THE DAVIS AVENUE BRIDGE
Broadway Avenue in Sulphur has had several names. The first was Baseline Road back in territorial days. Then, when new Sulphur was platted the street was called Davis Avenue. For our discussion of the bridge, we will use the latter name.
Immediately after the town moved out of the park there was considerable difficulty getting across Rock Creek, especially when it was the rainy season. The steep banks caused a great need for several bridges to be built.
The first bridge was the Davis Avenue Bridge, the second was a bridge built across Rock Creek on Vinita Avenue and the third bridge was called the Coney Island Ford (Low Water Bridge). Another bridge was wanted by the town's people across Rock Creek at Muskogee Avenue but the Secretary would not approve the bridge crossing government property because he did not like the design of the bridge.
In January of 1907, the Mayor of Sulphur sends a letter to Colonel Swords complaining that the bridge is in an unsafe condition and needs repairs.
Swords replies in a letter stating that the reason for the weakened condition of the bridge is because people won't mind the speed limit and that a farmer pulling a wagon load of hay got stuck on the bridge. The farmer then took a saw and cut the main cross beams which held the trusses which in turn caused the trusses to lean away from the primary support structures.
Swords suggests that since the city built the inferior structure and they want it repaired they may as well do it themselves.
Immediately after the town moved out of the park there was considerable difficulty getting across Rock Creek, especially when it was the rainy season. The steep banks caused a great need for several bridges to be built. The first bridge was the Davis Avenue Bridge, the second was a bridge built across Rock Creek on Vinita Avenue and the third bridge was called the Coney Island Ford (Low Water Bridge). Another bridge was wanted by the town's people across Rock Creek at Muskogee Avenue but the Secretary would not approve the bridge crossing government property because he did not like the design of the bridge.
Colonel Greene assumes command in the Park in May of 1907 and continues to wrestle with the problem of the Davis Avenue Bridge.
On November 30, 1907, Colonel Greene orders the Davis Avenue Bridge closed as it was rotting and falling apart. Greene believed that the main problem was caused by people who refused to follow the speed limit across the bridge which was "no faster than a walk".
Greene ordered that strong timbers be nailed across each end of the bridge and only foot traffic be allowed to cross. He then posted notices on each end of the bridge that read "Closed by Order of the Secretary of Interior".
Greene then ordered Rangers Townsley and McDaniel to stand guard and make sure the bridge stayed closed. They rotate shifts and keep watch from 10:00a.m. to 9:30p.m. daily.
January of 1908 comes and the Secretary authorizes Greene to spend $25 to employ an engineer to inspect and report on the condition of the Davis Ave. Bridge. The hope is that it can be repaired and the weathering and damage is not so great that it will have to be replaced with a concrete and steel structure. The bridge had suffered much abuse from the poor quality of construction. The speed limit was constantly ignored. There were signs on each end that read "No faster than a walk". The poor construction and design was related to the fact that only dimensional lumber was used in the construction of the bridge and not a single timber of a substantial nature was used. It was hoped that with minimal repairs the bridge could be made safe for one more year.
The repairs were to be: taking up the floor and cull out all defective planks and replacing them with new material, remove and replace all defective floor joists, replace all decayed chords, replace all decayed struts, replace rotten footings with oak blocks and strengthen upper chords with iron bracing.
H. V. Hinckley, a retired engineer living in Sulphur, was hired to oversee the repairs of the bridge. Hinkley estimated the cost of repairing the bridge at $300 to $600 depending on the amount of hidden damage.
In February of 1908, Supt. Greene wanted to just get rid of the old rotten wooden structure and build a concrete and steel structure. His engineer estimated that a structure that was 90 feet long, 40 feet wide and having sidewalks on both sides could be built for $20,000.
On February 17, 1908, the bridge is finally re-opened to traffic. There was considerable doubt if the bridge was truly safe to use, but Greene had a plan.
To make sure that the bridge would hold traffic in a safe matter, Greene, himself, stood in the middle of the bridge and six drays of flour crossed the bridge first. One at a time the wagons pulled by four horses and weighing 8,000 pounds each crossed the bridge. Greene watched the bridge heave and bow as the heavy wagons and teams crossed the bridge. The thing did sway down considerable but sprang back as each wagon crossed. Greene then pronounced it good for one more year.
After the bridge is repaired, Greene is still sure that speeding will cause the immediate disintegration of the repaired structure. Although he had previously stationed Park Rangers on the bridge at irregular times, he realized that he would have to hire a full time Watchman to enforce the speed limit. But, Greene has a plan. Instead of hiring a watchman, he has 2x4 lumber nailed diagonally across the bridge as speed bumps. This worked rather well.
Now all that was needed was a bridge that would last for years made of concrete and steel.
© 2006 Dennis Muncrief