Spanning the Spokane River Gorge just below the Spokane Falls, the Monroe Street Bridge is a city landmark. When the structure was completed in 1911, the 281-foot concrete central span was the largest in the United States, edging out Cleveland’s Rocky River Bridge by a foot, and the third longest in the world. The design process for the bridge began in 1909. Building the grand triple-arched bridge was an arduous task. Laborers hired by the city (fully half the eventual cost of $535,000 went to wages) dangled above the rapids below on towers and cables, working to demolish the old steel bridge, constructed in 1891, and build cribbing for the new one. Shortly after demolition began, fill on the south bank collapsed, leading to the collapse of the old bridge. As the new bridge was being constructed, a violent windstorm destroyed weeks’ worth of labor on the central arch. City engineer J. C. Ralston, with assistance from Morton McCarthy (who designed the ill-fated Tacoma Narrows Bridge), J. F. Greene, and P. F. Kennedy, designed the structure. The design for the superstructure was prepared by Spokane’s most celebrated firm of architects, Cutter and Malmgren. It reflects the city’s pride in its pioneer heritage, with its western decorative motifs, including chain-shaped concrete ornamentation on the railings, and four “covered wagon”-shaped pavilions adorned with cast-concrete bison skulls. Residents of Spokane, proud as they were of the grand new bridge, had to wait nearly 60 years to see it unobstructed. In 1914, just three years after it was built, the Union Pacific Railway built a trestle across and above it. The trestle was removed in 1973, in conjunction with preparations for the 1974 World’s Fair held in Spokane. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, all but the central span of the bridge was demolished and completely reconstructed starting in 2003. The bridge reopened in September 2005.
Good to see you around Quinn. I have friends in Spokane and will be visiting there between now and Yule.
This bridge was featured in the movie Vision Quest.
I took these photos in November 2005, just after the rebuilt bridge reopened. I was interested in the bridge because I remember going to the 1974 Worlds Fair and being amazed by the bridge.
Here is a historical write-up from Wikipedia:
Monroe Street Bridge is a deck arch bridge that spans the Spokane River in Spokane, Washington. The bridge was the largest concrete-arch bridge in the United States at the time it was built. It was built in 1911 by the city of Spokane and was designed by John Chester Ralston and Kirtland Kelsey Cutter. At the time of completion it was the largest concrete-arch bridge in the United States and the third longest in the world.
The current bridge is actually the third bridge in this location. The first bridge, a rather rickety wooden structure, was built in 1889. The bridge was first closed due to arguments in the city over rites of passage and ownership. It then burned down in 1890 and then replaced with a steel bridge. The second bridge vibrated badly and had a noticeable dip in the center. A consultant from the Good Roads Movement considered the bridge unsafe in 1905. The design of the third bridge was largely copied from the Rocky River Bridge in Cleveland, Ohio, but was built one foot longer to make it the largest concrete arch in the United States at the time. The bridge was designed with ornamental features such as bison skulls, covered pavilions, and a chain-link railing motif. The bison skull was an inspiration of Patrick C. Shine who found it in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada, in the early 1900s.
The bridge underwent changes in 1925 and in 1934, and submitted to the modernization of Spokane. The pavilion lamps were changed to electric lighting in ’25 and the electric car railways were removed from the bridge in ‘34. The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. By the 1990s, the current bridge had deteriorated to the point where rebuilding it was necessary. In January 2003, the bridge was closed for restoration, dismantled down to the central arch, and rebuilt faithfully to the original appearance. The bridge was reopened in 2005 and continues to provide excellent views of Spokane Falls.
Crosses Spokane River
Locale Spokane, Washington
Design Reinforced concrete deck arch bridge
Longest span 281 ft (85.6 m)
Total length 896 ft (273 m)
Width 50 ft (15 m) wide roadway and 9 ft (2.7 m) wide sidewalks
Opening date 1911