Built in 1894 to serve the South St. Paul Belt Railroad and later the Rock Island line, the historic swing bridge spanning the Mississippi at Inver Grove Heights is now being converted to an entertainment pier. Work on the $2.4 million project is expected to be completed this spring.
It’s an unlikely encore for the double-decker toll bridge, which was crossed by countless trains, trucks, cars, motorcycles, bikes, pedestrians, horses, cows and even sheep before the rusting span was closed to all traffic in 1999. All who crossed had to pay a toll – including firefighters, at least until 1919. The Minneapolis Tribune explained in this page one story:
Bridge Toll Fees No Longer Will Delay Firemen on Calls
Railroad Officials Order South St. Paul Fighters Passed Free in Future.
South St. Paul firemen stand ready to do their duty at all hours of the night, but they define fire fighting strictly within its narrow channels and do not consider standing scantily clad on a cold night making up a pot of $1.40 to cross a toll bridge as an inconvenience that must come in the night’s work.
They told Rock Island railroad officials so last week, and now are allowed to cross the railroad bridge on a fire call without paying toll. It all happened when the firemen answered an alarm across the river a few nights ago and in their hurry neglected to leave their toll with the bridge tender.
On the return trip the men were halted and told to pay double toll. The firemen dressed hurriedly. Most of them had left their pocketbooks behind. But the bridge tender was firm, so with chattering teeth the firemen stood on the bridge and gathered up enough stray nickels and dimes to total $1.40. Most of them caught bad colds, too – hence the letter Chief H.L. Ketcham wrote to the Rock Island officials.
The toll bridge, shown here in about 1934, had an unusual design, even for a double-decker swing bridge: The trains ran on the top deck, the cars below. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)
The 1938 toll rates: 20 cents per automobile, a dime per motorcycle, a nickel per pedestrian, 2 cents per sheep, pig or calf. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)
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Daniel Hoyt telephoned City Clerk Knott yesterday that he had shot a coyote "at 30 rods" from his house, 395 Twenty-third avenue southeast, and that he would appear soon at the city hall to claim a bounty of $7.50.
Before Fixit, there was Mr. Fixit, a quirky amalgam of Dear Abby, Google and T.D. Mischke. He deftly answered questions about food stains, home repair and city ordinances. But he also offered advice to the lovelorn and offbeat philosophical musings. And if you had a question of an extremely personal nature, he'd send you a response by mail, provided you sent him a stamped, self-addressed envelope. An interactive feature of the first order!
Thanks to Prohibition, criminal gangs plagued the Twin Cities in the 1920s and '30s. A corrupt St. Paul Police Department provided safe haven to gangsters and crooks of the era, as long as they agreed to stay out of trouble while in the city. The task of keeping the bad boys in line fell to "Dapper Dan" Hogan, a speakeasy owner and underworld leader. On December 4, 1928, Hogan, "whose word was known to be law among many criminals," was killed by a car bomb in the garage behind his St. Paul home. Rival gangsters were the likely culprits, but his murder was never officially solved.
"Women of the flats stood guard over their thresholds while police attempted to eject them for failure to pay rent on the grounds on which the dwellings stand. A near-riot was halted when a second court order was served on police, ordering a stay of the ejections."