My secret bridge

I love the funky pink pedestrian bridge across the Mississippi River, downstream from where I live in SE Minneapolis. It’s off the radar for almost everyone in the area — university students, local residents, tourists. Many times, on a sunny afternoon, I’ve been the only person on the bridge. Here it is, looking downstream from the east bank.

Northern Pacific Bridge Number 9

A plaque on this bridge, a former railroad bridge, says it was built in 1922. But when I started looking for old photos, I found photos of an 1887 bridge that looked a whole lot like the 1922 bridge. Here’s one of them, looking upstream from the west bank. That’s the University of Minnesota above and Bohemian Flats below (1903).

And here’s another one with an actual train on it (1900). You can see the more well-known Stone Arch Bridge in the background.

Northern Pacific railroad bridge near the University of Minnesota

After digging into it a little bit, I think I know why the 1880s bridge looked so much like the current bridge, and if I’m wrong, I hope someone will let me know. The bridge builders apparently used quite a bit of the first bridge in the second bridge — trusses and floor beams, among other parts. But the second bridge is slightly upstream from the first one. The railroad had to move its rail line and its bridge crossing because the trains were smoking up the growing U of M campus.

My secret bridge, a hybrid 1880s/1920s railroad bridge, is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and I hope it makes it. Maybe then someone will paint it a slightly more dignified color than pink. One last photo from around 1900, my favorite:

Polish American girl on Bohemian Flats

My thanks to the Minnesota Historical Society for granting me permission to use three historic photos from its collection.

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10 Responses to My secret bridge

  1. Lisa Peters says:

    Alma,
    Great to hear from you. I think I remember that walk…don’t forget your Minnesota phase!

  2. Alma De Anda says:

    Love this blog! I remember all of us walking on that pink bridge one morning. I think we were out to see how swollen the Mississippi was after all that snow melted last year.

  3. Bridget Levin says:

    I think a secret bridge should be painted with magic thermochromic color change paint.
    More SE storiettes, please!

  4. Leslie and Keith says:

    Thanks-you got us busy digging through books and looking up information online. Great photo of the pink bridge-fun! The first bridge was the Northern Pacific A line bridge.
    If you haven’t already-check out the following:
    http://www.johnweeks.com/bridges/pages/b02.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Pacific_Bridge_Number_9

  5. Emily says:

    I like the pink – it’s unique!

  6. David says:

    If NordEast can have a blog, so can SouthEast. I’ve biked across the bridge; there’s a nasty little hill on the east bank.

  7. Mark Plenke says:

    Great start, Lisa! I’m adding your blog to my favorites list right now.

  8. Susan Marie says:

    Hooray for a secret bridge and a brand new blog! (And research. And actual trains.) Looking forward to future posts.

  9. Rick C. says:

    I want to live in a place called Bohemian Flats!
    Also, slate grey would be a handsome color for a secret bridge.

  10. Dave says:

    Great start to a wonderful excursion into SE Minneapolis. Keep it up.