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Over the past 150 years, five bridges have spanned the Mississippi at Wabasha Street in St. Paul. The first, a wooden Howe truss span known as the St. Paul Bridge, was completed in 1859. The second, built in 1872, was of the same design. The third was built in about 1884. That bridge was, according to a rather dated page on St. Paul’s website, an all-iron Pratt truss, “an innovative version known as a Whipple double-intersection Pratt.” Innovative, perhaps, but not enduring: Five years later it was replaced by an iron cantilever deck-truss that served the city for a century before the high cost of maintenance and repair spelled its doom. The current Wabasha Street Bridge, a concrete segmental box girder bridge, was completed in 1998.The 1889 bridge was built in two parts, first the north section and, 10 years later, the south section. The latter project required that a 120-ton span of wood and iron be moved 50 feet, from temporary wooden piers built downstream to permanent masonry piers. In the story below, the Minneapolis Tribune explained how six men, without the aid of horses or steam power, completed the job in just eight hours. The feat was described in detail in the January 1900 issue of the Journal of the Association of Engineering Societies.
|A photo from the January 1900 issue of the Journal of the Association of Engineering Societies - thanks, Google Books -- shows a 120-ton section of St. Paul's Wabasha Street bridge being maneuvered into place.
|The fourth Wabasha Street bridge, shown here in about 1900, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society)