Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Crooked Creek Bridge
Crooked Creek Bridge

CROOKED CREEK BRIDGE, PYATT, MARION COUNTY

SUMMARY

The Crooked Creek Bridge is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A with local significance for its association with the development of early automobile infrastructure in the 1920s.  Constructed in 1923, the bridge is representative of the bridge projects from the period, which were rapidly developing better accessibility for automobiles throughout Arkansas.  The bridge is still the primary crossing of Crooked Creek near Pyatt, Arkansas, serving traffic in and out of Pyatt’s town center. 

The Crooked Creek Bridge is also being nominated under Criterion C with local significance as a good example of closed-spandrel, reinforced concrete bridge design, a construction method typical of Arkansas state highway projects from this period.  The increased arched spans, more narrow members, and decorative detailing represented the great development in concrete bridge technology occurring at this time. 

The Crooked Creek Bridge on US 62 spur is also being submitted under the multiple property listing “Historic Bridges of Arkansas” and under the associated historic context “Arkansas Highway and Transportation Era.”

ELABORATION

Crooked Creek, as its name suggests, is a waterway characterized by multiple bends, running approximately 52 miles across Boone and Marion counties.  Starting just south of Harrison, Arkansas, the creek continues through the communities of Harmon, Pyatt, Summit and Yellville before its confluence with the White River.  Today, the creek is a popular waterway for bass fishing and canoeing.

The community of Pyatt has a close relationship to Crooked Creek.  Early Native American residents were overrun by the community of Stringtown, which spread along the many bends of the creek.  Around 1870, the town was renamed Powell, after then governor Powell Clayton.Powell, Arkansas, was home to one general store, a blacksmith shop, and a public school for white children.[1]

The major boost to this community would come in the early twentieth century, when the St. Louis, Iron Mountain, & Southern Railroad Company extended lines through this area.  Around this time, the township was officially platted and renamed Pyatt, after a railroad manager by that name.  The new town site was dedicated in September 1904.  Land was given by A.J. Bradford, Virgie Foster, Arkie Hobson, Millie Keene, and Mary L. Bradford, a large part of the territory having been farmed in cotton.  With the railroad, industry grew in Pyatt.  The town soon had a cotton gin, gristmill, general store, and post office.  Lumber was the primary resource shipped from Pyatt, although produce and dairy from local farms was also shipped from the Pyatt depot.  Passengers rode the renamed Missouri-Pacific rail line through this area from 1907 until 1960.[2]

Crooked Creek Bridge is part of US 62 spur, connecting the town of Pyatt, a community of less than three-hundred, to the main highway running through Marion County, and acting as the community’s lifeline to the outside world.  At the time of its construction, the bridge was paved with dirt and gravel, as were the rest of the state highways in this county.[3]  Road improvements were ongoing following the reorganization of the Arkansas State Highway Commission in 1923, the same year as the bridge’s construction.  It was not until this time that the highway commission formalized a state-wide highway system, previously relying heavily on individual counties to develop their own projects.[4]

By 1920, projects of the Arkansas State Highway Commission were largely transitioning from construction efforts to maintenance, as the state had undertaken significant construction efforts in the 1910s to connect Arkansas’s towns and cities.[5]  MarionCounty, however, remained relatively underdeveloped – only 63 miles of state roads were built in the county, none being designated as “primary” routes.[6]  The rapid expansion of automobile travel in the country was just beginning in Marion County – of the 378 automobiles registered in the County, almost half of them were newly registered in 1921 and 1922.[7]  While other more populated counties were transitioning towards spending their highway budgets primarily on maintenance, Marion County’s expenditures were still largely dominated by new construction.[8]  Construction at this time was funded largely through federal allotments and state bonds issued county by county.  Between 1921 and 1926, one federal allotment was given to Marion County for $8,500, and it is possible that it helped fund the Crooked Creek Bridge into Pyatt.[9]

The Crooked Creek Bridge is typical of many concrete bridges constructed during this period.  The use of concrete was becoming popular in the creation of Roman-inspired closed spandrel arch bridges, creating picturesque crossings in the landscape.  This romantic ideal was popularized after the Columbian Exhibition of 1893 in Chicago, which initiated the spread of the City-Beautiful Movement.  The Exhibition’s architecture was characterized by large-scaled classical cityscapes and picturesque landscape design by Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmsted.  Burnham’s maxim to “make no small plans” transformed many American cities, which adopted the Roman-classical styling and broad dramatic spaces of the exposition grounds, reshaping their downtowns and promoting the resurgence of American neoclassicism in the early twentieth century.[10]

