Today in Texas History – September 1

From the Annals of the River Crossings –  In 1889, the Waco suspension bridge crossing the Brazos River opened for traffic as a free bridge.  The bridge had opened in 1870 as a toll bridge.  Until then no bridges spanned the Brazos in Texas and for 800 miles travelers had to look for low water crossings or ferries to move east and west through central Texas.  In 1866, the Texas Legislature granted a charter to the Waco Bridge Company giving the WBC a monopoly on transportation across the Brazos for 25 years and prohibiting other bridges to be built within five miles.  The WBC eventually settled on a steel cable suspension bridge design as affordable and practical for the intended use.   The WBC  engaged the John A. Roeblng Company, the firm which originated the suspension span bridge concept.  The WBC hired Thomas M. Griffith, Roebling’s chief engineer, as civil engineer for the project.  The Roebling Company was commisssioned to provide cables and bridgework. After Robeling died in 1869, his four sons inherited the company, which was renamed The John A Robeling’s Sons Company. Washington Robeling, most famous for building the Brooklyn Bridge, finished the Waco bridge which opened to paid traffic in 1870. At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge west of the Mississippi River.  The toll revenues quickly paid for the bridge.  Popular demand for a free bridge arose and McLennan County bought the Suspension Bridge from the WBC  for $75,000 and then sold it Waco for one dollar in an agreement that required the City to maintain the bridge and eliminate any tolls.  The bridge was open to vehicles until 1871 serving for more than 100 years.  Despite many mostly cosmetic renovations, the bridge has been restored to its original glory and is now the centerpiece of Indian Springs Park.

 

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