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WSB Opening 1891.jpg

Opening of the bridge ~ circa 1891

photo courtsey of The Parks Foundation


About the Bridge

The Walnut Street Bridge in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a prominent historical landmark and a fine example of a truss bridge. It has a significant place in the history of Chattanooga and continues to be an important part of the city's landscape.

Construction and Design:

  • The Walnut Street Bridge was constructed in 1890.

  • The bridge was designed by the noted bridge architect Edwin Thacher for the Smith Bridge Company of Toledo, Ohio.

  • It spans the Tennessee River, connecting the north shore of Chattanooga to the city's downtown.

  • The bridge utilizes a particular kind of truss system known as a Pennsylvania (Petit) truss, characterized by a combination of small and large diagonal braces, creating a series of triangles.

  • The Pennsylvania truss is a sub-type of the Pratt truss, used for longer spans where additional strength is required.


The Walnut Street Bridge was primarily constructed with steel, a typical material for bridges of this period due to its strength and durability.

Using steel also allowed for the creation of the slender, elegant profiles characteristic of truss bridges.


The bridge's supports, or piers, were likely made from reinforced concrete or stone masonry, providing a solid foundation for the steel truss superstructure.
These piers are positioned in the Tennessee River to offer the necessary support to the lengthy span of the bridge.


  • Initially, the bridge served as a connector for horse-drawn wagons and pedestrians.

  • Later on, it accommodated motor vehicle traffic as well.

  • It was a vital transportation route, enhancing connectivity and economic activity in the region.

Closure and Renovation:

  • The bridge was closed to motor vehicle traffic in 1978 due to concerns about its structural integrity.

  • It sat unused for many years and was threatened with demolition.

  • However, in the 1990s, there was a concerted community effort to preserve and repurpose the bridge.

  • After significant renovation, the Walnut Street Bridge was reopened in 1993 as a pedestrian bridge.

Present Day:

  • It's a popular destination for both locals and tourists, offering spectacular views of the Tennessee River and the Chattanooga skyline.

  • The bridge is also used for various events and festivals in Chattanooga.

  • The Walnut Street Bridge is one of the world's longest pedestrian bridges at 2,376 feet (724 meters or almost 1/2 mile).


  • The Walnut Street Bridge is not just a functional structure but also a symbol of Chattanooga's historical development and the city's commitment to preserving its heritage.

  • It serves as a reminder of the city's past, its growth over the years, and the importance of the Tennessee River in the development of Chattanooga.

  • The bridge’s rehabilitation from a dilapidated state to a beautiful pedestrian bridge symbolizes community effort and the rejuvenation of downtown Chattanooga.

The Walnut Street Bridge stands as a beacon of Chattanooga's rich history, its community spirit, and its commitment to preserving historical landmarks for future generations. It contributes to the city's cultural, social, and economic life, making it a cherished icon of Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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