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Tivoli Island Bridge

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1877, King Iron and Bridge Manufacturing Company. 1906, moved and reconfigured. Rock River at Tivoli Island Dr.
  • (Photograph by Paul J. Jakubovich, courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society)
  • (HAER)

One of Wisconsin’s few surviving bowstring bridges, this is also the state’s last remaining tubular-arch bridge, a design patented by Zenus King in 1866. In his patent claim King asserted that if the top chord of the arch was wider at the ends and narrower at the center, it would result in a stronger structure. This innovation helped make the inventor’s Cleveland-based company a leading manufacturer of bowstring and swing bridges through 1880. The firm offered other selling points, too—its bowstrings were lighter and thus cheaper to build than other iron bridges, and its use of prefabricated parts meant more savings for the customer.

Workers assembled this bridge in 1877, piecing together the joints with pin connectors, except in the topmost chord, where they used rivets to connect the plates. Originally, the structure was four spans long and could accommodate both horse-drawn vehicles and pedestrians. It probably crossed the Crawfish River at the tiny community of Milford, some six miles to the southwest. By 1906, the bridge had begun to deteriorate, so the village of Milford auctioned it. Ernest and Fred Ohm acquired half of the bridge—two spans, one six feet longer than the other—and moved this shortened version to its current location, creating pedestrian access to the Ohms’ Tivoli Island bowling and beer garden on the Rock River. The revelry ended with the advent of Prohibition, but in 1961, the City of Watertown purchased the island, established a city park, and redecked the bridge.

Writing Credits

Marsha Weisiger et al.


What's Nearby


Marsha Weisiger et al., "Tivoli Island Bridge", [Watertown, Wisconsin], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Wisconsin

Buildings of Wisconsin, Marsha Weisiger and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2017, 246-246.

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