One of the titular "Bridges of Madison County" in Iowa burned down this weekend, and police are investigating it as an act of arson.
In a community famous for its covered bridges, the one that was destroyed early Saturday morning was a standout. In fact, it may have been the most iconic of all the local bridges, thanks to the 1992 novel that put Madison County on the map, as well as the Clint Eastwood film adaptation that followed.
The so-called Cedar Bridge (which spanned Cedar Creek in the town of Winterset) had a long and sometimes troubled history. Built in 1883, it was burned down by arsonists in 2002 and then rebuilt and reopened in 2004, according to cedarcoveredbridge.com.
The website says the bridge played an important role in "The Bridges of Madison County" novel, not only serving as a meeting place for the protagonists, but also appearing on the book's front cover.
It was also used in the film of the same name, WHO-TV notes.
In an example of somewhat ironic timing, the fire follows just a few weeks after the death of "Madison County" author Robert James Waller, who was 77 years old.
An arson investigation begins
According to the Des Moines Register, authorities say the structure is a "total loss," and since the bridge had no electricity and there was no severe weather (such as lightning) in the area at the time, the fire is believed to be another case of arson.
"It’s pretty bad," Madison County Sheriff Jason Barnes told the paper. "When you think of Madison County, you think of those bridges. It’s a direct attack."
"All we know is somebody's upset about something," he added. "I don't know what and I don't know why."
The sheriff is now offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone who knows anything about the fire is asked to contact the sheriff's office at 515-462-3575.
The blaze that burned down the original Cedar Bridge was never solved, and no arrests were made.