Constructed in 1923 by the M.K. Orr Contracting Company of Harrison, Arkansas, the bridge has three closed spandrel concrete arches and a decorative balustrade of simple rectangular panels.  Although the bridge type was popular in the 1920s, this is the only example in Marion County.  Now paved, the road surface, like most roads in the county at that time, was originally gravel.[11]  Although standard pre-engineered metal truss plans were available to counties for construction of state highways, concrete arch bridges were frequently used throughout the state.[12]  This bridge closely resembles, but is not attributed to, the designs of Daniel B. Luten, a prominent bridge engineer accredited with many concrete designs throughout the state.  Luten’s bridges developed ideas from earlier concrete engineers to establish standard calculations for construction to streamline the design process.  His system of reinforcing allowed bridges to span longer distances and use less concrete, economizing construction with these materials.[13]

Today, US 62 spur remains an important road for the residents of Pyatt, and the Crooked Creek Bridge has been an important crossing on the road for the residents in the area for over 85 years.  The Crooked Creek Bridge remains an important transportation link in the area and a good example of a closed-spandrel concrete arch bridge.


[1] Young, June Turney.  A History of Pyatt http://www.ozarkhistory.com/pyatthist.htm.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Arkansas State Highways Map published in 1924.  Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department.

[4] Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department.  Historical Review.  AHTD, November 1992.

[5] Arkansas Highway Commission, Seventh Biennial Report of the Department of State Lands, Highways and Improvements.  Conway Printing Co, Conway, AR, 1926.  p 78.

[6] Seventh Biennial Report, p. 29.

[7] Arkansas Highway Commission, Fifth Biennial Report of the Department of State Lands, Highways and Improvements.  H.G. Pugh & Co. Publishing, Little Rock, AR, 1922.  p 113.

[8] Seventh Biennial Report, p 88.

[9] Fifth Biennial Report, p. 42; Seventh Biennial Report, p. 48.

[10] City-Beautiful reference- Wilson, The City Beautiful Movement/ Peterson- The Birth of American City Planning.

[11] Fifth Biennial Report, p 61.

[12] Fifth Biennial Report, p 52.

[13] James L. Cooper, Artistry and Ingenuity in Artificial Stone: Indiana’s Concrete Bridges 1900-1942 (Greencastle, IN: privately printed, 1997.

SIGNIFICANCE

The Crooked Creek Bridge is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A with local significance for its association with the development of early automobile infrastructure in the 1920s.  Constructed in 1923, the bridge is representative of the bridge projects from the period, which were rapidly developing better accessibility for automobiles throughout Arkansas.  The bridge is still the primary crossing of Crooked Creek near Pyatt, Arkansas, serving traffic in and out of Pyatt’s town center. 

The Crooked Creek Bridge is also being nominated under Criterion C with local significance as a good example of closed-spandrel, reinforced concrete bridge design, a construction method typical of Arkansas state highway projects from this period.  The increased arched spans, more narrow members, and decorative detailing represented the great development in concrete bridge technology occurring at this time.

The Crooked Creek Bridge on US 62 spur is also being submitted under the multiple property listing “Historic Bridges of Arkansas” and under the associated historic context “Arkansas Highway and Transportation Era.”

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Arkansas Highway Commission, Fifth Biennial Report of the Department of State Lands, Highways and Improvements.  H.G. Pugh & Co. Publishing, Little Rock, AR, 1922.  p 113. 

Arkansas Highway Commission, Seventh Biennial Report of the Department of State Lands, Highways and Improvements.  Conway Printing Co, Conway, AR, 1926.  p 78.

Arkansas State Highways Map published in 1924.  Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department.

Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department.  Historical Review.  AHTD, November 1992. 

Cooper, James L.  Artistry and Ingenuity in Artificial Stone: Indiana’s Concrete Bridges 1900-1942.  Greencastle, IN: privately printed, 1970.

Peterson, The Birth of City Planning in the United States, 1840-1917.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 2003. 

Wilson, William H.  The City Beautiful Movement.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1989. 

Young, June Turney.  A History of Pyatt, from A History of Marion County, edited by Early Berry, 1997.  http://www.ozarkhistory.com/pyatthist.htm