STOCKHOLM, Wis. (WCCO) — In the village of Stockholm, Wis., local leaders faced a big dilemma.

The charm of this town of 66 people lies in the historic homes and quaint storefronts perched along a bluff overlooking Lake Pepin.

So when discussion turned to replacement of a single-lane stone bridge on Cemetery Road, residents here knew there had to be a better answer.

The village board considered replacing the bridge with a steel culvert costing about $24,000 for a two-lane road. But that would also mean losing some beautiful big trees and old-world charm.

That’s when they turned to local resident and veteran stone mason, Harley Cochran.

Cochran is now on his one-man mission. He’s expanding the old limestone bridge to be eight feet wider, but with an identical design.

“Random rubble is what they call it,” Cochran said.

For more than a century, the Roman arch limestone bridge carried caskets and mourners to the Stockholm village cemetery. It was originally built by Julius Hanson in 1912.

“There wasn’t a problem with the arch, but the road needed widening for modern safety equipment, including fire trucks,” Cochran said.

A hydraulic arm that Cochran designed and had built is now his right hand man. With a tug on a starter rope he fires up a small utility engine and clamps onto another boulder to lift the stone off a pile and down into the creek bed.

From there, he’ll have to muscle the limestone rock into place, for just the right fit.

Cochran figures it will take him at least 200 hours to complete the bridge and at half the cost of replacing it with a steel culvert.

“And with every stone you try to distribute the weight across two stones that lay underneath it,” he said.

Cochran is restoring more than a limestone bridge – he’s also securing village pride, one stone at a time.

“If it’s built properly, it should serve the same purpose and last 100 years, I hope,” Cochran said.

Click here for more information on Harley’s work.

Bill Hudson