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Oakway Trail Bridge

Oakway Trail Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: October 11, 2009

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Oakway Trail Over Canoe Stream
Detroit: Wayne County, Michigan: United States
Structure Type
Concrete Slab, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1913 By Builder/Contractor: Unknown

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
28 Feet (8.5 Meters)
Structure Length
28 Feet (8.5 Meters)
Roadway Width
30 Feet (9.14 Meters)
1 Main Span(s)
NBI Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

View Archived National Bridge Inventory Report - Has Additional Details and Evaluation

One of several historic bridges located on Belle Isle Park, this bridge is listed as a concrete slab in the Historic Bridge Inventory and a concrete rigid-frame in the National Bridge Inventory.

This bridge is a simple structure type that has been embellished with architectural and decorative treatment in the form of a unique railing design. The railing that includes concrete posts and colored tiles inset into the concrete.


Information and Findings From Michigan Historic Bridge Inventory

Narrative Description

The single-span, concrete-slab Oakway Road Bridge Crosses over the Canoe Stream in a forest area near the east end of Belle Isle. The skewed structure has concrete parapet railings. Each railing is interrupted by three vertical posts which rise above the projecting coping. The posts are decorated with teal and orange tile arranged in geometric patterns. The tile might have been produced by Pewabic Pottery, which was founded in 1904; in 1908, the pottery moved to 10125 East Jefferson Avenue, not far from the bridge between the mainland and Belle Isle. Although some of the tiles are damaged, graffiti covers part of the bridge, the historical integrity of the design remains good.

The city of Detroit purchased Belle Isle, a 707-acre island in the Detroit River, in September 1879. By 1940, fill had expanded its size to nearly 1,000 acres. According to local historian Clarence M. Burton, it was originally "an unimproved area, abounding in native forests, sloughs, swales and was very unattractive." The city hired prominent landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead for $7,000 per year to plan and oversee improvements. His layout included a central driveway, Central Avenue, and the canal that meanders around the island. Oakway Road extends from Central Avenue. The bridge dates from a period which produced a number of important amenities on Belle Isle, including the conservatory, the aquarium, the casino and Scott Fountain. As part of this significant early twentieth-century development campaign, the Oakway Road Bridge contributes to the Belle Isle National Register historic district.


Photo Galleries and Videos: Oakway Trail Bridge

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Maps and Links: Oakway Trail Bridge

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