Engineering

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Entry Category: Engineering

Baring Cross Bridge

The Baring Cross Bridge is located in downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County) over the Arkansas River at river mile 166.2. It is the western-most bridge of the six bridges spanning the Arkansas River in downtown Little Rock. The first Baring Cross Bridge, the first bridge built across the Arkansas River, opened in 1873. In the 1850s and 1860s, the Cairo and Fulton Railroad Company (C&F) developed two divisions north and south of the Arkansas River. Before the bridge was constructed, the railroad company used ferries to transport equipment, people, animals and commercial freight across the river. Ferries, however, were slow and had a limited amount of cargo space, which caused frequent backups in service. Also, cargo was lost in ferry …

Beaver Dam and Lake

Beaver Lake was created by Beaver Dam in Carroll County. The lake—technically a reservoir since it was created by a manmade dam in order to store water—is located on the White River in the Ozark Highlands region of northwest Arkansas. Approximately seventy-three miles long and a maximum of two miles wide, the lake reaches from Eureka Springs (Carroll County) roughly to Fayetteville (Washington County). About 450 miles of shoreline extend through three counties: Benton, Carroll and Washington. The multi-purpose project provides flood control, hydroelectric generation, water supply, and recreation. While the possibility of a dam on the upper White River was examined as early as 1911, the first feasibility studies by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for constructing such …

Blakely Mountain Dam

aka: Blakely Dam
aka: Lake Ouachita
Blakely Mountain Dam, located approximately ten miles northwest of Hot Springs (Garland County), was created to provide hydroelectric power and to control flooding along the Ouachita River. It impounds Lake Ouachita, the largest lake completely within the state of Arkansas at over 40,000 acres. In 1870, the U.S. Congress authorized a survey of the Ouachita River to investigate improving its navigability and preventing floods along its course. However, nothing was done until the 1920s, when Harvey Couch and his company, Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L), began searching for sites for hydroelectric dams along the Ouachita River. AP&L built Remmel Dam and Carpenter Dam, which were in place by the early 1930s. Plans for a third, larger dam were announced in …

Blue Mountain Dam and Lake

Blue Mountain Lake is a manmade lake, or reservoir, on Petit Jean River in Logan County. A portion of the lake extends into Yell County. The dam was built in the 1940s as a flood-control project, but since its completion, the lake has also provided numerous recreational opportunities. It is named for Blue Mountain, an outcropping of Mount Magazine. Land patents on farmland where the lake now lies were granted to William Mobly, James Henard, and Augustus Ward, all in 1861. By 1891, an unincorporated community called Patsie had developed in the area. Several cemeteries had to be relocated during the development of the lake. In 1899, when the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad was built to the north of …

Bobby Hopper Tunnel

Arkansas has seven railroad tunnels but only one highway tunnel. Named for the Arkansas Highway Commission director at the time of the tunnel’s construction, Bobby Hopper, the northwest Arkansas commission representative from Springdale (Washington County), the Bobby Hopper Tunnel is located on Interstate 49 in Washington County just north of the Crawford County line with its closest exit at Winslow (Washington County). U.S. Highway 71, once classified by Reader’s Digest as “one of the most dangerous highways in America,” includes a perilous stretch between Alma (Crawford County) and Fayetteville (Washington County) through the Ozark Plateau. Thus, construction of an alternate route was designed to make the trip safer, as well as reduce travel time. Approved in 1987 and completed in …

Bridges

At the time Arkansas became a territory, most water crossings were fords. When travelers came to a body of water such as a small river or stream, they would look for the shallowest place and cross there. Generally, these fords were adequate for the small number of early travelers in the territory. But as the population of the state slowly grew and a system of military roads was developed, it became necessary to bridge larger bodies of water to make travel faster and easier for the military and the local population. The first attempts at bridge-building in Arkansas were by private individuals. These individuals applied for a franchise to build a toll bridge, which was granted by the territorial legislature. …

Brownlee, Robert

Robert Brownlee was a Scottish stonemason who lived in Little Rock (Pulaski County) from 1837 to 1849. He helped build the first statehouse in Arkansas and several other historic landmarks in Pulaski County. Robert Brownlee was born on April 24, 1813, in Bonkle, Cambusnethan Parish, a tiny community in the Scottish lowlands. He was ninth in a family of seven sons and four daughters born to Margaret and Alexander Brownlee. After a basic education at Murdestoun Estate School near Bonkle, he apprenticed to his older brother, William, a stonecutter. Brownlee was twenty-three when he read about the December 1835 fire that almost destroyed New York City and the need for mechanics to help rebuild the city. That same day, he …

Bull Shoals Dam and Lake

Bull Shoals Dam site is located on the White River about ten miles west of Mountain Home (Baxter County), where the river divides Baxter and Marion counties. The site is named after its location at a shoal (a shallow and swift reach of river), borrowing from the French “Boill,” meaning a large spring. Private power companies had explored the possibility of building a dam at Wildcat Shoals above Cotter (Baxter County) as early as 1902 but never began any work toward it. Congress approved the construction of six reservoirs in the White River Basin in the Flood Control Act of 1938. A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report in 1930 had recommended the Wildcat Shoals site along with seven others …

