Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Raising of a Bridge

It's hard to believe that it has been seven months since the Dan River Basin Association and the Fieldale Heritage Committee started working on preserving the historic Fieldale Iron Bridge. The project started out slow but once the message got out, the public outpouring of interest was incredible!  Donors from as far away as South Carolina, Washington State and even Beverly Hills, California sent in funds to help preserve the trusses. We received donations from longtime residents of Fieldale and learned some very interesting history from them along the way as well.  Working together you all have raised more than $13,000 to fund the project. The rest of the costs were absorbed by numerous community sponsors that contributed goods and services to the project. Last week the day we've all been waiting for came. Mother Nature finally cooperated long enough for the trusses to be installed. Below are photos by Brian Williams and Jenny Edwards that tell the story of the day. Enjoy the photographic journey!

The day began bright and early at 8 am in below freezing temperatures on the property of Northpoint Trading, an import/export business that occupies the former Fieldcrest Mills building. The staff of this company have been incredibly accommodating to allow us to store more than 60,000 pounds of steel on their property and work on the trusses while there. A bright orange crane operated by Hall's Mechanical Services of Fieldale lifted the first truss to load it onto the truck. (Notice the snow still on the ground in the photo.)

A tractor trailer driven by Wes Craddock of Craddock Logging Supply & Repair was loaded to make the journey down River Road to Fieldale Park. Wes is the only son of the late Bobby M. Craddock of Ridgeway. Bobby was a history enthusiast and loved telling stories about points of historic interest around Henry County. When he heard about the project he eagerly donated use of his tractor trailer for the project. Sadly just days before the bridge was demolished in the summer, Bobby passed away. We thank his wife Deborah and son Wes for choosing to fulfill Bobby's wishes and continue to assist with the project. We couldn't have done it without this family! To honor their contributions, the project is named in memory of Bobby Craddock.

Over in the park, the crane set up again to lift the truss onto concrete footers. These were designed by a local engineer, Rayford Smith, and constructed by Boxley Materials. Reliable Welding of Bassett performed the welding to securely mount the trusses.

A close up shot of some of the 1,000s of rivets that were installed by hand in 1931 by a 12-man crew.

The crane packs up as Reliable completes the welding of the first truss.

Back at Northpoint Trading, Corky Hall's crane began loading the second truss.

 The second truss was unloaded off of Craddock Logging Supply and Repair's truck...

...and gently placed in position.

Final details were added to make the structure safe and the site was cleaned up.

Stefan Moore, a native of Henry County, began painting the trusses. While recently the bridge was a dark grey covered with rust, many locals remember the bridge as being a bright silvery gray when it was first opened in 1932.

Once the paint has a few days to dry the memorial plaques will be applied and a trail will be constructed through the structure to allow walkers and cyclists to feel as if they are walking across the bridge. Landscaping will complete the project by adding the feel of a dry creek bed underneath. As soon as these elements are completed a spring dedication ceremony will be held at the site. Stay tuned for more details.

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