Archive for Tuesday, July 23, 2013

100 years ago: Lawrence residents vote for new bridge

July 23, 2013


From the Lawrence Daily Journal-World for July 23, 1913:

  • "The special election in Douglas county yesterday was a great victory for progress. By a majority of over 700 votes, 768 to be exact, the old bridge across the Kaw river at Lawrence was voted into the discard and the proposition to raise $200,000 for the purpose of replacing it with a modern concrete structure was approved. Four thousand and eighty-five votes were polled at the election yesterday. Of this number 2,413 were cast in favor of progress, in favor of tearing down the old worn out and unsafe structure while 1,672 expressed a desire to allow the old bridge to stand for some years longer.... The old bridge must pass out of existence after having served the city of Lawrence and Douglas county for a period of nearly forty years.... Under the provisions of the special enabling act passed at the last session of the state legislature the new bridge will not be a reality for two years, 1915. The new law requires that one half of the money be raised before the work of construction can commence."
  • "The only surprise in the election yesterday was the large farmer vote against the proposition. The need of the bridge was so great, the proposition so fair that it all came as a surprise that there was such strong opposition to it. The vote in the city was so nearly unanimous that it shows the best town spirit ever shown.... There is no hard feeling towards the country because the town knows that it was just a misunderstanding of the situation."
  • "The annual Kansas University Entomological Expedition will start from Lawrence tomorrow morning. For the remainder of the summer four Kansas University men will travel over the state seeking specimens for the University museum. But there is more work than that to be done this year. The grasshopper is demanding a share of the attention of the experts and they will spend a good portion of this time studying the life history and the habits of the hoppers which have invaded portions of the western part of the state."


Stephanie Hull 4 years, 9 months ago

Is this bridge (the one presumably finished in 1915) the one that was torn down in the 1970s to make way for the two that we have now? I was pretty little when it was replaced, but I remember it as being much prettier than the current ones.

agitatedbacon 4 years, 9 months ago

sjgreen: Yes. The 1917 bridge was an open spandrel concrete arch bridge, a graceful type of structure that has fallen victim to rabid "value engineering" in highway projects. Ugly steel plate girder bridges are significantly cheaper (and weren't technically feasible in in the 1910's). The only state still building small scale concrete arch bridges is Oregon - they have a forward thinking highway department and a strong heritage of building architecturally significant bridges.

The "old old" bridge was actually several bridges cobbled together into one. I haven't found a solid date for the original construction, only that it began as a wooden truss in the 1860's or early 1870's. As spans flooded and collapsed, they were replaced with wrought iron or steel trusses. You can see some pictures of both the old and the first bridges here:

If you scroll down and look at the 1908 postcard, you can tell that the bridge is made up of several different types of trusses which were probably built at different times. I think that the spans on the left side were the original design and the ones on the right were probably replacements.

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