On the Mississippi, a piece of river history is washing away
- Blog Post by: Steve Brandt
- June 12, 2014 - 5:49 PM
A little piece of early Minneapolis history is closer to vanishing now that one of two remaining piers of the long-gone Tenth Avenue Bridge has collapsed.
The pier that’s long stuck out of the Mississippi River just downstream from the east end of the Stone Arch Bridge is now down to a nub of stone, presumably undercut by riverine erosion that’s been eating at the pier base for several years, with this year's high flows contributing. One pier remains on the river’s east bank.
The relatively light-duty bridge carried pedestrians, horse-drawn wagons and later cars and a streetcar line across the river between 6th Avenue SE and 10th Av. S. on the downtown side. It was built in 1874, closed to traffic in 1934 and sold for scrap for the war effort in 1943, according to the excellent bridge reference guide maintained by John A. Weeks III.
The bridge also played a prominent role in Minneapolis history at a time when bridges were few and workers walked from jobs on one bank to housing on the other.
The crossing was near the site of one of the three original bridges built in Minneapolis, two of which washed away in 1859, according to Weeks. That left only a single l crossing that spanned Nicollet Island, where today’s Father Louis Hennepin Bridge stands.
According to Weeks, when the older St. Anthony merged with youthful Minneapolis in 1872, part of the deal was that the combined city would erect new bridges at both Plymouth Avenue and 10th Avenue, at a cost that amounted to $230,000.
The bridge had stone piers that held an iron truss with a deck roughly 60 feet above the river. Weeks estimated the length at 1,100 feet. The bridge was closed eventually because it wasn’t designed to stand up to motor vehicles. By then, the sturdier Third Avenue Bridge and Tenth Avenue Bridge bridges had been added upstream and downstream. Confusingly, the new Tenth Avenue Bridge served 10th Avenue SE on the East Bank, while the older Tenth Avenue Bridge served the street of the same name on the downtown side.
The pier that collapsed has also provided spectator interest in recent years. Several years ago, a Canada goose nested atop the perhaps 30-foot-high pier, leading bridge walkers to speculate how well the goslings would make their maiden flight to the river below. One day they were gone, presumably having navigated safely.
A 2011 column by river-area resident Lisa Peters noted the pier was listing, and invited guesses on when it would collapse.
Now one vestige on Minneapolis history is close to washing away.
Photos: Before photo from 2011 by Lisa Peters, after photo from 2014 by Eric Roper. Above, 1905 photo of Tenth Avenue Bridge looking toward downtown from Minnesota Historical Society.
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