The US-12 St. Joseph River Bridge, photo submitted in 1991.
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US-12 St. Joseph River Bridge
Old US-12 across the St. Joseph River, Mottville - St. Joseph County
Other Names Mottville Bridge
Property Type bridge
Historic Use TRANSPORTATION/car-related
Current Use OTHER
Style Other
Architect/Builder Michigan State Highway Department
Narrative Description The US-12 St. Joseph River Bridge crosses the St. Joseph River in Mottville Township at the west edge of the Village of Mottville. It is situated at a historic river crossing, the fourth bridge to span the St. Joseph River at Mottville. The bridge is a two hundred and seventy foot long, reinforced concrete, camelback-arch bridge composed of three ninety foot long and twenty-two foot wide spans resting on concrete piers and abutments. The bridge is constructed using massive concrete reinforced steel girders, providing the structure with its distinctive arches. The interior of each arch is pierced with five openings occurring above a series of paired, recessed panels, which provide a decorative effect complementing the bridge's sweeping concrete arches.
Statement of Significance The US-12 St. Joseph River Bridge is the largest surviving reinforced concrete camelback bridge in Michigan. Camelback bridges such as this one were built from a standardized plan provided by the Michigan State Highway Department under the supervision of its bridge engineer, C.A. Melick. Built in 1922, the present bridge is the fourth to cross the St. Joseph River at Mottville.
Marker Name Mottville Bridge
Marker Text MOTTVILLE BRIDGE The Great Sauk Trail, which connected Detroit, Chicago and Green Bay, Wisconsin, crossed the St. Joseph River at a shallow spot in this vicinity. Responding to the westward migration of pioneers, the federal government surveyed the trail and converted it into the Chicago Road (presently U.S. 12) in 1825. The first Chicago Road bridge to cross the river near Mottville was a substantial timber structure constructed in 1833-1834 by contractor Hart L. Stewart. A pile-supported bridge replaced it in 1845. In 1867, Mahlon Thompson and Joseph Miller built a covered Burr arch truss. The ruins of its stone-block abutments are visible upstream from here. This three-span camelback bridge was built in 1922. In 1990, U.S. 12 was rerouted over a new bridge. The camelback bridge is now used for foot traffic. SIDE TWO Constructed in 1922, this three-span, 270-foot-long bridge is the longest Michigan example of a reinforced concrete camelback bridge. These bridges are found primarily in Michigan and Ontario, Canada, and the Mottville Bridge is an excellent example of this design. It was built by contractors Smith and Nichols of Hastings under the direction of State Bridge Engineer C. A. Melick. The Michigan State Highway Department pioneered the use of standardized designs for concrete bridges. By the early 1920s the department had established standardized plans for camelback spans of 50, 60, 70, 75 and 90 feet. This bridge contains three identical 90-foot spans. It was preserved as an engineering landmark by the Michigan Department of Transportation when the present U.S. 12 bridge was erected.
Period of Significance 1901-1930
Significant Date(s) 1922
Registry Type(s) 10/31/1989 Marker erected
04/04/1991 National Register listed
04/10/1986 State Register listed
Site ID# P24703