From the Annals of Engineering – In 1870, the Waco Suspension Bridge opened to traffic. The WSB is a 475 foot long single-span suspension bridge over the Brazos River that looks like a smaller version of the Brooklyn Bridge. The twin double-towers on each side of the Brazos were considered engineering marvels of the day and contain more than 3 million bricks made onsite. At the time of construction, Waco lacked the ability to manufacture much of the material needed. The suspension cables were made by the Roebling Company of Trenton, NJ and other materials were made in or imported via Galveston and then shipped up the Brazos to Bryan and then by oxcart to Waco.
The WSB could accommodate two stagecoaches passing each other. But the main initial use was for cattle crossing and pedestrian traffic. For years it was the only bridge crossing the Brazos. As a result, the $141,000 cost to build the bridge was quickly paid back by tolls.
The WSB It was closed to vehicle traffic in 1971 and is now open only to pedestrians and bicycles. The bridge is in the National Register of Historic Places and received a state historic marker in 1976.
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.