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Bridges Across Grand River

In the earliest years Indians and whites used canoes to cross the Grand river.

A ferry soon was established, with its eastern landing at the foot of the street which quite appropriately was called Ferry, midway between Pearl and Fulton streets, and the western landing nearly opposite. This ferry was a sort of scow, or pole boat. However, some west side residents had canoes or small boats of their own. Usually, during the winter the ice both below and above the rapids was thick enough to afford good crossing. Those who think our seasons have changed from the olden days may be interested to read that in 1834 a heavily loaded wagon drawn by a team could cross the river on the ice at the foot of the rapids until near the end of March, and that in the spring of 1843 Daniel North drove his team and wagon over the ice above the rapids as late as April 9.

Near Fulton street there was a good fording place across the river in times of low water. During some summers temporary foot bridges constructed of wooden horses with planks strung across them, were used, but the first rise of the water usually swept these down stream. Usually the wooden horse bridges were built on the shallow crossing near Bridge-Michigan street.


An association to build a free bridge was organized at a meeting in February, 1842, Lucuis Lyon, James Scribner and Daniel Ball being the leaders in the movement, and in June of that year a foot bridge was thrown across the river a little below Bridge-Michigan street. It was built by James Scribner and Lovell Moore and was in use two or three years.

The state having provided a bridge at Ada in 1844---the first in the county---the Grand Rapids residents demanded one here. The county supervisors appealed to the state legislature, which by act of March 9, 1844, appropriated 6,000 acres of land for the purpose of building a free bridge at the rapids. The structure accordingly was completed in 1845, the builders being James Scribner and Eliphalet H. Turner. It was a timber and plank bridge set upon eight stone piers, with ice breakers upstream. The superstructure was of the timber-truss pattern. Dr. Francis H. Cuming was the first person to drive across it, November 27, 1845. At the same time a bridge across the canal, built by Robert Hilton, was finished. This structure lasted only about seven years.

In January, 1852, the Grand Rapids Bridge company was organized, its charter members being William A. Richmond, Henry R. Williams, William H. Withey, Harvey P. Yale and George Coggeshall. This company erected a shingle roof lattice bridge, completing it in the fall of 1852, at a cost of $9,500. Toll was charged all who crossed on it. This bridge was burned April 5, 1858, and immediately another of the lattice type was built by the company, completed September 4. It was used as a toll bridge until 1874, when the city purchased it from the company for $1,000 and made it free.

This lattice bridge lasted until 1884, when it was replaced by one of iron. The iron bridge was replaced in 1904 by the present concrete and steel structure, which cost $97,393.

LEONARD STREET BRIDGE The city's second bridge, at Leonard street, was completed October 21, 1858, by a company of which J. F. Chubb was president. George Kendall, treasurer, and William A. Tryon, secretary. Under a charter granted by the county supervisors toll was charged. It was 870 feet long, supported by seven stone piers, and was of the Burr truss pattern, with a shingled roof. The city bought it in 1873 and abolished tolls. It was replaced in 1880 by a lattice type structure, which in 1912 gave way to the present steel and concrete bridge.

PEARL STREET BRIDGE The first bridge at Pearl street was completed about a month after the first one at Leonard---on November 25, 1858. It was erected by the Pearl Street Bridge company, which had these officers: President, Solomon L. Withey; secretary and treasurer, William Hovey; directors, S. L. Withey, J. W. Converse, W. D. Foster and Lucius Patterson. It was of the double truss Burr type, 620 feet long, resting upon five piers and massive stone abutments. The eastern portion of the bridge, from the island across the steamboat channel to the foot of Pearl street, was a separate structure, connected with the main bridge by a high embankment across the island. Tolls were charged for crossing until the city purchased the bridge in June, 1873.

The first Pearl street bridge was used until 1886, when an iron structure replaced it. the island and the east channel having meanwhile converted into building lots by filling in with earth. The iron bridge was torn down and the present structure, completed November 7, 1922, took its place.

The Fulton street bridge, still in use, was built in 1885. Its total length is 549 feet. The Sixth street bridge was begun in 1885 and opened to traffic the next year. The Wealthy street bridge was completed in 1905 and the Ann street bridge in 1908. The bridge at North Park was constructed in 1884.

Transcriber: Ronnie Aungst
Created: 16 January 2000
URL: http://kent.migenweb.net/etten1926/bridges.html