The Point Street Bridge(s)

In a manner of speaking, there is no Point Street Bridge because there have been three iterations of the span since 1872. These are often referred to as the first, second, and third bridges. Fair enough. But because the second bridge was really just an updating of the first bridge, I like to call them Bridge A, Bridge B, and … wait for it, Bridge C.

I freely admit I am being almost inexcusably annoying on this point (pause). In any case, they are the Point Street “Bridges.”

Point Street Bridge A

From Cushing & Walling Map, 1849

Prior to 1872, the southern section of the Providence River was crossed by several ferries. Crossings were frequent but not conducive to commercial traffic as industry on both sides of the river was very active. A swing span bridge was constructed in 1872, “swing span” indicating that the center section would pivot to allow shipping to pass. A giant pivot mechanism was sunk into the middle of the river, like the center of a lazy-Suzan, and then the center span of the bridge was floated over the pivot during high-tide. As the tide went out the bridge was lowered onto the pivot. The center section was a bow-spring design, as were the shore spans on either side, so the profile of the bridge was one large bow with two smaller bows to the left and right.

Center span of the 1872 bridge.
Rare photograph of Bridge A (1872 bridge) pivoting to allow a ship to pass. Taken from the western river bank south of the bridge.
The eastern shore span on Bridge A.

Point Street Bridge B

In 1907, after 35 years in operation, the bow-spring shore spans were replaced and the length of the center section was increased by 35 feet. The 1907 version of the bridge (B) can be identified by the absence of a bow structures on the shore spans.

Bridge B, without bows on shore spans.
Bridge B opening for a ship to pass.
Looking east over Bridge B, the 1907 update.
Bridge B from the south just prior to construction of Bridge C.

Point Street Bridge C

In 1927, the entire bridge was replaced with the bridge we know today. The design is a “Warren Through Truss,” that balances push and pull stresses. The swing span remained in operation for 30 years, swinging open for the last time in 1959 as the river closed to commercial traffic with construction of the hurricane barrier, which started in 1960.

Bridge C being floated out over the pivot mechanism at high tide.
Installation of Bridge C, 1927, Narragansett Electric Light building in the background.
Bridge C from the north, probably late 1930’s.
Bridge C from the east with Schlitz factory in foreground.
View from Downtown with new freeway bridge (at the time) where the pedestrian bridge is today.
All photos except this one are from the Providence Public Library online digital collection. This photo is mine. The photo at the top is Bridge C not long after construction was completed in 1927.

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