Preservation Success Story: Meridian Highway Bridge

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation has released the latest in its series of “Success Stories” on the Meridian Highway Bridge at Yankton, SD.  The series includes prominent examples that illustrate the role of the Advisory Council in preserving historic resources and communities as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act next year.  The Nebraska State Historical Society’s State Historic Preservation Office, federal agencies, and interested parties routinely consult on federal projects that involve historic properties in the state, as this case study shows.

When completed in 1924, the new bridge replaced a seasonal ferry and pontoon bridge. Here the last ferry passes under the bridge’s vertical lift span.


Here’s the backstory of the bridge, as explained in the report:

“At the beginning of the 20th century, transportation across the Missouri River between Yankton, South Dakota, and Cedar County, Nebraska, relied on ferry service or a seasonally operated pontoon bridge. In 1915, Yankton business interests organized a private bridge company to build a permanent bridge across the Missouri River connecting Yankton with rural Cedar County. Named the Meridian Highway Bridge, it was an important link in the international highway running from Canada to Mexico, traversing the Great Plains in a north-south direction along the Sixth Principal Meridian.

Construction of the bridge languished during World War I, and in 1920 the Meridian Highway Bridge Company retained Kansas City engineers Harrington, Howard and Ash to design a combined railroad and highway bridge, with a span that could rise 27 feet to allow unobstructed river navigation. This unusual moveable span and the six fixed spans were designed alike so the moveable span could replace another span if the river changed course. Completion of the bridge was an undisputed boon for the Yankton region (even though the railroad never arrived), but it proved less profitable for the company’s shareholders, and in 1946, the company sold the bridge to the City of Yankton. Recognized for its engineering and as the only vertical lift span in Nebraska and South Dakota, the Meridian Highway Bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.”

 Recent view of the bridge.


To read on about the success of the Meridian Highway bridge’s successful conversion to a pedestrian bridge, visit:

About the Advisory Council:

The mission of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) is to promote the preservation, enhancement, and productive use of the nation’s historic resources and advise the President and Congress on national historic preservation policy.  The ACHP, an independent federal agency, also provides a forum for influencing federal activities, programs, and policies that affect historic properties.  It’s work includes mediating and assisting federal agencies and State Historic Preservation Officers in matters of federal projects under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. For more information on the ACHP go to:

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