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Nymore Bridge

Beltrami County Historical Society
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Nymore Bridge

Nymore Bridge ca. 1916‒1925. Used with the permission of Beltrami County Historical Society.

Spanning a narrow stretch of the Mississippi River in Bemidji, the Nymore Bridge is a notable example of early-twentieth-century construction. Completed in 1917, it owes its success to innovative engineering, attractive design, and local funding. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

Approximately fifty river-miles northeast of its headwaters in Lake Itasca, the Mississippi River flows out of Lake Irving for a short stretch before entering Lake Bemidji. A wooden bridge spanned this section of the river in Bemidji’s early years.

In addition to regular traffic from the city center to the southeastern village of Nymore, it supported heavier loads from sawmills and farms. Repairs were frequently required, and as early as 1911, the street commissioner declared the bridge unsafe. Finally, in 1916, the city council passed a resolution for a more substantial structure. Estimated costs rose greatly in that interim, partially because of the effect of World War I on material prices.

Although the bid prices shocked the council’s members, they did not choose the cheapest, all-steel option. Instead, they opted for a three-arch, steel-reinforced concrete bridge. They then bargained with the lowest bidder, Illinois Steel Company, whose St. Paul agents agreed to reduce their royalties for a final price of $22,772. Only after the completion of bridge construction, however, did the city act on a bond to pay for it.

Several worldwide trends give context to the Nymore Bridge. First, the Good Roads Movement of the early twentieth century supported safe and reliable infrastructure in rural areas. At the same time, the ongoing City Beautiful Movement advocated aesthetic civic design choices. The visually appealing design of the bridge reflected this value, with Classical Revival elements such as raised concrete panels, decorative lampposts, and gaslights.

The era also saw bridge engineers experimenting with new methods. George M. Cheney’s patent specified the pouring of concrete over an intricate steel grid. The embedded structure aimed to eliminate or minimize the appearance of unattractive cracks, even though they did not affect bridge stability or strength. This method incorporated structural integrity and beauty.

Original plans called for the bridge to be completed and opened on January 1, 1917. Contractor disputes, however, not to mention winter weather in northern Minnesota, caused construction delays. When it was finally completed in October 1917, the bridge measured 168 feet long and thirty-one feet wide, with a center span of sixty-five feet.

The Nymore Bridge was the last city-funded crossing built over the Mississippi between Lake Irving and Lake Bemidji. In 1934, the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) sponsored construction of a new bridge just 100 feet downstream, thereby downgrading the Nymore Bridge. When double State Highway 197 bridges opened in 2002, city officials blocked the Nymore Bridge on one end, closing it to anything more than foot or bicycle traffic. In 2019, the city of Bemidji remains the bridge’s owner.

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“Bridge Bond Vote Next Monday.” Bemidji Daily Pioneer, October 27, 1917.

“Bemidji Briefs.” Bemidji Daily Pioneer, June 20, 1911.

“Bids For Construction Of Bridge.” Bemidji Daily Pioneer, August 4, 1916.

“Bridge Complete In About A Year.” Bemidji Daily Pioneer, March 21, 1917.

“Bridge Contractor Says He Wants To Save City Money By Changing Plans.” Bemidji Daily Pioneer, November 18, 1916.

“Bridge Is Prolific Topic.” Bemidji Daily Pioneer, March 26, 1917.

Cheney, George M. Concrete-Bridge Reinforcement. U.S. Patent 820,921 filed February 26, 1906 and issued May 15, 1906.

“Favor $6,000 Bridge.” Bemidji Daily Pioneer, July 18, 1911.

Gardner, Denis P. Wood, Concrete, Stone, and Steel. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008.

Liedke, Matthew. “Trestle bridge over Mississippi River to come down.” Bemidji Pioneer, October 30, 2017.

Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). A Brief History of MnDOT.

Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). Local Historic Bridge Report–Abridged. Mead & Hunt, January 2014.

Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). MnDOT Local Historic Bridge Study: History of Bridges in Minnesota.

Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). Nymore Bridge (Bridge 2366).

“Nymore Highway to Be Built on Present Route.” Bemidji Daily Pioneer, June 6, 1916.

“Nymore Highway Project May Be Solved Today.” Bemidji Daily Pioneer, June 2, 1916.

“Named ‘Nymore’.” Bemidji Daily Pioneer, October 16, 1902.

“New Bridge Over Mississippi River Inlet to Cost $22,772.” Bemidji Daily Pioneer, August 22, 1916.

“Nymore.” Bemidji Daily Pioneer, November 6, 1902.

Nymore Bridge. National Register of Historic Places registration form, #189001849.

“Nymore Is Now Part of Bemidji.” Bemidji Pioneer, October 14, 1916

Portland Cement Association. “What Happens When Concrete Freezes?”
“Ready for Bridge,” Bemidji Daily Pioneer, June 27, 1916.

“Resolution No. 100.” Bemidji Daily Pioneer, August 4, 1916.

“Resolution for Bridge.” Bemidji Daily Pioneer, July 25, 1916.

“The Bridge.” Bemidji Daily Pioneer, November 14, 1916.

“Will Pave Bridge.” Bemidji Daily Pioneer, September 5, 1917.

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Fire insurance map of the site of Nymore Bridge
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Nymore Bridge
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Nymore Bridge

Turning Point

In 1916, Bemidji City Council members determine that the aging wooden bridge traversing the Mississippi River needs replacement. They eventually select a modern, aesthetically pleasing structure made out of reinforced concrete to support the needs of their growing community.



The town of Nymore is established near the south end of Lake Bemidji. Its namesakes are Porter Nye, an early Bemidji settler-colonist, and J. C. Moore, who purchased eighty acres of Nye homestead land for development.

May 15, 1906

George M. Cheney obtains a patent for concrete bridge reinforcement. He assigns the patent to the Standard Reinforced Concrete Company of Indianapolis, which later utilized it in designing the Nymore Bridge.

October 1906

Nymore is incorporated as a village.

June 5, 1916

After months of controversy, the Bemidji City Council and Minnesota and International Railroad reach a compromise regarding the location of a new bridge. A lakeshore extension of Second Avenue is rejected in favor of the existing Bemidji Avenue route.

July 24, 1916

The city council passes a resolution for bridge construction and seeks bids for both all-cement and steel-and-cement structures.

Sept. 24, 1916

The old bridge is closed and construction begins on the new bridge.

October 14, 1916

Nymore is officially annexed by the city of Bemidji as its fifth ward.

October 1917

Following final concrete pavement of the deck and approaches, the new bridge opens for use.

Oct 29, 1917

Bemidji citizens vote on and pass a $25,000 bond issue to pay for the bridge. The original plan to draw from the city’s permanent improvement fund had been found illegal, and there wasn’t enough money to cover such a large expense.


An amendment to the Minnesota Constitution authorizes the creation of trunk highways to connect county seats and population centers statewide. Later legislation directed gasoline and car taxes toward state funding for roads and bridges in the system.


The Nymore Bridge is downgraded due to the construction of a new bridge on Old Highway 2, also known as Midway Drive, in Bemidji.

November 6, 1989

Nymore Bridge is added to the National Register of Historic Places as Bridge #2366.


Twin bridges open to carry State Trunk Highway 197, also known as Paul Bunyan Drive, over the Mississippi River. With this additional crossing option, and because of safety concerns, the city blocks Nymore Bridge at one end, eliminating vehicle traffic.