It All Started With A $10 Bill

Sunday, November 11th at 2 pm is a big day for the Stearns Truss in Delphi.  It culminates nearly two years regular M-W-F work by an ingenious volunteer crew  This whole project started December 16, 2005 in a Pulaski County Commissioner’s meeting at Winamac.  Four Canal Association volunteers were present.  An offer to purchased the 78 foot long relic for $10 was met with a stipulation that it must be removed from the Big Monon Ditch in just three months.  That winter the weather was cooperative and the volunteers rallied to disassemble and transport all the pieces to Delphi by March 3rd.

CELEBRATE!!  Volunteers are ready to present their pride and joy.  This bridge is a “one-of-a-kind” lightweight, portable, once rusty, wrought iron span brought from near Medaryville.  It is a special lightweight span designed by Wm. Stearns and the last known of its type to exist in the US.  The special place where the BIG BLUE BRIDGE spans the canal is in west Delphi behind Pizza Hut / Dairy Queen.  It sits over a reconstructed section of the Wabash & Erie Canal.

The last task being completed is the handrail and some touch-up of the beautiful blue paint.  The bridge sports another color as well as the blue.  All iron that was added for safety, but not part of the original, is painted black.  This comprises the safety siderail which is made of angle iron with a similar look as the integrated original handrail thus the added materials are black.

With parking near the bridge a premium on dedication day the participants can enjoy parking downtown Delphi around the Court House and being chauffeured by Brian Stirm and his popular Trolley.  Ride to the dedication then back downtown and “Discover Delphi Days” at the participating stores.  The Trolley will also travel to Canal Park and the whole circuit every 20 minutes.  It runs from 12 noon to 4 pm both Saturday and Sunday (10th and 11th).  Take time to enjoy the small town flavor with a visit to this county seat that still looks like it did in the historic canal era.

Take a walk along the trial from the bridge and jaunt south on the towpath to Lock #33 or the Irish Construction Camp  — or go north and arrive by trail in a half mile at the Canal Interpretive Center.  The volunteers are developing several sites with relevant canal connections to the 1840s through the mid 1870s.  Just west of the Blue Stearns Bridge were Papermills and Delphi’s shipping connections brought goods from the east while local products of salt pork, grain and lime were sent afar on this manmade waterway.

Come to the dedication and visit with the many volunteers that have rallied to this restoration project.  Nearly a dozen of the 76 volunteers listed on the program have been as regular as “clockwork” and have keep the pace throughout the last 7 seasons with their M-W-F workdays.  Without this dedication and the personal donations and grant support for supplies and materials this would not have happened.  Thank the volunteers when you meet them in the reception line spanning this 78 foot long wrought iron bridge.

If you are coming to Delphi on Saturday you have several treats to expect.  First the Trolley is running from downtown to the Stearns Truss from 12-4 pm and it is an informal “look-see” of the bridge — a few volunteers will be present.  Second there is another dedication of a downtown historic property’s shinny new facade — the Opera House.  The Delphi Preservation Society is cutting a ribbon to highlight to the public this completion at 2 pm on Saturday.

Take some time and exploring the shops and their specials during Discover Delphi Days all weekend.  You can park on the Square and board the trolley in front of the Opera House building on either Saturday or Sunday 12-4 pm and ride out to see the bright blue Stearns Truss Bridge.