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Opening of the bridge ~ circa 1891

photo courtsey of The Parks Foundation

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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.


Materials:

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.


Supports:

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.

Use:

  • 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).

CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE

  • 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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