Tuesday, June 24, 2008

War Eagle Bridge 100 years old

The Morning News

Local News for Northwest Arkansas

War Eagle Bridge Celebrates 100 Years

By Scarlet Sims
History buffs and community leaders will celebrate War Eagle Bridge turning 100 years old Friday.

"It's very important to our community," said Kathy Bannister, the Benton County grant coordinator. "It's a historical icon. It's just dear to the heart of many people."

War Eagle Mill General Manager Tracy Watson said he is coordinating a "100 years of service" celebration event at 11 a.m. at War Eagle Mill, 11045 War Eagle Road. The event will recognize residents who petitioned to build the bridge in 1907 and current residents who support continued use of War Eagle Bridge. The public will get the opportunity to review historical documents.

Arkansas Red will provide old-time music, and food samples will be available.

"It's just going to be a celebration," said Susie Jumonville, the assistant general manager and financial manager at the mill.

The bridge remains a tourist attraction, Bannister said.

Before the bridge, War Eagle-area residents couldn't get to town when the river flooded, said Mike Carney, the Benton County archivist. Two forts were built and destroyed at the same site before the mill was constructed in 1876.

About 100 residents signed a petition for War Eagle Bridge in January 1907. Building began in October, and the bridge was constructed for $4,790.80, according to documents. The final payment was made June 20, 1908, which is why Watson chose June to celebrate.

Residents continue to use War Eagle Bridge despite officials' 2004 finding that the bridge needs repairs. Residents submitted letters in support of the bridge, and the county secured about $600,000 in federal and state grants for rehabilitation.

No up-to-date cost estimate is available but a 2006 construction estimate put the project around $916,000, Comptroller Richard McComas said. The work would extend the bridge's life 20 years but wouldn't allow heavy vehicle traffic, county officials have said.

McComas said recent flooding at War Eagle could increase cost, but state inspectors recently found no damage to the bridge from recent storms, said Glenn Bolick, an Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department spokesman. The county hopes to take construction bids in September or October, Bannister said. An engineer is working to get environmental clearance from the state, she said.

A bridge lasting 100 years is momentous, Carney said.

"What a miracle that a bridge lasted long enough to see the horse and buggy and now modern vehicles," Carney said.

Several speakers are expected to address the crowd. County Judge Gary Black will accept a granite plaque recognizing his part in preserving the bridge. The plaque, to be mounted on the mill, will show the bridge's significance for future generations, Watson said.

Fast Fact

Historic Spans

War Eagle Bridge is the second oldest bridge in Benton County. The oldest is Spavinaw Bridge, according to the county archive department.

Source: Staff Report

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