First Monroe Street Bridge built in 1819


Recently, I wrote about the bridge engineering work of the Monroe-based company WH Knapp, run by Walter H. Knapp, a native of Monroe.

When his Monroe Street Bridge project was completed in late 1929, he completed his advocacy for the Toledo-Monroe Road (aka the Dixie Road) which began in the 1910s and resulted in widespread use in all of Michigan’s reinforced concrete cantilever girder bridge – a design developed during the period as an alternative to standard concrete arch bridge designs.

The very first Monroe Street Bridge was built, according to Charles Hyde’s Historical Report on the Monroe Street Bridge (part of the Federal Highway Administration’s Historical American Engineering Record (available online from the Library of Canada). Congress) was built in 1819 when John Anderson and Oliver Johnson built the first toll bridge over the Raisin River at the present location of the Monroe Street Bridge. The village of Monroe was just incorporated in 1817 south of the Raisin River, and settlements north of the river (including Frenchtown) were growing.

This photo shows the construction of the Monroe Street Bridge, circa 1928. The south side of Monroe Street is shown with the steeple of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church to the left.

While this covered bridge served the initial needs of the village, the growing north / south population of Monroe required a stronger and more functional bridge, as road traffic and ultimately rail traffic increased in the general area (residential and commercial). . The first was an open-cast wooden bridge built by the Town of Monroe and County Monroe in the 1830s. A flood of 1878 destroyed this version of the Monroe Street Bridge, leading to the construction of a Whipple archery bow design that was also used for the nearby Macomb Street Bridge 10 years earlier in 1868.

Squire Whipple, a resident of Albany, New York, first incorporated the design bearing his name to design bridges that were ultimately built over the Erie Canal. Its design is a form of an arched bridge. A linked arch bridge is an arch bridge in which the outward horizontal forces of the arch caused by the tension at the ends of the arch connect to a foundation balanced by an equal tension of its own gravity plus any element of the total structure of the deck for the support. The bow has a reinforced string that extends to a stable part of the bridge structure or to independent tie rods placed under the ends of the bow. There can be one or more arcs in a drawing.

Construction of the pillars and beams of the Monroe Street Bridge, circa 1928, is underway.  The Detroit United Railway overhead crane - a Pratt-Through-Truss bridge design - can be seen in the background with a carriage crossing it.

While the design of the Monroe Street Bridge’s Whipple Arch was solid, its platform was narrow – only 22 feet wide. This platform also carried trolley lines operated by the Detroit United Railway (and operated a trolley barn and power plant on the north bank of the Raisin River). This setup created a bottleneck for horse-drawn cars and later automobiles (also short-lived streetcars) which had to turn sharply when entering and exiting the bridge to navigate around the streetcar line. Thus, the need to widen the Monroe Street Bridge (which is also part of the larger M-25 Dixie motorway project) led to the launch of the project led by WH Knapp Company.

For the current design of the Monroe Street Bridge, the concrete slab – a thick piece of concrete placed between two abutments – was chosen because the overall span of the bridge was short. The slabs and pillars of Monroe Street took over a year to build – as intricate molds were built and concrete mixed to withstand the forces of water (both in terms of movement and l ‘atmosphere) of the Raisin River. In addition, arrangements had to be made to accommodate the tram rails and wiring on the new bridge, as both were still in widespread use at the time. These were incorporated into the deck lighting in the form of light caps supporting the cable.

Further improvements to the Monroe Street Bridge took place in 1970 and 1984.

In this photo from around 1930, the new bridge on Monroe Street accepted traffic.  The wider road deck was a definite advantage for automobile traffic.

Tom Adamich is President of the Visiting Librarian Service, a company he has run since 1993. He is also a Project Archivist for the Greening Nursery Company and the Family Archives.

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