Earlier this summer, we traveled to the Pacific Northwest to attend the Society for Industrial Archeology (SIA) 50th annual conference held in Portland, Oregon. It was a memorable trip driving along Oregon Coast Highway 101 visiting historic bridges before attending the SIA conference and then touring some of Portland’s historic bridges during the conference. One of the most impressive bridges we toured in Portland was the St Johns Bridge, designed by engineer David B. Steinman who, twenty-five years later, would be the design engineer for the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan, the subject of this Iron & Steel Preservation webinar. (Our West Coast trip will be the subject of an article in a future Iron & Steel Preservation Chronicle.)
Vern Mesler 2022
Mackinac Bridge Webinar August 31, 2022, 2 – 2:45 pm EDT
Mackinac Bridge Webinar

Guest presenters:
Cole Cavalieri and Paul Giroux

To sign up for the webinar, send me an email ( You will receive a link to the WebEx event the day before, August 30th. (Late adds will not be possible after the August 30th invitations have been sent out.)
Michigan’s Up-North (Vern Mesler)
Up-North has been a destination for many Michigan families for a summer vacation or a long holiday weekend, and US-27 (Michigan’s “Main Street” to the Northland) and other Michigan highways opened the state’s natural wonders to an emerging middle class in the early 1950s. As the automobile became more than a means to arrive at work on time, the lure of simple black and white advertisements attracted many to the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron and Michigan’s inland lakes. Traveling Michigan’s “Main Street” required driving through towns and villages later by-passed by four-lane freeways; within these villages and towns were restaurants advertising home cooking. Sadie's Diner, Hanson Café, Mike’s Place, Ossie’s Lakeview Grill, home-cooked food specializing in excellent fish dinners, steaks and chops. Each restaurant was unique; cooks relied on their family’s traditional food preparation. In 1957, the first McDonald’s restaurant opened in Lansing, the capital city of Michigan. With the construction of modern-day multi-lane freeways, the home-cooked diner would soon be replaced at the freeways’ on and off ramps with the fast-prepared, fast-served hamburger, fries, drink, and a quick stop at the restroom.
Traveling Up-North in the early 1950s, travelers could find a place to stay at the many roadside motels, resorts, or lake shore cabins. It was at these shores that families purchased lake property that became their families’ traditional summer retreat. In the 1954 Michigan Tourist Association publication they wrote about an Up-North experience that would draw a national audience: “A dream will become a reality in 1957 with the completion of the five mile long Mackinac Straits Bridge linking the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan from Mackinaw City to St. Ignace across the Straits of Mackinac.”
American Bridge Co., Ambridge, Pennsylvania
Fabrication of the Mackinac Bridge took place at the American Bridge plant in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, where millions of shop-driven rivets were used in the fabrication of the bridge’s massive towers. Once fabricated these large shop-riveted sections were shipped to the bridge erection site at the Straits of Mackinac, where ironworkers field-riveted the connections with pneumatic field rivet hammers.
Across the four-mile Straits of Mackinac the bridge rose, and by the end of the 1950s decade the Mackinac Bridge would open to traffic on November 1, 1957. It stands today as testimony to the highly skilled men and women in engineering and industrial trades and their ability to construct a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.
Mackinac Bridge Webinar Presentation (Cole Cavalieri)
The Straits of Mackinac, a four mile long stretch of water that connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron and separates the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan, has always been an important location of commerce. For many years travel across the straits was only possible by boat, and although many dreamed of a bridge it was thought impossible. In 1950, the Mackinac Bridge Authority (MBA) was formed to oversee a feasibility study of whether or not a bridge across the Straits of Mackinac could be built. The MBA selected famed bridge designer, David B. Steinman, to lead a team for the design of the Mackinac Bridge.

