article Photos

The Upper Twin Falls Bridge is being nominated to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Breitung Township Supervisor Denny Olson said the few complaints he heard about this bridge is from pontoon boat owners and operators.

"Pontoon boats can't get under it and they want it out of there," he said.

Township Clerk Samantha Coron commented, "I think it is a neat thing."

Breitung Township Board of Trustees has approved writing a letter and/or calling to voice the township's support of placing the bridge on the National Historic Register.

The Dickinson County Road Commission has also voted in favor of making a phone call with Breitung Township in support of the historical listing.

In addition, Jim Harris Jr.,

superintendent of operations for the Dickinson County Road Commission, will search for funding sources for improvement and/or restoration of the bridge and approaches.

"There are very few bridges like it left in the state," he said.

Harris commented that within the last 10 years, the road commission considered removing the bridge and/or restoring it.

"We can't afford to take it out," he said. "Structurally, it is in good condition and it could potentially have a restoration."

Harris said if the bridge is placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the hope is that some type of grant may be attainable in the future.

"We are just beginning researching this and it could be some time before any funding becomes available for any work at the location," Harris added.

Harris added that once the bridge is on the National Register, if the county and the other three landowners decide to have the bridge taken out, they still can.

The National Register of Historic Places is the federal government's official list of properties deemed worthy of preservation because of their importance in American history and culture.

A listing in the register provides recognition and assists in preserving the country's national heritage.

Benefits to historic properties listed on the register are:

- Recognition that a property is significant to the nation, state or the community.

- Consideration in the planning for federal and federally assisted projects.

- Eligibility for federal tax incentives and other preservation assistance.

Built in 1910-11

The bridge was built in response to Peninsula Power Company's plans to build the Twin Falls Power Dam, which made it necessary to replace the existing bridge crossing the Menominee River.

The 101-year-old bridge spans the Menominee River and served horse wagon, buggy and auto traffic to and from Florence, Spread Eagle and Iron Mountain.

It closed to all truck and auto use in September 1971.

The bridge and road was then turned over to the Dickinson County Road Commission and the town of Florence. Dickinson and Florence counties each initially paid half of the construction costs of the iron bridge, and the Twin Falls Land Association paid for the construction of the causeways.

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 1910-11 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 and supervised by Gilbert "Bert" Carpenter, Dickinson County engineer, 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 at 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." This led to liquor being run across the border from Wisconsin to Michigan.

To control the rum running, Michigan assigned constables to check all autos, buggies and wagons for liquor at the Twin Falls Bridge.

Known as a historic bridge in the region, it is the only known example of a highway pin-connected, camelback, through-truss bridge in Michigan.

In Wisconsin, it is one of only two known to exist and the only one still in its original location.

Little has changed around the bridge since it was constructed with the exception of the erection of the Carpenter Memorial and the construction of the Twin Falls Power Dam, which created the Twin Falls Flowage that the bridge and causeways now span.

Memorial honors bridge engineer

The Carpenter Monument at the north end of the bridge was erected and dedicated on Memorial Day 1923 in honor of Gilbert Vilas Carpenter who lost his life during World War I 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 his life raft overturned. His body was never recovered.

The monument was unveiled by Leonora Carpenter, his daughter. Included in 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 by saying, "The boulders in this monument are firm and solid and honest as he was."

Kelly added, "Bert Carpenter did not graduate from any college and had no degree as an engineer. 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 Carpenter by Frank E. Rogers, state highway commissioner, who was present at the service. Carpenter was a "natural born engineer, and the highway construction in Dickinson County was a testimonial to his ability."

Carpenter was born in 1873 and died in 1918. From 1906 to 1918, he served as engineer of Dickinson County.

Carpenter also served during the Spanish-American War, being attached to the Hospital Corps. Although he was not a surgeon, he was promoted to the rank of captain because of his ability.

The cost of the monument was defrayed by the road commission of Dickinson County and the tablet in bronze with the inscription was furnished by the Michigan State Highway Department.

Carpenter supervised the construction of the Twin Falls Bridge and Causeways.

Causeway connects two states

On the Michigan side, it was has easy access from M-95, three miles from Iron Mountain with access to interconnecting bike path, proposed development of a new boat landing and hiking trails along Badwater by Wisconsin Electric.

On the Wisconsin side, it has easy access from U.S. 2, access to interconnecting bike path, close proximity to Florence and Spread Eagle Chain of Lakes, large boat landing with ample parking, Vagabond Park picnic and swimming area, Ski-ters performances, miniature golf, go-cart track and many businesses along the U.S. 2 corridor.

The decision by the Michigan Historic Preservation Review Board to recommend will be decided by its merits and objections by land owners.

The three land owners are We Energies, the town of Florence and the Dickinson County Road Commission.

Each land owner has one vote to object to the bridge being considered.

If preserved, the bridge, causeways and monument could act as a hub for future tourism and recreational opportunities in both Michigan and Wisconsin, along with saving the historical value.

Lisa M. Hoffmann's e-mail address is



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