Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pasadena's Iconic Colorado Street Bridge Turns 100

One of the most graceful and beautiful icons of Southern California, the Colorado Street Bridge that spans the Arroyo Seco ravine in Pasadena, celebrates its 100th birthday.  Its graceful arches and slightly curving span resemble the classic design of the Roman Aqueducts, and its history is only slightly less rich. 

Earlier bridges stretched across the seasonal Arroyo Seco river, and allowed travelers to get across even during winter rains that swell the waterway.  But the bigger problem was how to get across the ravine that stretches 500 yards across and dips 100 feet from the road level at either end.  This was a slowdown and inconvenience during the horse and buggy era, but became a major problem for the earliest automobiles that would be forced to clatter down to the ravine and climb up again at the other end. The resulting 1913 bridge was one of the first innovations in Southern California that ushered in the age of the automobile.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:

Link to article:
Colorado Street Bridge at 100:  Birth of a Pasadena Landmark

Excerpt: "The earliest bridge in the area -- J.W. Scoville's wooden trestle span, built in the late 1880s -- overcame only the first obstacle. Travelers still had to descend into the ravine, cross the bridge, and then climb the opposite bank -- a true hardship for horse-drawn vehicles, but an almost insurmountable one for the early automobiles that began using the bridge around the turn of the 20th century. So when Pasadena resolved to build a new bridge that would extend Colorado Street over the Arroyo Seco, it commissioned a structure that would cross the ravine at street level.

Based on a design by engineer Joseph Alexander Low Waddell with modifications by builder John Drake Mercereau, the Colorado Street Bridge spans 1,467½ feet with the aid of 11 arches. At its tallest, the reinforced-concrete structure soars nearly 150 feet above the streambed.

Upon its completion it was hailed as the longest and tallest bridge in Southern California. But what makes the structure's scale even more impressive are two charming quirks: a 52-degree curve in the bridge's center, and a constant 2.65 percent grade -- a result of the fact that the east bank is 30 feet higher than the west.

Construction began in July 1912 and lasted 18 months, employing 40 to 100 workers on any given day. Built with 11,000 cubic yards of concrete -- made from gravel collected from the arroyo -- and 600 tons of steel reinforcement, the bridge cost a total of $235,000.

In later years, the bridge carried the fabled Route 66 over the arroyo and transformed Colorado Street into Pasadena's main commercial corridor. To accommodate the increased auto traffic, the city widened Colorado by 28 feet between 1929 and 1930, slicing off the facades of old buildings. In 1958, it promoted Colorado Street to the status of boulevard.

But such change was still decades off when, on December 13, 1913, Pasadena residents climbed into their automobiles -- specially decorated for the occasion -- and paraded across the span, celebrating the creation of their city's most enduring visual landmark."

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