Olmsted Parks Conservancy celebrated the $1.14 million rehabilitation of the Bernheim Memorial Bridge in Cherokee Park with the descendants of Bernard and Rosa Bernheim, to whom the bridge was originally dedicated.
The Bernheim Memorial Bridge (also known as Bridge No. 8) located on the Middle Fork of Beargrass Creek in Cherokee Park has been restored thanks to a $1,144,000 rehabilitation project funded by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Bridging Kentucky initiative. KYTC coordinated bridge repairs with Louisville Parks and Recreation, Olmsted Parks Conservancy, Louisville Paving & Construction Company and Marr Construction, Inc.
The bridge, dedicated to Bernard and Rosa Dreyfuss Bernheim, first opened in 1933. To celebrate the bridge’s reopening, a rededication ceremony will be held on Tuesday, October 15 at 10:30 a.m. at the site (Park Boundary Road and Alta Vista Road) with descendants of the Bernheim family in attendance.
About the Bernheim Memorial Bridge Restoration
Bernheim Memorial Bridge opened in 1933, crossing the Middle Fork of Beargrass Creek in Cherokee Park. The bridge’s ornate parapet stone walls, complete with towering urns, draped against the scenic landscape of Cherokee Park make it one of the city’s most distinctive bridges. But due to damage from flooding and heavy use over decades, the bridge was in desperate need for structural repair and restoration in 2019.
The Bernheim Bridge was identified by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) as one of 200 candidates for the “Bridging Kentucky” program, a commitment to improve the safety and soundness of bridges across the commonwealth. The bridge’s $1,144,000 rehabilitation, funded by Bridging Kentucky and managed by Louisville Paving and Construction, began in March 2019 and was estimated to take 8 months to complete. The project began with an exhaustive research and removal process to ensure the historical accuracy of the façade during the reconstruction.
“The bridge itself is a very unique structure,” said Jeff Brannon, from Marr Company, Inc., a family-owned masonry company assisting Louisville Paving with the project’s stone restoration. “Nothing square, everything skewed, built like a piece of Amish furniture with mortise and tenon, and dovetail features. This posed a daunting challenge in deconstruction.”
Upon disassembling the bridge, each piece of stone was labeled and documented for location on drawings, dimensioned, and stored on site. Salvageable stone would be used in the bridge’s reconstruction, although approximately half of the stone on the existing structure was unusable. The highly decorative pieces were sent to Architectural Stone in Bedford, Indiana for precise study, renovation, and reproduction. Several unique pieces, specifically the urns and keystones, required extensive hard work and the touch of a master stone cutter. Representatives from Architectural Stone often commented on how all the employees expressed interest in the project based on the size of the pieces of stone they were creating. This bridge was built with massive pieces of stone, uncommon in comparison to today’s projects.
Louisville Paving excavated to the concrete arch, lining the arch with waterproof material and drilling drain holes to facilitate the removal of flood waters from Beargrass Creek.
The bridge was then reassembled, using the same techniques for hoisting and managing pieces that were used in the original construction, except for opting to use less corrosive stainless-steel anchorage mechanisms over historic iron bars and straps. As the stone was reintegrated, asphalt and concrete curbs and sealing were added by Louisville Paving. The bridge reopened on October 1 – both on time and on budget.
“All in all, I am extremely proud of what we were able to produce. The extra effort in planning and research really paid off in the end. I don’t think a better group of people could have been assembled to complete this project, with special mention of Curt Adams and Architectural Stone in the outstanding work they do,” continued Brannon.
The History of the Bernheim Memorial Bridge
In 1928, Berry V. Stroll, President of the Board of Park Commissioners, accepted a donation presented by the children of Bernard and Rosa Dreyfuss Bernheim to the city to be used to create a permanent bridge in Cherokee Park.
Later that year, The Olmsted Brothers helped choose the location for Bridge #8 as the site of the Bernheim Memorial Bridge. The Louisville civil engineering firm of Stonestreet and Ford and the architecture firm Joseph and Joseph worked closely to create plans for the design.
