A Bit of Shaw History: Henry Flad

By Stephanie Herbers | 1 Comment

 Two of Shaw’s streets are named after engineers who made significant contributions to the City of St. Louis— Flad Avenue (Henry W. Flad) and Klemm Avenue (Richard Klemm). Below is a brief history of Henry Flad that first appeared in the January newsletter of the American Society of Civil Engineers- St. Louis Section. Henry Flad: A Pioneering St. Louis Civil Engineer was written by Charles Buescher and edited by Jeff Fouse. 


HENRY W. FLAD

Born: July 24, 1824 in the Grand Duchy of Baden, Heidelberg

Died: June 20, 1898 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, remains buried in St. Louis, MO

 

Henry Flad attended the University of Munich (in Bavaria), taking polytechnic courses and graduated in 1846.  Due to considerable political unrest throughout Europe, including a failed revolution in Germany, he came to the United States, landing in New York in the autumn of 1849. He soon became a design engineer for the New York and Erie Railroad and became associated with James Kirkwood and James Morley. By 1852 he was an assistant engineer, working on the construction of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad from Cincinnati to St. Louis, the first railroad to come from the east to St. Louis. In 1854, Flad joined the Iron Mountain Railroad during its construction, as an assistant engineer to James Morley. He remained with this railroad until the Civil War began. Flad enlisted as a private in the Third Regiment of the U.S. Reserve Corps in St. Louis. He quickly rose through the ranks, and was put in charge of reconstruction of several railroads and fortifications. During three and a half years of service, he rose to the rank of Colonel. He barely had one week of leave during that time.

 

Flad returned to St. Louis to look for new employment. The City of St. Louis, after several bouts with cholera epidemics, passed a new law creating the Board of Water Commissioners. In the spring of 1865, James P. Kirkwood, a prominent nationally known civil engineer, was named its Chief Engineer and Colonel Henry Flad as his assistant. Shortly thereafter an entirely new water system with intakes, settling basins, and filters at the Chain of Rocks were developed. This plan was approved by the Water Board, but ran counter to some private interests because it was a radical departure from a previous water system plan and its costs were very high. The Water Board was forced to resign.  Kirkwood received a commission to study filtration in Europe and Flad was left as Acting Chief Engineer. In December of 1866, a revised plan with intakes and settling basins at Bissell’s Point and a distribution reservoir at Compton Hill was approved and began construction.

 

James Buchanan Eads was using space in the offices of the Water Board, and a friendship quickly developed between Eads and Flad. When Eads was elected as Chief Engineer of the St. Louis and Illinois Bridge Company in March 1867, he immediately hired Flad as Assistant Engineer. From that moment until the Eads Bridge was opened on July 4, 1874, Flad was involved in all technical aspects of the bridge. Significant contributions by Flad included the structural analyses; design of testing equipment which allowed for the first time testing of all major structural steel; and the design of wooden cantilever trusses to hold arches in-place as they were being constructed without blocking river traffic. These were all first world-wide applications of this technology. As one source stated,

“He [Flad] was the brains behind that structure”.

In the autumn of 1876, the City of St. Louis inaugurated a new charter, which included a new Board of Public Improvements. Flad was elected its first president. He was reelected in 1881, 1885 and 1889. He resigned in April 1890 after fourteen years of significant service to the City of St. Louis. His legacy includes his invHenry Flad Election Adolvement with Forest Park, granite city streets, water system improvements, public sprinkling, improved wharves, electric lighting, and thousands of other improvements throughout the city that bear the stamp of Colonel Flad’s work. When he resigned from his position as President of Board of Public Improvements at the age of 66 it was to accept appointment as a Commissioner of the Mississippi River Commission. He succeeded Eads who had lobbied its earlier creation and who had served as a commissioner during its conception.

 

In early June 1898, Flad attended a meeting of the Mississippi River Commission in New York. After the conclusion of the meeting he stopped off in Pittsburgh to visit a friend. While strolling home from a walk in a park, Flad suffered an acute heart attack and died instantaneously, just a month prior to his 74thFlad Death Announcement Birthday. He was survived by his wife Caroline and their three children: a son Edward, and daughters Mrs. L.J. Howard and Miss Fannie Flad. Burial was in St. Louis at Hill Crest Abbey and Mausoleum.

 

Flad was a founding member of the Engineers Club of St. Louis. The first meeting was on November 4, 1868, at the offices of the Water Board at Fourth and Elm. Flad became the Club’s President for the first twelve years. Flad became a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers on February 15, 1871, and was elected as its National President for the year ending 1887. The Association of St. Louis Members of ASCE began meeting in 1888, and the Section was formed on October 7, 2014.

 

The ASCE St. Louis Section has endorsed the nomination of Henry Flad for the St. Louis Walk of Fame in the Loop. If you would like to send letters of support, here is more information on the nomination process and contact information for the committee. http://www.stlouiswalkoffame.org/criteria/

 

Sources

  1. “Memoir of Henry Flad”, M. Am. Soc. C.E.: Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers; VOL. XLII, December, 1899; New York, N.Y.
  2. “The Engineers’ Club of St. Louis; Its History and Work”: ASSOCIATION OF ENGINEERING SOCIETIES; VOL XXIV, February 1900; New York, N.Y.
  3. “Henry Flad Historical Background: Special Collections and Archives, Southeast Missouri State, http:// library.semo.edu/archives, 2013.
  4. “The Eads Bridge”: By Quinta Scott and Howard S. Miller; Missouri Historical Press, St. Louis, MO. 1979
  5. DEATH OF HENRY FLAD: St. Louis Post Dispatch; June 21, 1898; St. Louis Mo.
  6. FOREST PARK: Caroline Loughlin and Katherine Anderson; Junior League of St. Louis and the University of Missouri Press; Columbia, MO. 1986
  7. Memorial Col. Henry Flad: www.findagrave.com 2013

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Joan Schacht says

Interesting. Thanks for sharing