In order to build the bridge, many obstacles needed to be overcome. The Straits of Mackinac presented many challenges beyond the distance necessary to span them. The area is exposed to extreme winter weather and winds, unusual currents, and at the channel bottom exists an ancient river gorge that goes down to a depth of three hundred feet. In order to space piers far enough apart a suspension bridge was chosen. At the time of its construction, the Mackinac Bridge was the longest suspension bridge to ever have been built between anchorages. Its main span length (between towers) of 3,800 ft was second only to the Golden Gate. The design and construction of the bridge was groundbreaking and helped advance what was thought possible in the bridge building industry. In 2009, the Mackinac Bridge was recognized as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

The Mackinac Bridge remains the only connection between the Upper Peninsula and Lower Peninsula of Michigan and carries approximately four million vehicles per year. The MBA continues to oversee the daily operations of the bridge including routine maintenance and rehabilitation projects to ensure the bridge remains serviceable for generations to come.
Cole Cavalieri, P.E., Assistant Bridge Engineer at Mackinac Bridge Authority, and Paul Giroux, Senior Engineer at Kiewit Corporation and a Civil Engineering Historian, will tell their story of the building of the Mackinac Bridge.
Mackinac Bridge Webinar August 31, 2022, 2 – 2:45 pm EDT

To sign up for the webinar, send me an email ( You will receive a link to the WebEx event the day before, August 30th. (Late adds will not be possible after the August 30th invitations have been sent out.)
Cole Cavalieri received his BS in Civil Engineering from Michigan State University in 2014. He has worked in a variety of roles in the civil engineering industry including materials testing, design, construction, and bridge inspection before joining the Mackinac Bridge Authority in 2020. He has worked on many bridges throughout the Midwest. In his role as transportation engineer for the Mackinac Bridge, he works closely with the Chief Engineer and maintenance staff to coordinate repair and rehabilitation work on the bridge.
Paul Giroux received his BS in Construction Engineering from Iowa State University in 1979. For the past four decades, he has been with Kiewit Corporation, working on a wide variety of heavy civil engineering mega projects throughout the United States. Paul played a key role in notable projects such as the Fort McHenry Tunnel in Baltimore, several projects on the Big Dig in Boston including the new Zakim/Bunker Hill Bridge, the new San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge East Span, and many other projects. Paul was elected Distinguished Member of the American Society of civil engineers in 2016 and a member of the National Academy of Construction in 2022. 
Nathan Holth of found this interesting article:

Wrought iron plates protect Mackinac Bridge pilings against corrosion and spalling

"Engineers on the $100 million Mackinac Bridge faced this problem: what material could most economically protect the bridge’s concrete substructure against recurrent wet-dry corrosion and abrasion by ice?
Consulting Engineer D. B. Steinman, New York, met these requirements by specifying over 270 tons of 3/8 inch wrought iron plates. These plates do double-duty … combatting corrosion and guarding pilings against stress and subsequent spalling under dense ice formations."

Article from the A. M. Byers Company, Pittsburgh, PA, as advertised in 1957 issues of the Engineering-News Record.
Calhoun County Historic Bridge Park
Battle Creek, Michigan 
For a unique Michigan summer adventure, visit the Calhoun County Historic Bridge Park in Battle Creek and stroll across five restored riveted metal truss bridges from Michigan's transportation past. Restored to their original fabricated design for Michigan's early road system, they are a history book not written in words but in the metal fabricated by the hand of a craftsman.
Group tours can be arranged for those who want to learn more about the history of the five historic bridges, the wrought iron and steel they were fabricated with, and the manufacturing processes used to fabricate and erect the bridges.
Past Iron & Steel Preservation Chronicles
Iron & Steel Preservation Program Fund
Lansing Community College Foundation
Please consider contributing to the Iron and Steel Preservation Program Fund. This fund was established to support projects, research, conferences and scholarships related to the repair, rehabilitation, and restoration of metals. The Lansing Community College Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation.
Select “Other” under “Designation” and type in “Iron and Steel Preservation.”
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