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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography

The Bridges Of Madison County

A Photo Tour Of The Historic
Covered Bridges Located In
Madison County, Iowa

Hogback Bridge Roseman Bridge Cutler-Donahoe Bridge Holliwell Bridge McBride Bridge Cedar Bridge Imes Bridge

The Bridges Of Madison County
Note—click on any black flag to open a page about that structure.

Cedar Bridge
Cutler-Donahoe Bridge
Hogback Bridge
Holliwell Bridge
Imes Bridge
McBride Bridge
Roseman Bridge
As the Midwest was settled, farmers needed a way to get their products to market, which generally meant pulling horse drawn wagons to the nearest railroad station. To respond to this need, counties began to improve rural roads and install bridges. These bridges were most often built using timber. It was quickly realized that timber bridges would rapidly deteriorate if they were left exposed to the elements, and it would be much cheaper to cover the bridges rather than repair damaged timbers.

Madison County, Iowa, located southwest of Des Moines, once had 19 covered bridges. These covered bridges started to become obstacles when larger and heavier trucks became common, and their coverings prevented large farm implements from using these bridges. Farmers began to demand that heavier open bridges be built.

By 1933, the population of covered bridges had dropped to 10, resulting in the first talk of saving the remaining structures. But over the next 15 years, three more covered bridges were lost. At that time, the Madison County Board of Supervisors approved funding to preserve the seven covered bridges that were still standing. Many were bypassed, while others were moved to new locations. The result is an outstanding collection of structures, some that date back over 100 years. The bridges are celebrated every year since 1970 by an annual bridge festival held the second full weekend of October.

The bridges became nationally known after the motion picture ‘The Bridges of Madison County’, featuring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep, was released in 1995, based on the best-selling 1992 novel. The film tells the story of a local farm wife who has an affair with a man who has traveled to Iowa to photograph the bridges. Oprah Winfrey liked the book so much that she named it as her favorite book of the year in 1993, and she traveled to Iowa to broadcast her afternoon show from the Cedar Bridge.

Since the bridges were preserved, they have faced a series of arson fires. The McBride Bridge was destroyed by a fire set by a jilted lover in 1983. The Cedar Bridge was destroyed in 2002, and both the Hogback and Roseman bridges have been damaged in arson attempts. As a result, the structures are monitored 24 hours per day with video cameras and alarm systems.

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Authored by John A. Weeks III, Copyright © 1996—2016, all rights reserved.
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