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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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The First Bridge

The First Bridge

GRHC - December 2nd, 2009

Grand Rapids Historical Commission and the Community Media Center present the local history radio project, "Glance at the Past". Today, it's the story of the Bridge Street Bridge, Grand Rapids' first.



The Bridge St. Bridge, the first to carry vehicles across the Grand River, was built in 1845 by E. H. Turner and James Scribner. It was constructed of timber and planks set on stone foundations, and David Burnett was the master carpenter.

In 1852 the Grand Rapids Bridge Co. built a new bridge, with a shingle roof and lattice sides, that replaced the earlier one. The roadbed was sixteen feet wide and there were four-foot wide sidewalks on either side. A toll gate keeper’s residence was at the western end where Mr. Faxon, the toll collector, received one cent from foot travelers, two cents from saddle men, three cents from one-horse and four cents for two-horse vehicles. The gate keeper was especially annoyed by the young people from the east side who would stroll the bridge on moonlight evenings and turn around just as they reached the toll gate.

To avoid the toll, some vendors crossed their wagons at the head or foot of the rapids when the water level was low. A story claims that the milkman drove through the lower crossing until customers complained of finding minnows in their milk. The toll divided the east and west side and was a financial problem for several years.

The toll bridge was destroyed by fire in April of 1858. A new bridge was already in place by November of the same year at the same time that the Leonard St. Bridge was opened. When the city purchased these bridges around 1874, the toll was abolished.


Full Details

TitleThe First Bridge
KeywordsGlance at the Past, bridge, history, radio, WYCE, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission
Pubdate StringDecember 2nd, 2009

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