ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Oconomowoc Avenue Bridge

Rough & Ready Bridge

Plank Road Bridge


At least three bridges have spanned the Rock River at Oconomowoc Avenue.  The first was an old wooden structure.  The second was a steel bridge which was constructed in 1907 and continued in service until March of 1983 when it was dismantled for construction of the new bridge.  That structure was one lane in width, and in recent years had deteriorated to the point that heavy vehicles were prohibited from using it.  The new bridge, dedicated in October of 1983, cost $549,000, of which $439,000 was paid by federal funds.  The remaining $110,000 was paid by the city.  The bridge is 300 feet long and Edward Kraemer Construction was the general contractor.  After the bridge was officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony, long lines of cars traveled across for the first time since back in March.   Watertown Daily Times, 10 21 1983



11 18       Obligation to repair the plank road bridge   WD



02 10       Proposal:  Highway to replace Plank Road.  Ald. Dutcher introduced a memorial praying the Legislature to vacate so much of the charter of the Milwaukee and Watertown Plank Road Company as lies between Watertown and Oconomowoc and establish the same as a Public Highway.


Also, Resolved, That the City Attorney be and he is hereby instructed to commence legal proceedings immediately against the Milwaukee and Watertown Plank Road Company for suffering the bridge in this city upon said road to become impassable by the traveling public.  Common Council Proceedings, WD



01 31       From the Proceedings of the Common Council held Sat Jan 26, 1661:   Resolved That the Mayor is hereby authorized to enter into contract with L. A. Cole, L. J. Kadish and others to pay them the sum of Five Hundred Dollars in city orders for and in behalf of the city, so soon as they erect or cause to be erected a bridge across Rock River , at a point near the Boston House, where the Plank Road Bridge was, whenever said bridge shall be completed, and the same shall not cost less than $1000, when completed. Adopted.   WD


02 01       An Improvement

We hear that the Common Council took measures to have the Plank Road Bridge, near the Rough and Ready Mill, repaired and put in order, so that the same can be used.  Considerable inconvenience has been experienced by people living on the east side of the Rock River, who have had occasion to come to town and to do so been obliged to travel the circuitous route rendered necessary by the destruction of the bridge to which we have alluded.  As we understand it, it will require an outlay of at least one thousand dollars to place the same in good condition; one half of which, property holders living near the bridge, more particularly, and others interested in the matter, have pledged themselves to raise, while the remainder of the sum, five hundred dollars, the city is to pay on the completion of the job.  We consider this a good investment on the part of the city, for there is no doubt that it has lost more or less trade to Ixonia, Concord, Oconomowoc and other places in that direction, in consequence of the impassable state of the roads at some seasons of the year, on the route at present traveled.   WR


06 13       The Committee of Highways and Bridges to whom was referred the Petition of L. A. Cole and L. J. Kadish, reported in favor of allowing them $200 to apply on their contract to build Plank Road bridge; report accepted; moved by Ald. Prentiss that the clerk is hereby directed to issue an order of $200.00 in favor of L. A. Cole, on the City General Fund; Carried.   WD



      Viewed from the south, looking northeast





04 28       The Plank Road bridge should be repaired immediately, if only for temporary use.  It will accommodate Oak Hill cemetery and the farmers living east of the city.  Only two new bridges are absolutely necessary, namely, Main Street bridge, and the Smith bridge.  All the others should be abandoned.   A city authority should consult the wishes and interests of all.  Build bridges according to the peculiar notions of all.  In that manner, and that only, can they please all.  Let us have peace.   WD   See also WD, Aug 11, 1881




The following- was passed:  Voted to condemn Plank Road bridge.  Comm. on Streets and Bridges given authority to tear it down at once.    WR







   10 27 1903


While on the return home from a visit east of town, Sunday afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. E. Grams had a narrow escape from death by drowning. They had engaged a horse and buggy of Louis Dornfeld and on their return, just as they had left the Oconomowoc Avenue Bridge the horse shied and there being no railing there the horse fell into the river.  Mr. Grains was in the buggy when it over turned and was under it when it fell into the water.


Mr. Grains had one of his feet caught in the spokes of the wheel and, had nearly given up hopes of ever being rescued or rescuing himself when he finally succeeded in getting loose and rose to the surface.  Finding his wife struggling in the water, he reached her and managed to get to shore.  The water is about ten feet deep at this point.


The night was very dark making it all the worse as there was no means of going for help.  A resident nearby heard the horse struggling in the water, and went to the scene, but was too late as the horse had already drowned.


Mr. and Mrs. Grams were taken to the electric power house where they were cared for and a physician was summoned.  Mr. DornfeId valued his horse at $150.





09 26       The committee on streets and bridges of the Common Council examined what is known as the Oconomowoc bridge yesterday and found it in an unsafe condition and in great need of repair at an early day for the accommodation and safety of the traveling public.  One thing can be said in praise of the authorities having the matter in charge, that the bridges, and there are a number of them, are kept in good repair.  The expense is quite an item in the tax budget annually, but that makes no difference and the bridges are not permitted to remain unsafe for a long period of time.



11 22       A regular meeting of the city council was held last evening, all of the aldermen, with the exception of Alderman Hahn, responding to the roll call . . .


