The Marshall Avenue Bridge

The current Marshall Avenue Bridge replaced an old wrought-iron span erected for horse and buggy traffic in 1889. The previous bridge was designed by J.S. Sewall of St. Paul. Built on three stone piers the old bridge had hinges at each end and in the crown of each arch to allow for expansion and contraction as the air temperature changed. In 1906 streetcar tracks were added. St. Paul’s City Engineer, George M. Shepard, added stone protection to the piers made necessary by the higher water of the dams in 1925 . This bridge lasted a hundred years and was the second-oldest bridge in use over the Mississippi until it came down in 1990. When the idea for the bridge was proposed, The Minneapolis Tribune claimed that the new bridge was a “foolish extravagance,” since there were already seven bridges over the river. The newspapers were wrong almost as often in the nineteenth century as they are now. The Marshall Avenue Bridge became a major connection between Saint Paul and Minneapolis. Before the construction of the freeways, it carried U.S. Route 212 over the Mississippi River.

The 1888 Erection Plan
The 1888 Erection Plan

When construction on the new bridge started in 1989, the builders built the first half of the new bridge while keeping the old bridge in service. Unfortunately, an accident ended up delaying construction. The falsework for one of the arches collapsed on April 24, 1990, causing the arch itself to collapse. Later, when it came time to demolish the old bridge, crews tried to take it down with explosives. The first effort didn’t bring the bridge down and it took another, more powerful batch of explosives to bring the old bridge down a few weeks later.

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