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1882 Alabama bridge gets restoration

Dolan Media Newswires

New Orleans — Work is wrapping up on a full-scale restoration of one of the South’s oldest known bridges that had been abandoned for years.

The 1882 Black Warrior Bridge in Northport, northwest of Tuscaloosa, sat in the woods for decades, eventually being overtaken by large trees. Since the fall of 2008, the bridge has been removed from the woods, repaired, sand blasted and painted.

The Friends of Historic Northport, a nonprofit that promotes awareness of the city’s history, is working with the city of Northport to determine where to display the bridge in a local park.

Ken Willis, who is leading the efforts to restore the structure, discovered the bowstring bridge in the woods of Northport, northwest of Tuscaloosa. It had been unused for years, surrounded by a pile of trees, rocks and grass.

Part of the restoration involved dismantling and rebuilding the structure, including unscrewing hundreds of rusty old nuts and bolts that had endured decades of rust and corrosion.

“At first, the steel workers and civil engineers told us that we’d have to eventually cut and re-fabricate all the nuts, bolts and threaded rods to get them off,” Willis said.

Willis managed to remove the rust using a spray-on chemical known as PB B’laster and said he saved $30,000 in the process.

“Most importantly, it did not destroy the integrity of the bridge,” Willis said.

The 19th-century bridge was built in Cleveland, Ohio, by the King Iron Bridge & Manufacturing Co. and moved by rail to Alabama. It helped horse and buggy riders cross the Black Warrior River.

It was moved once because of the growing transportation on the Black Warrior River and accommodated cars and trucks until the 1970s.

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