THE NEW WASHINGTON BRIDGE
On October 7, 1908 a mass meeting is held at the Vendome to discuss the building of a steel truss bridge on Davis Avenue over Rock Creek.
The bridge was again in such deplorable condition that when there is a parade or funeral the Superintendent had to station a Ranger at the ends of the bridge to monitor traffic to keep the load at a safe level to avoid a catastrophe.
Several designs were conceived for the new steel and concrete bridge. Greene was animate that the structure should be capable of holding the weight of two streetcars passing as Sulphur was a growing town and would soon have such conveyance.
The Santa Fe Depot was on the west side of the bridge and the Frisco Depot was on the east side. Anticipating the arrival of streetcars was in the future but Greene knew that the freight unloaded from these two depots was not currently safe to carry on what was at hand.
The Secretary sent several plans that showed bridges that would support only 8,000 pounds. This was the weight of the bridge and the live load. Greene replied that it was not uncommon for a wagon carrying three tons of coal, iron, cement and other dead weight to cross the bridge at the same time. A single lane bridge was totally inconceivable as far as Greene was concerned.
As the old Washington Bridge was only a single-track structure, it was necessary to increase the width of the abutments on the two approaches. The estimate for this was $2,500.
On December 5, bids were opened for the building of the approach abutments. G. C. Frier of Sulphur bid $2,399; Liberenz & Robinson of Sulphur bid $1,150; Elmo Henry of Sulphur bid $1,115. Henry receives the contract and by the end of December the abutments are ready for the bridge steel.
Engineer Hinckley was also supervising this job along with the building of the Lincoln Bridge. In his weekly report of January 23, he stated that the abutments were completed as well as the approaches filled on each end of the bridge and they were awaiting the steel from Bethlehem, PA.
Supt. Greene was contacted by the Midland Bridge Company to ask what color the bridge is to be painted since it is not in the specifications. Greene stated that it is to have one coat of shop primer before assembly and it is to be painted jet black after assembly and completion. Greene further states the color selected was because "the bridge is located between two train yards and on the busiest and dirtiest street of the city and the darker the last coat the better".
Weeks pass and Engineer Hinckley kept sending weekly reports "Nothing done, waiting for superstructure." Greene contacted the Midland Bridge Company advising them that they had better get their material on the job and get busy as the completion date was only a month away. Finally in the first week of April the paving stones arrive on one train car and the steel arrived on two others on the 22nd. The problem is now there is no bridge building crew in town to put it up. Greene contacted the Company again advising them the steel had arrived and told them the electric lines of the town cross the area where the bridge is being built. He advised them that they had better get ready to string lights and work twenty-four hours a day to complete the bridge.
Midland wired a response that a crew is on the way "in a few days" and requests a 30-day extension in completion as the steel company in Pennsylvania had delayed their shipment for nearly a month. Finally on the 28th, the foreman H. C. Coleman and crew arrived to begin work.
On May 10th, the main beams were being moved onto the abutments. While the crew was using pry bars and rollers to move the beam across the creek the main beam flipped over, striking the pry bar held by J. C. Peppers. This in turn knocks Peppers into the creek bed breaking his left foot and badly bruising his left shoulder and arm. The fall was 22 feet and if he had not hit the sandy streambed he would most likely have been killed. A very similar accident had killed a worker in the Park just six months previous.
On June 16th the Davis Avenue bridge was completed. Three thousand people turn out for the dedication and the bridge was christened "The Washington Bridge". The City now had a concrete and steel bridge that replaced the old rickety wooden structure.
© by Dennis Muncrief, November 2006.