Misplaced Stones

Note: Phase 1 of the restoration plan deals with restoring the original design and appearance of the bridge. Most of the problems identified in this section were remedied in May 2006. See a description of the work in the pages linked to the  restoration plan, Phase 1.

I don't personally have to guess about misplaced stones, since I have a unique perspective. I may be the only person still alive who saw some of what happened to the balusters many years ago.

I was about twelve years old and had a lot of time on my hands. A house mover was bringing a one-room school house from somewhere south of town into Clements, over the bridge, to serve as a community building (still standing, barely). Big excitement. Of course, I watched.

The house mover's rig did not hold the schoolhouse quite high enough to clear the balusters. Three men with pry bars and a truck with an A-frame and winch lifted the highest baluster stones off and placed them out of the way so the school house could pass. They never put them back!


But I only saw what happened to a few of the stones. I have to rely on visual evidence about other stones that may have gotten the same treatment, probably for the same reason.

The following paragraphs demonstrate that a number of stones were removed from the balusters and not put back correctly. The evidence lies in the surface texture of the stones, their size, their location, and their fit. Look at these images and see if you agree.








Surface Texture

One type of evidence that stones were not where they were supposed to be is the texture of the stone surfaces. If the builder intended two stones to fit snugly against one another, the surfaces were both cut or chiseled flat. Surfaces intended to remain exposed to view were left rough, in a more artistic or rustic style.

Look at the northwest baluster: end view image. You can see the surfaces of the top three courses of stone on the baluster, looking south. The nearest stones, in the third course from the top, have the artistic, rough surfaces of stones intended to be seen. Just beyond it, in the second course from the top, you can see a stone with a squared off, smooth upper surface. Then, furthest away, in the top course of stones you can see that the top surface is rough. (You can also see that the stones in the top course are a bit wider, too. I'll get to that later.)

I conclude that the stones in the second course, with the smooth upper surface were intended to have stones on top of them. Someone had removed one or more stones, to lower the baluster, and had not put them back. A similar situation can be seen in the northeast baluster: oblique view image.

Dressed surfacesNorthwest baluster: end view


Dressed surfaces Northeast baluster: oblique view


In the background see the south bank of the Cottonwood and the Coyne Branch valley.

The southeast baluster and southeast wing wall images show not only surface texture anomalies, but mismatched size of stones as well.

Mismatched stonesSoutheast baluster



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Size of Stones


The designer of the bridge added a pleasant style feature to the balusters by making the stones of the second from top course slightly narrower and slightly taller than the top course.

This simple feature causes the top course to look like a cap on the structure. It gives the bridge balusters a finished look, just as the decorative stone or terra cotta work at the top of a building gives the exterior walls a finished look.

The northwest baluster: oblique view image shows the baluster from an angle that emphasizes the effect of the greater width of the stones in the top course. You can see the strong visual line formed by the top course of stones extending out further than the second from top course of stones. The slightly greater height of the second from top stones makes a more subtle contribution to this effect.

The top course stones measure about 77cm wide and 40cm tall; the second course stones measure about 62cm wide and 47cm tall.

A typical top course stone would measure 180cm long. It would have a volume of 555 liter. With limestone having a specific gravity of ~2.8 that would mean the stone would weigh 1.55 ton.

Top course featureNorthwest baluster: oblique view



The regularity of this pattern means that when we find a stone out of place, its width and height gives us a clue as to where it came from.

The east baluster, looking south image shows the visual strength created by the distinction between the top course and the second course of stones in the balusters.

Top course featureEast baluster, looking south


The northeast view image shows the incomplete- looking top tier of stones.

View from northeastNortheast view


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Location of Stones

Radically misplaced stones

Stones on groundStones on ground, from roadway

I have no doubt whatever about the mislocation of some of the stones, for two reasons: one, I watched the workmen remove them and, two, I saw them put the stones on the ground completely off the bridge near the northeast baluster.

I have never had the slightest question about this, but I have had difficulty convincing others. The simple reason: vegetation has grown up around the stones and obscured them from view.

On one of my visits to the bridge I cut away the vegetation and photographed the two stones I had seen the workmen put on the ground. You can see from the images that the stones have sunk into the soil a bit. In the image above, from the roadway, you can see that the one on the left has broken.

You can also see in these images that the top side of one of the stones has a smooth surface intended to fit against another stone. It is obviously up side down. The other stone, the broken one, has the rough, rustic surface showing.

Stones on groundStones on ground, from north


Less dramatically misplaced stones

Most of the stones out of position were not so dramatically misplaced. But many of the baluster and wing wall stones were misplaced to some degree.

The top stone, off center image shows a top course stone that was shifted slightly away from its correct position.

Misaligned stoneTop stone, off center


Another situation was the stone that was nowhere near where it belongs, but who ever moved it took the time to place it where it was not too obvious. The Orphan on NW wing wall image shows a small stone (only about one ton) looking very out of place.

Orphan stoneOrphan on NW wing wall


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Fit of Stones

Southeast wing wallMisfit stone


In some cases a stone just doesn't look right. In the misfit stone image you can see a large stone, part of the southeast baluster, that seems wrong in nearly every way: it is much larger than any of the stones around it; it is tilted rather than level; there should be a stone under it; and oddest of all, though it does not show in this picture, one of the ends is cut at an angle forming a trapezoidal shape. One side is 11cm longer than the other.

The SW wing wall image shows a collection of mismatched stones: small, large, then small again. Oddly, the large stone in the center has been dressed in a unique style, different from any other stone in the bridge.

These two anomalies remain; they were not addressed in the work that was done in May 2006.

Misfit stonesSW wing wall


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