Carpenter Dam

aka: Lake Hamilton
Carpenter Dam is the second of three dams constructed along the Ouachita River in the vicinity of Hot Springs (Garland County), following Remmel Dam (completed in 1924) and preceding Blakely Mountain Dam (completed in the 1950s). The concrete gravity dam was built by Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L), which later became Entergy, for purposes of producing hydroelectric power. It impounds the 7,200-acre Lake Hamilton. Carpenter Dam was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 4, 1992, in recognition of its role in the growth and development of Hot Springs. Flavius Josephus (Flave) Carpenter, an associate of AP&L president Harvey Couch, selected the site for the construction of Carpenter Dam, ten miles upstream from Remmel Dam, and so …

Cotter Bridge

aka: R. M. Ruthven Bridge
Completed in 1930, the R. M. Ruthven Bridge, originally named and often still called the Cotter Bridge, is located near Cotter (Baxter County) on the business route of U.S. Highway 62 and crosses the White River between Baxter and Marion counties. Recognizable for its Rainbow Arches, it was the first landmark in Arkansas to become a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and is one of only a small number of bridges designated as such. East-west travelers through northern Arkansas often encountered problems crossing the White River. Although ferries operated at several places along the river, the river had a tendency to flood rapidly, grounding the ferries and hindering traffic sometimes for several days. The fastest detour was to cross 100 …

Coulter, Wallace Henry

Wallace Henry Coulter was an engineer, inventor, and entrepreneur who was co-founder and chairman of Coulter Corporation, a worldwide medical diagnostics company headquartered in Miami, Florida. The two great passions of his life were applying engineering principles to scientific research and embracing the diversity of world cultures. Wallace Coulter was born on February 17, 1913, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Joseph R. Coulter and Minnie May Johnson Coulter. His father was a train dispatcher, and his mother was an elementary school teacher; he had one brother. Coulter spent his youth in McGehee (Desha County), graduating from McGehee High School. He attended his first year of college at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri; his interest in electronics, however, led him …

Cross, John Storrs

John Storrs Cross became a national and international expert in all types of electronic communication as a member of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Navy during World War II, and the U.S. Department of State, as well as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In Arkansas, he was the engineer for Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs (Garland County) in the 1930s and ran a motel with his wife near Eureka Springs (Carroll County) in the later part of his life. John S. Cross was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 18, 1904, to Thomas C. Cross and Elise T. Cross. He had one younger sister, Elise. In his high school years, he attended the private McCallie …

DeGray Dam and Lake

DeGray Dam, located about eight miles northwest of Arkadelphia (Clark County), impounds the 13,400-acre DeGray Lake on the Caddo River. It was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for purposes of electricity generation and flood control, as well as establishing a drinking water supply for Arkadelphia, and is the first “pump back capable impoundment” in the Corps’s history. A reregulation dam forms a 400-acre impoundment below the main lake, providing a supply of water that can be pumped back into DeGray Lake during times of drought and used again for hydropower generation and to provide a steady flow of water on the Caddo River. The site where DeGray Dam stands had been considered for a dam since …

Duke, Charles Sumner

A trailblazing African-American architect and engineer, Charles Sumner Duke not only designed unique public structures, but he also fought for housing rights and educational opportunities for African Americans. His powerful legacy continues in the buildings he designed, as well as in the organization he formed to facilitate the development of engineering and technological skills in youth of color. Charles Sumner Duke was born in Selma, Alabama, on July 21, 1879. His father, Jesse Duke, was the editorial writer and publisher for a local newspaper, The Herald. His mother, Willie Black Duke, was from a family of established businessmen. It was a financially secure family, allowing Duke and his siblings to take advantage of opportunities that many others in the black …

Evans, David L.

David L. Evans worked as an engineer on the Saturn rockets and Apollo moon landing missions but became best known later for his recruitment efforts on behalf of Harvard University, where his work led to greater diversity in the student body. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2005. David L. Evans was born in 1939 in Wabash (Phillips County), near Helena (Phillips County), to sharecropper parents; he was the fourth of seven children. His father died when he was ten years old. Family members encouraged his mother, pregnant with her seventh child, to move to Chicago, Illinois, or Cleveland, Ohio. Instead, his mother left tenant farming and became a maid. When Evans was sixteen, his …

Fess, Don

Don Fess of Magnolia (Columbia County) built and patented a prototype engine that saved energy by using rotating pistons rather than the standard up-and-down pistons. Don Fess was born in Allendale, Illinois, on February 12, 1915. His parents, Ora and Eunice Fess, moved with their four sons to Haynesville, Louisiana, in about 1925. Fess finished high school there at age sixteen (at that time, Louisiana schools had only eleven grades) and began to look for a job. He married Martha Emma Wainwright on June 1, 1934, and built a house across the street from his parents using salvaged lumber. He delivered ice seven days a week for a wage of $1.50 per day. He and his wife had six children. …

