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Re: St. Louis hopes bridge spans past, future success

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In a message dated 7/3/2003 7:18:56 AM Eastern Standard Time, rbengrguy writes:

> Subj:  St. Louis hopes bridge spans past, future success
>   Date:  7/3/2003 7:18:56 AM Eastern Standard Time
>   From:  rbengrguy(--nospam--at)aol.com
>   To:  rbengrguy(--nospam--at)aol.com
>   Reply-To:  rbengrguy(--nospam--at)aol.com
>   Sent from the Internet (Details)
> 
> 
> 
> 
> From: Bob
> 
> 
> 
> --------------------
> St. Louis hopes bridge spans past, future success 
> --------------------
> 
> By Tim Jones
> Tribune national correspondent
> 
> July 3, 2003
> 
> ST. LOUIS -- When James Buchanan Eads started building his steel-arched bridge across the Mississippi River, Andrew Johnson was president, St. Louis was bigger than Chicago, and bridges built in this era were, in a troubling way, exciting--one of every four collapsed.
> 
> So it was not surprising that when Eads completed his ambitious engineering feat in 1874, he sent an elephant across the steel span to assure a rightfully skeptical public that the two-tiered, 1,630-foot structure was indeed safe. If an elephant, thought to be wary of uncertain footing, walked confidently across it, conventional wisdom suggested the bridge was stable. The beast did not disappoint, lumbering steadily to East St. Louis.
> 
> History will repeat itself on Friday as the 129-year-old Eads Bridge, the stately steel and granite rail link connecting the East and the emerging West through what was then the nation's fourth-largest city, reopens after a 12-year shutdown with parades, bands, politicians, a 50-cannon salute and fireworks.
> 
> But no elephant.
> 
> "We tried and tried to get an elephant, but the cost of renting one was $11,000," said Ann Chance, special events manager at the Downtown St. Louis Partnership, which is coordinating the event.
> 
> "Zoo elephants are wild, and they don't walk. They just rock," Chance said. "What if the elephant refused to walk on the bridge? With all those media people there ..."
> 
> No matter. This monument to engineering durability, opened nine years before the famous Brooklyn Bridge, has received more than $100 million in repairs. Once again the bridge is being called upon to spur economic development, much as was intended when 19th Century steamboats lined the St. Louis levee like diagonally parked cars.
> 
> "I have haunted the river every night lately, where I could get a look at the bridge by moonlight," the poet Walt Whitman wrote admiringly in 1879. "It is indeed a structure of perfection and beauty unsurpassable."
> 
> Confounding critics who questioned its structural integrity amid the dangerous swirling currents of the Mississippi, the Eads survived floods, a tornado and errant barges. When it closed in 1991, its future was questioned again. Solutions included demolition or using the structure as a platform for condominiums and a shopping mall. But the architectural vision of James Eads endured, much like the bridge itself.
> 
> With granite and sandstone columns that bring to mind a Roman aqueduct, the bridge is now viewed as a tourist draw into Laclede's Landing, the original downtown St. Louis. With rippled cobblestone streets and weathered brick buildings, the old downtown housed now-departed hardware manufacturers and candymakers. Laclede's Landing represents hopes for the city's future, be it a visit to the soaring Gateway Arch or to the bar that offers "insane drink prices" and bikini contests.
> 
> The lower tier of the bridge has been used for light rail service since 1993. The return of car traffic, on the upper tier, is to come Monday. Friday's opening to pedestrians will enable people to walk from Illinois to downtown sporting events and perhaps help revitalize a city that has been shrinking since the 1950s, when the population peaked at 856,000. Today it is home to about 350,000, roughly the same population as when the bridge opened on a sweltering July 4, 1874.
> 
> The Eads Bridge is a historical touchstone, a reminder of what St. Louis and the nation were and would no longer be. Eads, a gruff, self-taught and unorthodox engineer who built ironclad ships for the Union army during the Civil War and walked the bottom of the Mississippi in a crude diving suit to study its currents, proposed building the bridge when St. Louis was the nation's capital of steamboat trade. Railroads were rapidly gaining on the boats, and rail hub Chicago was about to overtake St. Louis as the region's trade and population center.
> 
> There was a sense among some in St. Louis that the city was destined to become the nation's capital because of the natural economic advantage of rivers, said Robert Archibald, president of the Missouri Historical Society. "Railroads changed that equation forever," he said. "St. Louis woke up to that fact quite late."
> 
> Eads recognized the economic threat from Chicago and urged the construction of an arched rail bridge made of steel. The bottom tier would handle rail traffic and the top platform carriages and pedestrians. The link was necessary to preserve the city's economy, Eads argued.
> 
> It was a bold and controversial gambit. At the time Eads presented the idea, no steel bridge existed in the world. Opposition to Eads from river interests was stiff. Eads had never built a bridge, and his plan--500-foot steel spans resting on granite piers sunk into bedrock--had never been carried out.
> 
> Seven years, $6 million and crucial, last-minute intervention by President Ulysses Grant to scuttle an effort to dismantle the bridge cleared the way for its grand opening, attended by 300,000 people. The event occurred in trademark St. Louis fashion--the temperature was 102 degrees.
> 
> "The streets were packed with one vast crowd of perspiring idiots from home and abroad," observed a reporter from the Indianapolis Journal. One hundred cannons fired, 50 on each side of the river, and the great bridge opened.
> 
> Only a year after its inaugural, however, the bridge entered bankruptcy and was auctioned off for $2 million. Even though the attempt to deliver economic dominance to St. Louis fell far short, the bridge remained an architectural landmark.
> 
> "If I stand on the East St. Louis side and look back, the only reminder of the 19th Century is that bridge," Archibald said. "The endurance of the Eads Bridge ought to be a reminder of our aspirations for the city, that this is a good place."
> 
> 
> Copyright (c) 2003, Chicago Tribune
> 
> --------------------
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> 
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