BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — The fate of the Roche de Boeuf Interurban bridge is still up in the air, but the history of the bridge will be preserved on YouTube and in libraries for years to come.
On October 23, History in Your Own Backyard founder Satolli Glassmeyer will be in town to get photos and conduct an interview with Waterville Historical Society member Kathy Saco about the history of the bridge that’s also known as the Ohio Electric Interurban Bridge.
“Given both its historic and interesting history, the Waterville Historical Society decided that its story had to be preserved,” Saco said. “The bridge’s unique design and construction, its service to the surrounding community and its present-day appeal to both photographers and artists demand that its significance be documented.”
For over seven years, Glassmeyer has made documentaries about one-room schoolhouses, cathedrals, bridges and other sites that are abandoned, demolished or otherwise forgotten. He’s made over 530 documentaries with the goal of educating the younger generations and general public and to provide an archival record that will be preserved in libraries.
“Can you imagine if someone did this in 1921 and we had a thousand documentaries a century later? The result would have been a collection that would now be considered a national treasure,” Glassmeyer said.
While the documentary will be archived in the state library, it will also be available to “everyone on the planet” to view through the History in Your Own Backyard YouTube channel and website, with links sent to mayors, councils and school districts in 137 Midwest counties.
While the Waterville Historical Society contacted Glassmeyer about the documentary recently, he’s received several requests from other area residents, many of whom are concerned that the bridge will be gone forever, he said.
The bridge, listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1972, was built in 1908 as a trolley line that was abandoned in 1937. It was briefly used as an automobile crossing during World War II, when the Mechanic Street bridge collapsed, but has sat unused since 1946.
The state owns the property and put it up for auction on June 30. The buyer must show an ability to maintain its structural integrity and safety, provide insurance and have a feasible plan acceptable to the Ohio Department of Transportation. The winning bidder at the auction, Sarah Heidelberg, backed out, so the other bidders, brothers Lance and Josh Shepherd, are currently working on a plan. Both have been up on the bridge to look around and are seeking information from professionals, but with a medical emergency now affecting Lance’s ability to get out, Josh said he’s hoping to receive an extension beyond the Friday, October 29 deadline last provided by ODOT.
“We’re looking for people who want to help us save it,” Josh said. He believes that the $15 million estimate to rebuild the bridge is too high – and that less funding is necessary to stabilize the bridge and make it less of a liability.
Glassmeyer won’t be on top of the bridge when he’s filming but will have a drone fly over and around the bridge. The 15-minute production will include historical background from the WHS.
While the WHS is not fundraising for the video, Saco encouraged those who are fond of the bridge to considering sponsoring or donating to Glassmeyer’s production. Information on sponsorships can be found at www.historyinyourownbackyard.com or by contacting Glassmeyer at (812) 623-5727 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information can also be found at www.watervillehistory.org under The Way It Was, Feature Stories.