RILEY TWNSHP — A team of workers with Ohio Bridge Works began the process of tearing down the historic Mallaham Bridge on Monday. Spanning Riley Creek at the intersection of Township Roads M6 and 7L, Mallaham Bridge is a rarety. Built in 1876, the bridge “is the only known example of this variety of Columbia Bridge Works bowstring” still in existence, according to Bridgehunter.Com, a website designed by enthusiasts and dedicated to chronicling the history of bridgeworks throughout the nation.

While historically significant, the bridge also bears a bit of local social identity, as well. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, high-schoolers in the area began talking about Crybaby Bridge, yet another moniker by which Mallaham Bridge has come to be known. According to this new-found local legend, the ghostly cries of an infant accidentally killed at the site — though no such accident was ever recorded — can be heard at a specific time on a certain date. Precisely when gets a little fuzzy, though midnight on All Hallow’s Eve is a sure bet.

In that, Mallaham Bridge loses its distinction. This particular urban legend is shared by no less than two dozen other bridges in Ohio alone, according to Dead Ohio, an internet site dedicated to paranormal phenomena in the state.

Recognizing the historic significance of the bridge, if not it’s more specious reputation as a haunted site, Michael Lenhart — at the time an employee in the county engineer’s office and now Putnam County Engineer — began seriously researching the costs of renovating the structure in 2014. Initial estimates on the project came in at a little over $300,000. Late last year, however, a more detailed cost analysis of stripping, deconstructing, re-galvanizing and reconstructing the bridge raised that cost to just over $518,000. To offset renovation costs, Lenhart sought and received a grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation that covers 80 percent of repairs, up to $400,000.

With work begun, Lenhart estimates completion of the project will take a matter of months.

“They’re hoping to have about two weeks on site here, getting the bridge removed,” Lenhart said, “and then maybe three monts while it’s off-site being repaired and rehabbed. It has a September 1 completion date according to the contract. I would say they’ll make that for sure.”