In 1889, the original Lake Street Bridge opened to pedestrians and wagons, from Lake Street in Minneapolis to Marshall Avenue in St. Paul. It was the first bridge to connect the two cities over the Mississippi, and it remained in use for 100 years.
At the time it was built, the Minneapolis Tribune suggested that the wrought iron structure was a "foolish extravagance," since there were already seven bridges over the river. But it became the main streetcar route between Minneapolis and St. Paul, and as automobiles became more popular, U.S. Highway 212 was routed over the structure. The bridge eventually became one of the busiest two-lane bridges in the country.
By the 1980s, it was second oldest bridge still in use over the Mississippi and overwhelmed with traffic. Construction on a new four-lane bridge began in 1989. The plan was to allow traffic to continue flowing during the project. Two lanes of the new bridge would be built next to the old bridge, and once compete, traffic would be routed over those two lanes, and the old bridge would be removed. Then crews would complete the remaining two lanes.
Unfortunately, the project didn’t go as smoothly as planned. In a tragic accident on April 24, 1990, the falsework for the arch collapsed, and the new bridge ended up in the river, taking with it a construction crew and killing one worker. And, when it was time to take down the old bridge, demolition experts set charges, pushed the button, and after a large boom and a cloud of dust, it surprised everyone when it remained standing. A second demolition was required, with more powerful explosives, to bring the solid old bridge down a few weeks later.
When the new Lake Street Bridge finally opened in 1992, it was a magnificent structure. At 550 feet, it has the longest clear span of any bridge in St. Paul. Its graceful arches are similar in line to the old bridge, extending to each shoreline from a center pier in the middle of the river. The bridge features art deco styling, retro lighting, and wrought iron railings. And yet its design is as functional as it is decorative, with four traffic lanes and sidewalks protected by inner guardrails, from which pedestrians can marvel at an amazing view of the Mississippi River Gorge.
Reinforced Concrete Arch with Precast Concrete Girders
Howard, Needles, Tammen, and Bergendoff
Four Lanes of Lake Street/Marshall Avenue
Since 1999, the Lake Street Bridge has been a gathering place for peace. Protesters have held vigil against war every Wednesday, through freezing cold weather, snow, rain, and oppressive heat. They have never missed a single Wednesday.