New Bridge at Colon 1932

New Bridge at Colon to Be Dedicated Friday and Saturday


From Michigan Roads and Airports, September 29, 1932: “Dedication ceremonies for the new Main Street bridge in Colon, St. Joseph County, are scheduled for Friday and Saturday of this week.

Among the features of the program will be an address by Paul W. Vourheis, Attorney General, at 2 p.m. Friday.

H. S. Clark, project engineer for the State Highway Department, has written the following description of the interesting features of the construction work:

“The little town of Colon, in St. Joseph County, has a new bridge on Main Street, crossing Swan Creek in the midst of the village itself at the site of three former  bridges. In saying that Colon boasts its new bridge no idle figure of speech is used. The boast of Colon in its new landmark is shared by each of the 1,000 population.

Life at Colon is not fast – it is good. It is something to be rolled under the tongue and definitely enjoyed. Colon is a hundred years old and with fullness of years has come a mellow neighborliness embracing the entire community. Everyone knows everyone else. An event known to one Colonite is a potential source of enjoyment to all. Not a resident of the town but has visited the source of activity, and most have been frequently, if not regular visitors. Universal interaction attended the entire job, and now, as the progress approaches completion, a monster celebration with bands, speeches, and general enthusiasm is being planned as a sort of culmination of the long display of public interest.

A hundred years ago the town of Colon was first platted; a wilderness hamlet, accessible only by wood trails, and by canoe up the St. Joseph River and across Sturgeon lake. Four years later, in 1836, the first road was laid out. It connected Centreville, Colon, and Coldwater, and crossed Swan Creek at Colon on a rough structure of logs just downstream from the newly built dam and sawmill. The fist log bridge was short lived. A few years after its construction the failure of the dam resulted in a flood which swept it clean away. A second timber bridge replaced the first one and, in spite of a partial failure of the dam in 1871, it did duty until 1873, when it was in turn supplanted by a slender steel span.

This steel bridge, 100 feet in length, was of the ten recently developed bowstring truss type, very economical in design and intended for loads of a few tons at the most. It was  carried upon masonry abutments of such generous dimensions and sturdy construction that when, after 59 years of service, the old bowstring truss was retired, the old abutments were judged to be capable of bearing the loads imposed by modern truck traffic on the new steel deck girder bridge. Thirty-five years after its construction the bowstring bridge was strengthened by the addition of steel framing under the floor, transforming it virtually into five steel bent spans, and thus reinforced the structure carried traffic until it was replaced by the present new bridge.

In January, 1932, was begun the construction, now nearly completed, of a new steel deck girder bridge, with 30-foot width of roadway, two five-foot sidewalks, three spans of 33 feet each.

A unique feature of the construction was the use of the old bridge for carrying traffic until the new bridge, built on the abutments of the old one, was ready for service. On first thought this plan sounds like the one evolved by the thrifty householder who thought to build a new house out of the bricks of the old one yet planned to live in the old house until the new one was ready for occupancy. It is not recorded in the case of the Colon bridge the seemingly impossible feat was accomplished by raising the old superstructure high enough on temporary supports so that the new construction could go on beneath, traffic meanwhile reaching the higher level by means of ramps at either end. The new floor slab was placed in three sections or strips, the outer strips, which lay outside the old narrow superstructure, being placed first, while traffic still used the old roadway. As soon as one side of the outer portion of the new bridge was completed traffic was turned on to it. The old bridge was then removed and the center strip of the new superstructure was placed. This entire program was carried out with no delay to traffic longer than 90 minutes, and with a total delay of less than four hours from start to finish of the work.

The design was C. A. Melick, Bridge Engineer of the State Highway Department. The bridge was constructed by the Kalamazoo Construction Company, C. R. Featherstone, Superintendent, under the supervision of W. J. Kingscott, Division Engineer. R. S. Clark was project engineer.”





From Michigan Roads and Airports; October 13, 1932: “a two-day celebration of the centennial anniversary of the first bridge ever built in the village and the completion of the fourth bridge on the same site recently was held in Colon, St. Joseph County.

The dedication ceremony, proper, on Friday was short but quite impressive. A dozen of the oldest residents of Colon, persons who had used the former bridge from day to day and from year to year throughout their long lives in the community, first marched across the new structure, to the strain of music by the Colon Brass Band.

Attorney General Paul W. Voorheis delivered the principal address. He brought his hearers a larger concept of bridges and routes. He pointed pat the location of any certain trunk line to the bold outlines of a countrywide highway system. He showed, beyond the building of any certain bridge structure, the operation of a careful and pain-staking highway department.

Thus inaugurated, Colon’s dedication festival proceeded for two days. Bands played, tumblers stunted, merry-go-round and Ferris-wheel did their parts, while airplane rides and a parachute jumper added to the total of thrills.

All this in immediate celebration of the newly built trunk line bridge of M-78 crossing the Swan Creek in the village. Three short steel deck girder spans make up the normal length of 99 feet. The 30-foot roadway is flanked on either side by a five-foot sidewalk.”{