3 votes

West Sixth Street Arch Bridge


Oblique View North Side

Since the day it opened, December 1, 1928, this structure is known as the most beautiful bridge ever built in Racine.

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


Significance of the 6th Street Bridge 

HAER WI-18 Notes

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.

Charles S, Whitney and the West Sixth Street Bridge

Written by Jeffrey A. Hess as part of the 1986 Wisconsin DOT Historic Bridge Project

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.]


Concrete arch bridge over Root River and Horlick Drive on W. 6th Street in Racine
Racine, Racine County, Wisconsin
Open to traffic
Built 1929; rehabilitated 1982
- Charles S. Whitney of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Northwestern Terra Cotta Co.
- Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Co. of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Zendala Construction Co. of Manitowoc, Wisconsin
Single, open-spandrel, reinforced-concrete, barrel-arch river span and a reinforced-concrete rigid-frame approach span
Length of largest span: 129.6 ft.
Total length: 160.8 ft.
Deck width: 45.9 ft.
Eligible for the National Register of Historic Places
Also called
Armstrong's Folly
Sixth Street/Kinzie Avenue Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+42.72600, -87.80510   (decimal degrees)
42°43'34" N, 87°48'18" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
16/434086/4730702 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Racine South
Average daily traffic (as of 2015)
Inventory number
BH 34915 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection report (as of June 2018)
Overall condition: Poor
Superstructure condition rating: Serious (3 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Poor (4 out of 9)
Deck condition rating: Poor (4 out of 9)
Sufficiency rating: 10.4 (out of 100)
View more at BridgeReports.com

Update Log 

  • September 4, 2009: New photos from J.R. Manning
  • August 19, 2009: Updated by J.R. Manning: Updted name and bridge data
  • August 8, 2008: Updated by J.R. Manning
  • August 1, 2008: Updated by J.R. Manning: Added Designer
  • July 28, 2008: Essay added by J.R. Manning
  • July 11, 2008: Updated by J.R. Manning: Added Root River to description.
  • July 10, 2008: New photos from J.R. Manning



West Sixth Street Arch Bridge
Posted September 4, 2009, by Anthony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

I could really get into concrete bridge if they were all like this one. Too bad they didn't leave the light fixtures on the bridge where they belong. I bet all those little water spouts (Grotesques) look really cool when they are spitting water out at the same time!

West Sixth Street Arch Bridge
Posted September 4, 2009, by J.R. Manning (thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net)

I found the missing light fixtures today. They were removed from the bridge in 1969, one disintegrated when it was removed from the bridge, one is in the hands of a private collector and the last two are part of the museum, a former Carnegie Library building.