John Mack Bridge, Wichita
2700 S. Broadway, Wichita, KS [map this location]
Built in 1931, the 800-foot span bridge of reinforced concrete consists of eight tied arches and was named after John Mack of Newton who, as a member of the state highway commission, was known as the "father of good Kansas roads." The Marsh Arch in Fort Morgan, Colorado has eleven arches.
The best description of Marsh's bridge design is contained in his 1911 patent application: The bridge consisted of "two abutments, a pair of arches disposed between and spring from the abutments, the floor carried by and between the arches and reaching from one abutment to the other where it aligns with the parapets or rails along opposite sides of the floor line." Slideable wear plates were molded into the concrete where the bridge floor came into contact with the beams and abutments. Later refinements made use of the cast steel expansion rocker bearing. One of the main benefits of the design was to allow for the expansion and contraction of the reinforced concrete bridge under varying conditions of temperature and moisture.
Most of the Marsh rainbow arch bridges in Kansas were single span, with the multiple span being unique. The bridge is historically significant as many of the Marsh Arch bridges have been demolished. In the 1980s, 73 bridges of Marsh's rainbow arch design were still standing in Kansas. In the early 2000's, there are less than a dozen left. A four-span Marsh bridge is found one mile east of Independence on U.S. 160.
In 1991 the John Mack Bridge was in danger of being torn down but a community effort saved the bridge. It was placed on the National Register in 1992 and was renovated in 1997. A new low profile bridge was built immediately on its east side to provide for four-lane traffic flow along Broadway. This was hailed as a great success for historic preservation in Wichita.
Note: Most of the information in this narrative came from the Nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, December 4, 1991 and Kansas Preservation, September-October, 1980.
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