Forest Fire Lookouts

aka: Fire Towers
Fire towers (also known as lookouts) go back thousands of years. The oldest lookout still standing is the Tuztoromy Firewatch Tower in Sopron, Hungary, which was built in the thirteenth century and remodeled in 1681. The first one built in America was in downtown Harlem, New York, constructed in 1856 in what is now Marcus Garvey City Park. The first fire lookout strictly for protection of American forests was built in 1902 at Bertha Hill near Headquarters, Idaho. At the height of their use (1930s to 1970s), Arkansas had more than 120 fire towers; in 1994, forty-eight were still standing. Arkansas has ten lookouts on the National Historic Lookout Register and three on the National Register of Historic Places. The …

Garver, Neal Bryant

Neal Bryant Garver arrived in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1918 to help provide engineering services for the construction of a munitions plant during World War I. As the Arkansas State Highway Department’s first bridge engineer, Garver also led the design of more than 2,000 bridges from 1921 to 1950, helping to modernize the state’s roadways by adding river crossings. In 1919, Garver started what became the state’s largest engineering firm, which began by providing structural engineering services for Little Rock High School (later called Little Rock Central High), North Little Rock High School, the Pulaski County Jail, and many other structures. Neal Garver was born on February 17, 1877, in Lee County, Iowa, near the Mississippi River, to the …

Gerig, William Lee

William Lee Gerig was a civil engineer working on railroads and dams in both the United States and abroad, including his service as chief engineer for the construction of the Panama Canal. By the end of his career, he had consulted on every dam built in the United States from 1923 to 1938. William Gerig was born on March 25, 1866, in Boone County, Missouri, the son of Swiss immigrants Francis Joseph and Carolyn Degan Gerig. William Gerig’s grandfather Degen came to America in the early eighteenth century to practice civil engineering. His father, Francis Joseph, assisted in the construction of the Suez Canal before settling in Missouri. As a young boy, the instruments that surveyors used fascinated Gerig, and …

Good, Mary Lowe

Mary Lowe Good was a renowned chemist, industrial innovator, professor, and government leader. Good was the first woman in Arkansas to earn a PhD in the so-called hard sciences such as chemistry or physics (fellow Arkansan Margaret Pittman was awarded a PhD in bacteriology in 1929). Good was the first woman elected to the board of the American Chemical Society, and she held important U.S. government positions under the administrations of four presidents. Mary Lowe was born in Grapevine, Texas, on June 20, 1931. Her parents were Winnie Lowe, who was a teacher and librarian, and John Lowe, a school principal; she had three siblings, including Betty Ann Lowe, who became a renowned hospital administrator. In 1942, the family moved …

Greers Ferry Dam and Lake

Greers Ferry Dam on the Little Red River, approximately three miles north of Heber Springs (Cleburne County), is a concrete dam built between 1959 and 1962. The dam’s primary function is flood control, but it also serves as a hydroelectric power plant. Greers Ferry Lake, created as a result of the dam, is a popular recreational destination. The flow of the Little Red River was uncontrolled during the first half of the twentieth century, resulting in almost yearly flooding downstream; high water levels in the Little Red River could compound flooding problems further downstream along the White River. In 1938, Congress passed the Flood Control Act, which authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build dams on most of …

Handywagon

The Handywagon, built in 1964 for the Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company (Arkla), was intended as an economical vehicle for use by the company’s Gaslite and domestic appliance servicers, meter readers, collectors, and meter setters. The small wagon was designed to be easily reparable and average thirty-five miles per gallon. In mid-1963, Arkla board chairman Wilton “Witt” R. Stephens asked company lawyer Raymond Thornton to design a utility vehicle that could operate economically, have a 900-pound load capacity, weigh less than a ton and a half, and be company-built. In 1964, Thornton chose Ed Handy, a company construction engineer, to collaborate with him on the project. After much research, the two men found the power train they needed in Holland. Van …

Hydroelectricity

Hydroelectric power is the electricity generated by the gravitational force of falling or flowing water through a turbine connected to a power generator. The three major types of hydropower facilities include reservoirs (high dams), in-stream (low dams), and pumped-storage. The most common type is the high dam, which creates significant reservoirs behind the dam (e.g., Hoover Dam). In 1882, the world’s first hydroelectric power station, located in Appleton, Wisconsin, produced 12.5 kilowatts of electrical power. Also in the early 1880s, a similar facility opened in New York City. Since these early facilities, hydroelectric power from the nation’s waterways has proliferated. Hydroelectric development in Arkansas can generally be grouped into three time periods—1924–1930; 1944–1973; and 1988–1999—and under three sponsoring agencies: Arkansas …