Oblique View North Side
Terra Cotta bas relief panels adorn the sides with shields, symbols and Neptune-like faces that act as outlets for storm water. The panels seem to reflect the story of Racine, Wisconsin, and the United States.
Photo taken by J.R. Manning in July 2008
BH Photo #117339
Survey number HAER WI-18
Unprocessed field note material exists for this structure (FN-5).
Building/structure dates: 1928 initial construction
Building/structure dates: 1983 subsequent work
Significance: The West Sixth Street Bridge is a single open-spandrel, reinforced-concrete barrel-arch bridge. Its flush facade and Art Deco/Moderne style make it one of Wisconsin's most unusual and architecturally significant concrete bridges. The majority of the terra cotta detailing remains intact. Charles S. Whitney (1892-1959), the principal engineer/architect on the project, was world renowned for his innovations in concrete construction. Whitney's firm of Ammann & Whitney is known for its work on Dulles International Airport and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, as well as numerous highway and large bridge projects.
Architectural & Engineering Significance: The West Sixth Street Bridge consists of a single, open-spandrel, reinforced-concrete, barrel-arch river span and a reinforced-concrete rigid-frame approach span. Arched transverse, spandrel walls carry the deck. Overall length is 192 ft. Overall width is 58.33 ft. The arch has a 131.5 Ft. span and a 17.67 ft. rise. The rigid frame has a 25 Ft. span. The bridge's unique feature is its Art Deco/Moderne architectural styling and applied, polychromed faience-tile mosaic and terra-cotta ornamentation. The terra cotta includes animals, stylistic devices and gargoyles. In appearance it is totally unlike almost all other bridges of similar engineering. Perhaps most striking beyond the ornament are the completely flush facades, with no deck/railing definition line, culminating in the stepped top line of the railing. Architecturally, it is perhaps the most unusual concrete bridge in Wisconsin and an equally unusual design for the engineered Charles S. Whitney (1892-1959), who produced many rustic, stone-faced bridges. It has virtually complete design integrity except for missing light standards.
Historical significance: The present structure is the fourth bridge at this crossing of the Root River, the first being prior to 1865. The crossing, therefore, is important, but not of any unusual significance. Charles Whitney s design for the present bridge stirred considerable interest even before it was built and his rendering was published several times in newspapers giving both engineer and design considerable publicity. It was declared to be the "prettiest ever bullt." The only reason ever offered for the special design is that it would be in keeping with the park locale, even though this is not considered a park bridge. Oddly, it was opened without formal ceremony although the occasion received considerable attention in the press.
[Note: This document was prepared by Jeffrey A. Hess and Robert M. Frame III for the Wisconsin DOT. It is part of a project that was launched by the Wisconsin DOT in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration. It was published by the Wisconsin DOT in 1986, in a report entitled Historic Highway Bridges in Wisconsin, Volume 1.]