Little Buffalo River Bridge
The Little Buffalo River Bridge is a concrete T-beam bridge located on Arkansas Highway 327 at its crossing of the Little Buffalo River about 1.5 miles northwest of Parthenon (Newton County). It was constructed in 1939 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era public relief agency.
The first white settler in the area where the Little Buffalo River Bridge is located was John Belah, who moved there in the 1830s. A road through the area connecting Jasper (Newton County) to Clarksville (Johnson County) was in place by 1844, and the village of Mount Parthenon (now Parthenon) was established seven years later.
During the Great Depression, Newton County officials decided to take advantage of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and seek funding for improvements to the rural county’s infrastructure. In 1938, they succeeded in landing WPA Project No. 665-63-1-169 to “improve, construct and reconstruct county-owned roads,” including what was then known as Buffalo Road where the bridge would be located.
The crossing of the Little Buffalo River would call for a long bridge, so the WPA elected to build a T-beam structure, using a construction technique that had been in use since 1910 to construct long-span beam bridges while using the minimum amount of concrete necessary. The Little Buffalo River Bridge was completed in 1939.
The structure includes seven thirty-foot spans for the 210-foot-long reinforced-concrete T-beam bridge. It is fifteen feet tall and twenty-two feet wide, with a seven-inch-thick concrete deck with three integral fourteen-by-twenty-eight-inch beams spaced seven and a half feet apart. It features reinforced concrete railings on both sides, with their one-foot square posts integrated into the structure. The bridge’s ashlar masonry-faced abutments and piers feature concrete footings and caps and measure fourteen feet high and twenty feet wide, with thicknesses tapering from one and a half feet at the top to six feet at the bottom.
The Little Buffalo River Bridge, the longest reinforced concrete T-beam bridge in the state, continues to serve vehicular traffic in its rural section of Newton County in the twenty-first century. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 26, 1995.
For additional information:
Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, Arkansas Historic Bridge Inventory Review and Evaluation, Vol. II, 1996.
Story, Ken, “Little Buffalo River Bridge.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/NW0037.nr.pdf (accessed June 9, 2020).
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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