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Waco Suspension Bridge

Bridge Street Bridge

   


Waco Suspension Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: March 2008
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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Bridge Street Over Brazos River
Location
Waco: McLennan County, Texas
Structure Type
Metal Pony Truss Stiffening Wire Cable Suspension, Fixed and Approach Spans: Metal 4 Panel Rivet-Connected Warren Pony Truss, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1870 By Builder/Contractor: John A. Roebling Sons Company of Trenton, New Jersey and Engineer/Design: Thomas M. Griffith

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
1914
Main Span Length
475 Feet (144.8 Meters)
Structure Length
Not Available
Roadway Width
18 Feet (5.5 Meters)
Spans
1 Main Span(s) and 1 Approach Span(s)
NBI Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

View Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) Documentation For This Bridge

HAER Data Pages, PDF

This bridge was one of the largest suspension bridge spans in the world when the original structure was completed in late 1869/early 1870. In 1913/1914, most of the original bridge structure was replaced, including the cables and stiffening trusses. As such, a 1914 construction date can easily be argued to be more appropriate for this bridge. The large brick towers appear to be the only major remnant of the original bridge and even they appear to be substantially altered from the original design. Despite this, even when considered a 1914 bridge, this structure is a rare example of its type, and an extremely beautiful suspension bridge that forms a historical centerpiece for Waco. Large pony stiffening truss with built-up beams featuring attractive v-lacing, riveted lattice railings, and towers with arched bracing make this bridge attractive.

The bridge features a warren pony truss approach span at the northern end of the bridge.

The bridge has been preserved for non-motorized use, having been closed to vehicular traffic in 1970.

The original 1870 bridge was shown in two places on an 1873 Bird's Eye View map of Waco. These images are shown on this page.

Bridge Summary From National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form

Discussion of Bridge

An early suspension bridge with two double cable towers of pink brick (now stuccoed) with superimposed arches connecting the two piers of each tower and crossing the road bed. Toll houses and walls terminate both ends of the bridge. The original crenellation, pierced openings, and fine detail has been removed or stuccoed over, but the general lines of the structures are still architecturally interesting. The toll houses have stepped gable roofs, parapets, and round arched openings now closed up.

The Waco suspension bridge was the first bridge across the Brazos River and the longest single span suspension bridge in the world when it was built. It was chartered by Waco stockholders November 1, 1866. Col. John T. Flint, President of the Waco Bridge Company, went to New York and contacted the John A. Roebling Company (the Brooklyn Bridge was completed in 1883). The engineer Thomas M. Griffith was sent to Waco to design the bridge. It has a 475 foot span and the cable and pieces were tooled at eastern foundries and shipped to Galveston. They were then sent on part of the way by rail and the rest of the way by ox teams. Thousands and thousands of local brick were used.

The bridge was opened January 7, 1870 and functioned for twenty years as a toll bridge with a 24 hour toll keeper. On September 1, 1889, it was purchased by McLennan county for $75,000 and conveyed to the city for one dollar.

A severe flood in 1885 damaged the east approach and a steel span was built for this section. Later the windows and doors of the anchor houses and towers were closed and the brick construction was covered with plaster. The bridge is still in daily use.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

O'Dowd, Mary Alice. The Magic Bridge. Waco, The Heritage Society of Waco, n.d., Pamphlet, 4pp.

Liecke, Jay; Mogas, Richard; Fields, Earl. Waco Suspension Bridge. Unpublished Student Paper. Architecture Archives, University of Texas, Austin, Texas n.d.

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes, this bridge is listed with reference number 70000850.

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