Maintenance Needs


Any stone structure requires some maintenance to keep it from crumbling back into the earth from which it came. In the case of this bridge I see a short list of types of deterioration that call out for some maintenance action.








Displaced stones.


Some stones appear a small but significant distance off their correct alignment. In one case, not on a top row of the baluster, the stones appear to have been forced out from the interior of the bridge structure. The agent at work here could be freezing and thawing, or perhaps some plant is the culprit.








Missing stone in foundation.

A century of the Cottonwood flowing against the bridge foundation appears to have displaced a number of stones. It looks like the stones just fell away. The condition of the foundation below the waterline is unknowable without major work, but is unlikely to be better than the part visible in this image.

This image also shows discoloration of the limestone on the arch, most likely due to moisture seeping from the road bed, through the interior fill material.

South foundation









Missing stone in wing wall.



One very large stone has taken leave from its position in the southeast wing wall, as though it just fell out. The large stone above where the missing one should be is a mystery in its own right.






The soft, gumbo bottom land of the Cottonwood River valley could hardly be expected to support a heavy structure like the stone bridge, unless the builders found some bedrock beneath the riverbed.

I see signs of serious subsidence in both sides of the northern approach. It has allowed large gaps to open between some of the stones, large enough for a small tree to take root! If you look carefully at this image of the NE wing wall you can see the cut-off stump.


SubsidenceSubsidence: NE wing wall



SubsidenceSubsidence: NW wing wall









Road surface erosion.

South approachDeep rill in road surface


We may think of a gravel roadbed as permanently pounded down, stationary, and not going anywhere. However, if a roadbed is made of soils that are naturally somewhat plastic, the normal wetting and drying, freezing and thawing, etc., will cause the road to heave up a bit in a somewhat irregular way. Combine that with the normal surface erosion that happens to all gravel roads and you eventually get a rough, uneven surface that invites further erosion.
An active road, that is, one with normal traffic on it and an occasional grading, does not have this problem so much, because the roadbed is continually being compacted, smoothed, and leveled so that it erodes less and absorbs very little moisture. By removing traffic from the road we have hastened deterioration from these natural influences.

In the higher parts of the roadbed the material has washed away to the point that arch stones are exposed. You can observe a light band on the balusters just above the road showing that the road material was much higher on the balusters so that it protected the stone from exposure to daylight. It is obvious that a very large amount of road material needs to be replaced.

Exposed arch stonesExposed arch stones









Maintenance needs are well known.


The President of the Chase County Historical Society, Mr. W. E. Laughridge, corresponded with the Cultural Resources Division of the Kansas State Historical Society about the condition of the bridge. He received a reply in June of 1996 to the effect that:

►the Kansas Preservation Alliance, a nonprofit preservation organization, had placed the Clements Stone Arch Bridge on its list of most endangered historic properties in Kansas, and
►the Cultural Resources Division intended to send a staff member to ascertain the condition of the bridge.

The staff inspection was made and the report was sent to Mr. Laughridge in July of 1996. Some excerpts from the letter follow:



"Visual inspection of the bridge indicates that some of the mortar joints between stones have deteriorated and will now allow moisture to enter the structure. The freeze-thaw cycle of moisture will continue to erode the joints and could eventually cause the displacement of stones.
"Some cracking was also evident in the structure. While the cracks did not appear to threaten the structural stability, at this time, continued neglect will only allow the deterioration to increase. A few stones appear to have shifted and the face of one stone appears to have split off the arch and rests on the ground.
"When any property, historic or not, is left unused, it becomes forgotten and maintenance is neglected. This bridge gives the appearance of being abandoned. In this age of concrete and steel bridge construction, the beauty and construction of the stone arch bridge is not likely to be built again. The deterioration that is occurring will only increase with time and it would be a great loss to the state's cultural resources to loose this bridge to neglect."


I say bravo! But now what? This letter came from the:
Kansas State Historical Society
Cultural Resources Division
Historic Preservation Office
6425 S. W. 6th Avenue
Topeka, Kansas 66615

Return to Main Page.