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Over $550K Raised to Rebuild This Iconic Madison County Bridge

Madison County Bridges

February 23, 2018

On the morning of April 15, 2017, I received the first text message that the Cedar Covered Bridge was gone due to arson. Disbelief quickly turned into tears then anger. As someone who is relatively new to Iowa but responsible for promoting tourism to Madison County, the news was devastating. For many people (myself included), the bridges hold a lot of sentimental attachment. My husband proposed to me on the Roseman Bridge years ago during a visit to Winterset. 

Rebuilding begins

There was never a question of whether to rebuild or not. The Covered Bridges of Madison County are a source of identity, pride and tourism revenue for this small, rural community. They are famous for appearances in literature, film and theater, and show up frequently on “best of” and bucket lists. Hundreds of thousands of tourists from around the world have visited Iowa and the bridges over the years. The Cedar was on the cover of the novel, "The Bridges of Madison County," and the site of an Oprah Winfrey show in 1993. Of the six remaining covered bridges here, it was the only one still open to vehicle traffic, and a favorite location for weddings, reunions and other celebrations. Madison County recently received an Iowa Scenic Byways designation and Cedar Bridge is included as a cultural site. It is also included in future plans for the Cedar Lake Recreation Area Trailway.

The cost to rebuild

The only uncertainty was how much it would cost to rebuild and how we would get there. The original Cedar bridge was built in 1883 and burned down in 2002. It cost $772,824 to rebuild it back in 2004. According to Madison County Engineer Todd Hagan, the cost to rebuild this time is an estimated $597,076 (some modifications have been made to the design to make it more affordable). All six covered bridges in Madison County are now insured, something that was out of reach financially after the 2002 fire, and will be fitted with the latest fire suppression and surveillance technology.

Community support

Donations and pledges have been secured from organizations like the Madison County Supervisors, Greater Madison County Community Foundation, Farmers and Merchants State Bank, Madison County Realty, American State Bank, Union State Bank, John Wayne Birthplace and Museum, City of Winterset, Farmers Electric Cooperative, Co-Bank, Winterset Rotary Club, Winterset Lions Club, Casper Farms and the Madison County Cattlemen, among others. 

Between community fundraisers, individual pledges and donations, the amount raised so far totals over $250,000. A grant in the amount of $275,770 has been awarded by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and we recently received an in-kind donation of $30,000 to demolish what remains of the bridge, bringing the current amount raised to almost $557,000.

That means we are roughly $40,000 short of our goal and can hopefully break ground this fall.

In order to get there, we have started a GoFundMe campaign hoping to reach out to those visitors (and fans) from around the world who love Madison County and the bridges as much as we do.

Named as the #1 Metro with the Most Community Pride by Gallup, Greater Des Moines (DSM) is the fastest growing metro in the Midwest. Learn more about what it’s like to live here.  

Teddi Yaeger

Teddi Yaeger is the tourism coordinator and marketing manager for the Madison County Chamber of Commerce, project manager for the new Covered Bridges Scenic Byway and Iowa captive since 2014.