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)
Sample Minnesota newspaper articles, photos and ads dating back more than 140 years. Fresh items are posted weekly. Go here for tips on how to track down old newspaper articles on your own. Follow the blog on Twitter. Or check out "Minnesota Mysteries," a new book based on the blog.
Email your questions or suggestions to Ben Welter.
Minnesota's centennial brought out the stars back in 1958, led by Judy Garland, who fought through a case of laryngitis to entertain 20,000 people at the U's old Memorial Stadium. Also baking in the sun on that hot Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis were Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, Princess Astrid of Norway, Prince Bertil of Sweden, the prime ministers of Denmark and Finland, and ambassadors from West Germany, Iceland and Yugoslavia.
South High goalie Tony Julin, who lost an eye when a shot hit him in the face during practice, returned to the ice seven weeks later with a glass eye and a renewed determination to stop pucks. His greatest difficulty: the high shots. "I still can't get the angles right. And I don't always know where the net is," he said.
In 1977, Gerry Spiess began building a 10-foot plywood-and-fiberglass sailboat in his garage in White Bear Lake. Spiess, a technical instructor at 3M Co., had designed and built other boats and was an experienced sailor. He had sailed down the Mississippi River and crossed the Gulf of Mexico to South America. But two attempts to sail around the world were scuttled by illness and bad weather. He designed little "Yankee Girl" to set a world record as the smallest boat to cross the Atlantic Ocean.