South Downey Street Bridge

A 1931 photo depicts a concrete bridge spanning a small town creek.
The 1917 steel and concrete bridge across South Downey Street, 1931

National Park Service

Quick Facts
West Branch, Iowa
Part of Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

Audio Description, Wheelchair Accessible

Meeting minutes from the town council reveal how West Branch approved its first bridge on South Downey Street over the stream we now call Hoover Creek.

Construction projects in our time require months— or years— of planning, detailed specifications, reviews, and letting of contracts. Building the bridge over Hoover Creek seems to have been almost simple. The council approved the proposed bridge at a meeting on June 4, 1877. They instructed the street commissioner, Thomas Reeves (also the town marshal) to handle the project with a budget of $75.

At the very next meeting, July 17, the Reeves reported on the completed project and what it had cost— $62.94. Fifteen dollars of this amount were credit given to men who worked on the project instead of paying their local taxes in cash. The only itemized expense associated with the bridge was $12.73 paid to Charles Leech for lumber and posts.

The finished bridge was 22 feet long, resting on cedar piles driven deep into the creek mud. A basic pony truss along the sides of the bridge deck helped support the structure. 

In 1917 he town rebuilt the bridge, twice constructed out of wood, with a steel beam and concrete span. The National Park Service built a replacement bridge in 2021, part of the reconstruction of Hoover Creek to reduce flooding. The newest bridge attempts to recreate the original appearance and concrete railing of the 1917 bridge. Cedar pilings recovered from the creek during construction may have been the footings for the 1877 bridge.

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

Last updated: April 14, 2021