The Abandoned Asylum Bridge Was Once the Final Crossing For Those Committed to the Kansas State Hospital
On the outskirts of Osawatomie, Kanas sits the Asylum Bridge, abandoned and closed to vehicles for 6 decades. It once was the final crossing for those committed to the Kansas State Insane Asylum.
Located southwest of Kansas City, the Osawatomie State Hospital was first established in 1855. While mental health care is still provided on the site, many of the ornate, and some say haunted, original buildings of the complex are either unbonded or demolished.
The Asylum Bridge once connected 1st Street over the Marais Des Cygnes River. Today the road is closed in both directions but it's still possible to walk up to the crossing.
In town, 1st Street dead-ends just past a flood control device near the bridge approach. On the north side, the street is brick-lined around the asylum complex but is abandoned past the property with the roadway disappearing into a thicket of trees before the bridge.
Is the Kansas State Asylum in Osawatomie Haunted?
Ghosts of America shares a few photos from around the area including one that alleges to be a patient or guard in one of the buildings. The asylum in Topeka, built after the Osawatomie facility became too crowded carries more of a haunted reputation.
Taking the state road, K-279, to the complex, a small cemetery appears on the side of the road. As with many asylum and poorhouse cemeteries of the era, there are unmarked graves. Here at Osawatomie, there are grave stones marked with just numbers based on the sequential deaths of unclaimed bodies.
Exploring the Abandoned Asylum Bridge in Kansas
This bridge is really like no other. HistoricBridge.org calls it, "one of the most unusual and unique bridges in the country."
The bridge, which has been closed to cars since the 1970s is now closed to pedestrians as well. The bridge is historically significant - the only example of its type left anywhere in the world. Barclays Travel notes
The Kansas State Historical Society has classified it as a Reverse Parker Truss. It consists of one main span and two approach spans. The main span looks a bit like a Parker truss, but with the top chords upside down. Two strange metal towers connect the main span with the approach spans. These towers also hold large plaques commemorating the completion of the bridge....there are no other examples of this type of truss bridge anywhere in the world.
As recent as May 2020, area historians have been calling for the bridge's rehabilitation. A column in the Miami County Republic recalls
Locally, many Osawatomie and Miami County residents will no doubt recall crossing the Asylum Bridge going to and from the Osawatomie State Hospital. People remember listening to the rumble of the bridge’s deck as vehicles passed over. They could have been an occupant of the vehicle, or an Osawatomie resident hearing the rumbling sound echoing in the town.
For many Osawatomie and Miami County residents, especially former employees of the Osawatomie State Hospital, the Asylum Bridge is more than a bridge, it is a part of the colorful cultural mosaic of their lives.
The historian advocates for the bridge and its potential tourist draw
While the bridge is not viable to be opened for vehicular traffic, it is certainly possible for the bridge to be reopened for foot and bicycle traffic with the proper repairs. This would not only preserve the historic bridge for future generations, but also provide increased tourism for not only Osawatomie, but Miami County as a whole.
Bridge hunters are always seeking out rare and unique bridges, and there are few bridges more rare and unique than the Asylum Bridges. If a bridge hunter travels to Osawatomie to not only see but walk or bicycle across the Asylum Bridge, they will seek out other bridges in other communities in Miami County as well.
The YouTube channel KCVids816 explored the bridge: