A First-of-a-Kind Bridge Opens in the Evergreen State

January 20, 1908

In the north-central region of the State of Washington, the first highway bridge in the United States crossing the Columbia River was officially opened. The Columbia River Bridge, which was built by the Washington Bridge Company over the course of two years, has provided an important link between the city of Wenatchee in Chelan County on the western shore and what is now the city of East Wenatchee in Douglas County on the eastern side. 

This 1,600-foot (490-meter)-long pin-connected cantilever truss structure (also known as the Old Wenatchee Bridge) opened Douglas County more fully than before to apple orchard development. The bridge was constructed with two large water pipelines along its sides to help irrigate the apple orchards in that county.  

In addition, the bridge was designed to also accommodate both automobiles and horse-drawn wagons. The first person to cross the new bridge on the day of its formal debut was longtime Wenatchee blacksmith Jack O’Connor, who used a horse-drawn wagon to get from one shore to the other. He and those people accompanying him in the wagon crossed the bridge at noon. 

The bridge quickly lived up to expectations, and in 1909 the state legislature directed the State Highway Board to purchase the structure as part of Washington’s roads system. The structure remained in full use for motor vehicle traffic until 1950, when it was replaced in this regard by the Senator George Sellar Bridge down river.

The Columbia River Bridge, which has the distinction of being the oldest steel cantilever bridge still in existence in Washington, now carries pedestrian and bicycle traffic as part of the area’s Apple Capital Recreation Loop Trail. The bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Photo Credit: Jon Roanhaus (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)  

For more information on the Columbia River Bridge (also called the Old Wenatchee Bridge), please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_River_Bridge_(Wenatchee,_Washington)

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