Construction was overseen by J.U. Schickli and Brothers (a Louisville contractor active throughout the twentieth century) and Champion Wire and Iron Works (still in operation today) helped produce the bronze work. The total estimated cost of the bridge was $20,000.
On February 19, 1933, the Bernheim Memorial Bridge was completed with a bronze plaque memorializing the Bernheims, and four bronze standards – which were later replaced with neo-classical garlanded urns.
The History of the Bernheims and The Olmsted Brothers
Born in Germany in 1848, Isaac W. (I.W.) Bernheim immigrated to the United States in 1867 and his brother, Bernard Bernheim followed soon after. I.W. and Bernard made their name in the whiskey distilling business, and in 1888, became the largest distiller in the nation, and moved to Louisville to purchase Pleasure Ridge Park Distillery.
I.W. participated heavily in community and philanthropy, and in 1929, bought and endowed the land that became Bernheim Forest, which today, stretches across 16,000 acres in Clermont, Kentucky.
In 1931, The Olmsted Brothers firm in Brookline, Massachusetts began work on the Master Plan for the landscape of the arboretum, and their original landscape design was adopted in 1934.
To celebrate the close of the project, Olmsted Parks Conservancy hosted a rededication ceremony at the Bernheim Bridge on October. Several members of the Bernheim family traveled to Louisville to celebrate, including Bernard and Rosa’s granddaughter, as well as the grandson of the designer (from Joseph and Joseph) of the bridge. This was the first time in history, that the decedents of Bernard and IW Bernheim had reunited.
Later in the afternoon, to celebrate the heritage of the Bernheims and The Olmsted Brothers, the Bernheim Arboretum held a ceremony to rename two Olmsted-designed ponds, previously known as the “Holly” and “Cedar” ponds, officially to the “Olmsted Ponds.”
About Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Bridging Kentucky Program
With the Bridging Kentucky program, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) is leading a transformational commitment to improve the safety and soundness of bridges across the Commonwealth. KYTC will rehabilitate, repair, or replace more than 1,000 critical structures in all 120 Kentucky counties over the next six years. KYTC will reopen closed bridges, remove weight restrictions that prevent use by school buses, emergency vehicles and businesses, and improve access and mobility for all Kentuckians. http://www.bridgingkentucky.com/
About Louisville Parks and Recreation
Louisville Parks and Recreation, a nationally accredited parks and recreation agency, manages 120 parks and six parkways on more than 13,000 acres of land, and operates recreation programs for all ages. Its mission is to create a City of Parks where people can play, learn, grow and be healthy. The mission is accomplished by taking care of all parks properties and creating new ones, by providing safe and diverse recreational programs, and by protecting our public lands and resources for future generations. https://www.bestparksever.com
About Louisville Paving & Construction
Louisville Paving and Construction is a civil construction company with over 500 team members. Founded in 1949 the company is engaged in road and bridge construction, utility construction, water and wastewater treatment plant construction, grade and drain and asphalt paving.
About Marr Company, Inc.
Marr Company, Inc. is a family owned and operated business, established in 1978. We are conveniently located in the Kentuckiana area. We take great pride in our work. Customer satisfaction is our number one goal. We specialize in Residential, Commercial, and Historical – Masonry Restoration and Commercial and Industrial – Caulking and Waterproofing. www.marrcompany.com
About Olmsted Parks Conservancy
Louisville Olmsted Parks Conservancy, Inc., a non-profit organization, was established in 1989 to restore, enhance and forever protect the Olmsted Parks and Parkways. In 2019, Olmsted Parks Conservancy celebrates 30 years of connecting nature and neighborhood. Working as a non-profit partner with Louisville Parks and Recreation, the Conservancy provides planning and funding for park improvements through donations from individuals, foundations, and corporations. For more information visit olmstedparks.org