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Sunday, March 25, 2018

A well-remembered bridge in Kerrville

The Sidney Baker Street Bridge in 1971 --
dedicated to Charles Schreiner in 1935.
Click on any image to enlarge.
Is it possible to love a bridge?
Every time I show photos of the old Highway 16 bridge in downtown Kerrville, folks say "I loved that bridge."
That bridge, a camel-backed steel truss bridge was constructed in 1935, and extended Sidney Baker Street across the Guadalupe River. It was a two-lane bridge with a pedestrian walkway.
In the mid-1970s the bridge was widened from two to five lanes, with a pedestrian sidewalk, and transformed from a truss bridge to a pre-stressed concrete girder bridge. The bridge went from 22 feet wide to 60 feet and the improvements cost around $1.1 million.
While the new improved bridge was needed and more efficient, it isn't as attractive as the old bridge. I think that's why people say they loved the old bridge.
When the original bridge was built in 1935, it was a major improvement for our community.
Before then there were crossings at Francisco Lemos Street and G Street, as well as a private crossing near the confluence of Quinlan Creek and the Guadalupe River.
The problem with all of these other bridges was that they were low water crossings, and every time the river rose they became impassable. The Highway 16 bridge extending Sidney Baker Street solved this problem for all except the most severe floods.
There is a small plaque on the current Sidney Baker Street bridge which reads "Dedicated to Captain Charles Schreiner: a pioneer in citizenship, philanthropy and highway building in the hill country." That plaque was transferred from the old 1935 bridge to the current bridge.
I suppose, with this dedicatory plaque, the real name of the bridge is the Charles Schreiner Bridge.
The current bridge still has some of the bones of the old bridge; several of the original piers were widened to support the bridge. You can tell which ones are original because the 1970s piers are shaped like a "T," with arms extending on both sides, and the old piers are not. When the steel trusses were removed, the span between piers had to be shortened, requiring new piers to be built.  The pier in the middle of the river, for example, is a new pier.
Some of the features of the old 1935 bridge were nice. The original bridge sported fancy lighting, and a more protected walkway for pedestrians. Today's sidewalk is not separated from the traffic except by a curb; the old bridge had a barrier between the two.
It also had three distinctive steel trusses through which all traffic passed. Unless my memory is wrong, the steel structure was painted silver.
There were tales of young people jumping from the old bridge into the Guadalupe River below, a risky sport considering the height of the bridge and the random arrangement of boulders below the surface of the water.
While I never jumped from the bridge, I did climb across the top of its camel-back once, after it was closed to traffic. The renovation project occurred when I was in middle school, a time in most young men's lives when common sense is not well-formed. Several of my friends and I knew the old structure was going to be dismantled and figured if we were ever going to climb across it, this would be our last chance.
Of course, we didn't tell our parents about our adventure until years later.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who thinks the new Spur 98 Bridge (Thompson Drive) at Highway 27, next to the Lakehouse Restaurant, is a much more attractive bridge. It needs a name.  This column appeared originally in the Kerrville Daily Times March 24, 2018.


4 comments:

  1. In the 50s and early 60s, the water was clear enough that from that pedestrian walkway; one could see the bottom of the lake.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for sharing this info. I remember the bridge, although I never climbed across it. I did walk across it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I KNEW ONE YOUNG MAN WHO DID JUMP OFF THE OLD BRIDGE AND LIVED TO REGRET IT. HE WAS LEFT PERMANENTLY HANDICAPPED.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for sharing this. It was a beautiful bridge indeed. The first photo, from 1971, appears to be taken from the top of the Blue Bonnet Hotel, seen in other photos. Both structures look to be landmarks of their time. I wish I'd been around to see them.

    ReplyDelete

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