Alderman Lutovsky broached the matter of the Rough and Ready Bridge [same as Oconomowoc Ave Bridge], urging action on the part of the council.  The action was temporarily disposed of by instructing the board of public works to communicate with an experienced engineer for plans for a suitable bridge on Oconomowoc Avenue, also to figure on the use of one span of the Milwaukee Street bridge.  However, the latter plan seemed to be against the wishes of several of the aldermen, the sentiment appearing to be in favor of a new structure.



01 02       The fact of the closing of the Rough and Ready bridge is bringing to many of our citizens a realization of the fact that the city is losing considerable business as a consequence.  The bridge was condemned by the city council early in November and it was expected that the repair of the bridge . . . would receive the immediate attention of the council. There was a delay . . . farmers began to complain ... resolution was adopted . . . to procure plans. Since that time, no action has been taken . . . merchants and business men are beginning to join the farmers in their complaint . . . quite a large volume of trade that naturally comes to Watertown is now going to Oconomowoc.  Many farmers were obliged to travel a roundabout way, crossing the Smith bridge, the road leading to the same being in horrible condition.  Some . . . have quit coming to this city, while others have marketed their produce at Oconomowoc ever since the bridge was condemned. As a result of the closing of the bridge, so The Leader is informed, the American Malting company has lost over 5,000 bushels, which had gone to Oconomowoc.  What is true of this concern is true of many others.   WDT



03 20       At the last meeting of the council no action was taken in the matter of the Rough and Ready bridge in order to await developments in the dam matter.  Mr. Smith [Assemblyman Fred Smith] writes as follows:  "Unless I notify you otherwise, the hearing on bill No. 600a, which is the Rough and Ready dam bill; will be held Thursday, March 21st."   WL



10 30       The placing of the girders at the new Rough and Ready bridge was completed yesterday.  It took only ten days to put the enormous heavy eight girders, over eight tons each, in place, which is the fastest that ever Rock River has been spanned in this city and a credit to the management of the Dornfeld-Kunert Co. and Mr. A. F. Baumann, who superintended the work personally.  The work is being pushed to the utmost and Watertown soon will have another up-to-date bridge to be proud of for years to come.    WDT




The new iron and steel bridge being constructed across the Rock River at Oconomowoc Avenue is almost completed and will be ready for traffic by the first of December.  It is a structure that reflects credit upon the builders, the Dornfeld-Kunert company of this city, whose bid was $12,500. The cement work is all finished and the work of laying the brick paving is well under way.  The length of the bridge is 256 feet, four spans of 64 feet each. The width of the roadway is 17 feet, of concrete with brick paving, while the sidewalk is five feet six inches of cement. A. F. Baumann of the Dornfeld-Kunert company has had supervision of the construction work and not a detail has been overlooked.  WDT




The new iron and steel bridge spanning the Rock river at Oconomowoc Avenue has been completed and will be ready for traffic in the course of a couple of days.  The only work remaining is filling in at the approaches.  The structure is a credit to the city, also to the builders - the Dornfeld-Kunert Company, whose contract price was $12,500 . . . The work has been under the supervision of A. F. Baumann of the contracting firm, while Street Commissioner Gus Glasef has been looking after the interests of the city.   WDT








Oconomowoc Ave bridge

Richards Grove School, built by John Richards in the late 1840s

Watertown Plank Road came into town along Oconomowoc and Concord avenues

Boston House Hotel

Little Bohemia area of Watertown

















03 06       Cost of a new Oconomowoc Avenue bridge.   WDT






05 08       The Oconomowoc Avenue bridge, which has undergone extensive repairs and changes the past year, was due to be open this afternoon for the convenience of travelers.  The bridge still has some minor work to undergo, such as completion of painting, and that this will be done next week.  In the meantime, it was decided to open the bridge for the convenience of travelers this weekend.   WDT






11 20     The low bid for Watertown’s new Oconomowoc Avenue bridge is nearly $70,000 below original estimates, according to Edward C. Bennett, city engineer.  Bennett said he received notification from the State Division of Highways today that the low bidder is Edward Kraemer and sons of Plain, Wis., with a bid of $483,281.90, considerably below the $550,000 estimate for the work.  Other low bidders were Lunda Construction of Black River Falls, $499,395, and Pheifer Brothers of Neenah, $510,140.90.


Bennett said he is reasonably sure the low bidder will be awarded the contract, and actual construction work will begin in early spring.  Completion is expected near the end of next year.  The new bridge will replace the existing one-lane structure which has a four ton weight restriction.  The bid includes construction of a sidewalk on the south side of the bridge, and also includes curb and gutter from Concord Avenue east to Kossuth Street.   WDT



07 02       Steve Lunde, area superintendent for Edward Kraemer & Sons   WDT


10 14       The Oconomowoc Avenue Bridge will be formally dedicated and opened to traffic in ceremonies Friday at 2 p.m.  Final work on the bridge is being undertaken, and the contractor has assured the city that all will be ready for the dedication. Edward Bennett, city engineer, said the ribbon will be cut by Eleanor Hady, a longtime resident of the area who watched when the original one-lane bridge was built back in 1908. City officials will also be present for the dedication and opening.   WDT




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History of Watertown, Wisconsin