Northeast Iowans celebrate reconstruction of Turkey River bridge - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Northeast Iowans celebrate reconstruction of Turkey River bridge


A historic area in Clayton County was brought back to life Saturday as people celebrated the restoration of the Motor Mill site and the reconstruction of the Turkey River bridge in Elkader.

The Motor Mill site was created in 1867 when John Thompson, J.P. Dickinson and James Crosby formed a partnership to build a grist mill, sawmill, farm and town site. The site has been a historic landmark for Clayton County, listed on the national register of historic places in Iowa.

In 1983, the Clayton County conservation board purchased the motor mill building along with 100 acres surrounding the mill. The purchase included surrounding buildings, including an old warn out bridge. The Clayton County Conservation Board aimed to restore and reconstruct the buildings and bridge to what they looked like in the 1880's.

John Niklai is president of the Motor Mill Foundation, a foundation working to protect and reserve the architectural integrity, history and natural beauty of the motor mill district. He said the old bridge could easily collapse.

"It was set up in a way that if certain parts of it were hit it could collapse." Niklai said.

That bridge did end up falling down, at least part of it. After a flooding in 1991, the south span of the old warn out bridge was knocked off, leaving only half a bridge on the property. That is when the bridge was closed off for everyday use. Shortly after in 2008, another flood knocked off the second half of the bridge, leaving neighbors wanting a new one.

"This used to be a short cut for anything in the southwest corner of the county to come to Elkader," Niklai said.

A new bridge was constructed in September thanks to donations, grants and FEMA funding. The bridge has a look similar to the old bridge, but is a lot safer.

The bridge was raised by four feet to be placed above the high water mark.

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