by Greta Hanson Maurer
Three beloved Beulah bridges are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and often referred to as the ‘Bullen Bridges’. Their 104 year old existence is the result of the Bullen family spending summers in the Beulah Valley, and the patented concrete arch design still holding up today.
The Bullen Bridge Company (renamed The Pueblo Bridge Company) was built by Joseph A. Bullen (Sr.), Fred H. Bullen, and Joseph A. Bullen (Joe, Jr.). Three generations created the oldest and most prolific bridge building business from 1884 to 1937; leaving a legacy of bridges in Colorado, Oregon, Wyoming and Montana. The Bullen bridges spanned big rivers likes the Yellowstone, Willamette, and Arkansas using steel trusses and concrete arches; and they span Beulah’s South Creek and Squirrel Creek. These three bridges, all within a mile of each other, are included in a partial list of Bullen/Pueblo Bridge Companiess on page 3 of this article.
In particular, Beulah’s Bullen bridges were built in 1916; however, there is no official Pueblo County record of the bridges being built.1 The contract may have been a private negotiation with the homeowners of Pine Drive.
At the turn of the century, summer homes along Beulah Pine Drive were reserved for only the very wealthy. Fred Bullen enjoyed a home on the ‘gold coast’ (a tongue in cheek reference for the homes of the affluent in the Pines) along with families like Bragdon, Thatcher, Keating, Nuckolls, McCorkle, Devine, and Senger, to name a few.
The good life in Beulah was still somewhat primitive. Joseph (Joe) recalls that he was “elected to walk the cow out from Pueblo when the rest of the family and summer supplies drove out by car. This ‘walk’ involved two days travel plus the overnight camp halfway along the route.” 2
Fred established the domestic water supply that would become know as ‘Pinewood’ in Beulah. He was also one of the first officers of the Beulah Country Club built in 1921, a social gathering place for Pueblo people who summered in Beulah.
Early roads were maintained by stage or mining companies, and most saw bridge building as an unnecessary expense. Poor constructed and maintained, bridges would wash out, or collapse under load; ferries were a popular option for crossing rivers. A booming population in Colorado, the railroad, and a new invention called the automobile brought greater importance to building a reliable bridge for the public. A greater tax base made it possible to pursue larger projects.
With humble beginnings building ‘wagon bridges’ in 1875, Joseph A. Bullen (Sr.) was a superintendent for the railroad, a surveyor and general contractor. Bullen actually formed The Bullen Bridge Company in Leavenworth, Kansas in 1884; returning to Colorado and settling in Pueblo in 1889. His first project in Colorado was erecting Pueblo’s first iron truss bridge across the Arkansas river. His company would become one of four principal bridge builders in Colorado at that time in history.
Joseph’s son Fred H. Bullen, born in 1867, designed and erected trusses for the company. When his father passed away in 1895, Fred assumed control of the Bullen Bridge Co., and shortly thereafter changed the company name to The Pueblo Bridge Company. Fred’s wife Mable was a “zealous Pueblo historian, leading a passionate fight in 1939 to save the Zan Hicklin ranch.”3
Another generation was introduced to the family business with the birth of Joseph (Joe) A. Bullen (Jr.) in 1896, named after his grandfather. Joe would form the Fountain Sand and Gravel Company in 1913. He also had a contract with CF&I “consisting of stripping the overburden from limestone rock used by the iron company in connection with their steel works at Bessemer.” 4
Primarily steel and iron truss builders, the Bullens became proponents of the new reinforced concrete arch bridge designs patented by Daniel Luten, and known as the ‘Luten arch’. By 1919 Luten claimed to have designed some 17,000 arches with 30 of his patentened designs. At that time, beam reinforcement was recognized as requiring an inordinate amount of steel, and bar reinforcement began to be explored as a more efficient use of material. Bars could be bent and placed in regions of high tensile stresses, thus saving enormous quantities of materials while producing stronger bridges with lower dead loads. Many variations in shapes, patterns of surface deformation (provided to maintain the adhesion between the bars and the concrete), and bending schemes were developed and patented. The span of each arch ranged from 54 ft to 100 ft in length, making it versatile.5
In 1907, the Pueblo Bridge Company began to diversify their bridge products, Fred would handle the steel construction, and Joseph managed the new concrete arch bridges.
“Operating under a patent royalty agreement to Luten, Pueblo Bridge championed, designed and built Luten arches around the state, particularly in the Arkansas River Valley. Pueblo Bridge extensively promoted Luten's trademark elliptical arch often called a horseshoe arch because of its distinctive profile, bidding frequently on county bridge contracts.”6
For generations, the repeating and shapely balustrades of Beulah’s Bullen bridges have served as a background to life in Beulah, and an occasional family or senior photo. Both practical and aesthetically pleasing, the enduring design and premier construction is still a wonder, and a gift in modern life.
1 Legally significant Decisions concerning Pueblo County Rooads and Associated Bridges: 1862-1955. Final Draft Roads Project.
2 From Mace’s Hole the Way It Was to Beulah, the Way It Is, A comprehesive history of Beulah, Colorado, 1979
3 Architectural Inventory Form www.historitecture.com/pdf/17thstw303.PDF
4 The Earth Mover, Denver District, 1917.
5 Concrete Bridges by Delaware Department of Transportation, p.88.
6 Highway Bridges of Colorado by Clayton Fraser: National Register of Historic Places, United States Department of the Interior, March 1992.