Main St. / Black River

Main St. / Black River

County: Gogebic

City/Township: Ramsay

Location: Main St. / Black River

Year Built: 1922

About this Bridge:
This three-span concrete bridge carries Main Street over the Black River in the center of the village of Ramsay. Built in 1922-1923 from a design by the Michigan State Highway Department, the Ramsay Bridge is comprised of a 50-foot concrete through girder, flanked on both sides by similarly configured, 40-foot girders. The superstructure is supported by concrete abutments and spill-through piers with tapered columns and straight diaphragms. It features typical MSHD detailing with two straight girders that carry the asphalt-surfaced, concrete slab deck. The modest architectural expression is provided by recessed rectangular panels in the girder walls, which are capped with heavy concrete corbels. Bronze “State Reward Bridge” plates are mounted on the girder’s sidewalls. Other than minor concrete spalling, the Ramsay Bridge remains essentially unaltered and in physically good condition.

Beginning in 1884, the village of Ramsay developed around Hubbard and Weed’s sawmill on the Black River over a 19th century truss bridge, which, by the late 1910s had become a deteriorating bottleneck for vehicular traffic. In response, the Gogebic County Road Commission petitioned the state highway department for a replacement structure here, to be funded in part with State Reward monies. In 1922 MSHD engineers delineated this three-span concrete structure.

The structure that MSHD engineered for this crossing employed a well-tested standard. The department had first delineated a concrete through girder bridge design in the 1913-1914 biennium. Featuring relatively heavy, straight-topped girders in five-foot increments between 30 and 50 feet, these plainly detailed structures were used for a variety of small- and medium-span applications in the 1910s and 1920s. “The reinforced concrete through girder is the design generally employed for spans from thirty to fifty feet in both the eighteen and twenty-foot clear roadway from curb to curb,” MSHD stated in its Seventh Biennial Report. “This design lends itself in the majority of cases on account of its very shallow floor system, thereby giving the waterway a maximum clearance under elevation of roadway crossing the bridge.” By 1930 the through girder had largely fallen out of favor with the state and county highway departments, but before it was discontinued, perhaps hundreds of these utilitarian structures were built throughout the state. The overwhelming majority of these were single-span structures, built over relatively low substructures. With its three-span superstructure held aloft by gracefully tapered concrete piers, the Main Street Bridge in Ramsay is a noteworthy exception. As the central river crossing in this small village, it is historically important for its contribution to local transportation. And as a visually striking, multiple-span example of what is ordinarily a mundane structural type, it is technologically significant as well.