SIDNEY — The restored 1879 Zenas King bridge, recently relocated to Tawawa Park, will be officially dedicated on Saturday, Oct. 17.
The dedication ceremony will take place on the east side of Amos Lake at 2:30 p.m.
“Although this project has taken several years to bring to fruition,” Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst said, “we wanted to recognize and thank the many individuals who played a role in the project. Several of them will have the opportunity to speak during the event. I expect that each of them will describe their own feelings as the project moved through its several phases.”
Invited speakers include Ohio History Connection CEO Burt Logan, Ohio Historic Bridge Association President David Simmons, Ohio Department of Transportation Division 7 Deputy Director Randy Chevalley, Old World Research Principal and Shelby County Historical Society Board Member Mary Ann Olding, city of Sidney Director of Parks and Recreation Duane Gaier, District 12 state Sen. Matthew Huffman and Bach Steel’s Derek Pung.
Tim Hemmelgarn, who donated the bridge to the city of Sidney, also will briefly speak. Hemmelgarn “inherited” the bridge when he purchased the farm on which it was located.
Dan Bennett, retired Auglaize County bridge engineer who volunteered to “superintend” the project, also will speak. Bennett played a pivotal role, as he contributed his expertise to the project from start to finish.
“I have to admit that when I first saw the bridge, I wondered how it could possibly be saved,” Barhorst said. “It was little more than a rusting relic.”
“Besides being useful in retirement,” Barhorst continued, “the bridge allows us to save the only known remaining Ohio example of this type bridge. Certainly saving the bridge will allow not only current and future generations the opportunity to enjoy the bridge.”
“Zenas King was among a handful of 19th century bridge builders whose bridges received wide acceptance across the United States,” Simmons said. “As the head of Cleveland, Ohio’s King Iron Bridge & Manufacturing Co., King developed his tubular bowstring bridge in 1859. King’s square tubular members were simple to fabricate and ship to distant locations for assembly on site. Knowing that an arch has inherent strength, King’s design used less raw material than wooden bridges and enjoyed wide popularity until the introduction of steel bridges in the 1880s.
“King’s tubular bowstring design stimulated widespread enthusiasm for iron bridges,” Simmons continued. “By 1880 the King Iron Bridge & Manufacturing Co. was among the largest manufacturers of highway bridges in the nation. This bridge was built in 1879 and was originally part of two spans crossing Loramie Creek on what today is state Route 66. The Great Flood of 1913 severely damaged the bridge’s abutments. The bridge was sold to Bernard Brandewie and relocated to his farm. More recently, the Brandewie family farm was sold to Tim Hemmelgarn, who donated the bridge to the city of Sidney.”
“The bowstring bridge allows bikers, runners and hikers the opportunity to cross from one side of the lake to the other,” Gaier said. It provides connection between the trails on either side of the lake, replacing two foot bridges that were in serious need of replacement.
“Major funding for the project was from a grant received from the Ohio Department of Transportation,” Gaier said. “The grant required that the city of Sidney provide matching funds totaling $74,417, roughly the amount that had been budgeted for the replacement of the two foot bridges. The Transportation Alternatives Program grant provided about 90% of the cost and a unique way to provide the replacement.
“In addition, of course, were the hours and hours of contributed time donated by Dan Bennett,” Gaier continued. “If we would have had to pay Dan for his services, we could not have afforded to undertake the project. It’s as simple as that.”
The public is invited to attend the ceremony.