Monday, March 18, 2013

The First West 7th Street Bridge: Who Owned It?

Fort Worth is about ready to start on what may well be a spectacular grand entrance to the downtown and Sundance Square with the replacement of the 100 year old West 7th Street bridge or viaduct. There is considerable speculation and excitement about connecting the revitalized 7th Street and Camp Bowie areas with what may well be an architectural showpiece.

1907 Official Fort Worth Map - Clear Fork- 7th Street Clip <Click to enlarge>
Back 100+ years ago, the need to replace a rickety bridge that had been built back in the 1880's by Major K. M. Van Zandt as a way to get to his land across the Clear Fork was getting critical. Arlington Heights was growing and clamoring for a better bridge.  There were two streetcar lines using the bridge by 1903 and pieces were periodically falling off unexpectedly.  However there were some problems:

10-07-1899 FW Morning Register - City Council Meeting
As early as 1899 the question of who owned Van Zandt's original Clear Fork bridge was being considered. In spite of the recommendation that the city buy the bridge and clear its title, apparently nothing happened for a number of years.

Things dawdled along and the Van Zandt bridge became more of a bottleneck. Still, the ownership question wasn't settled.  The Star-Telegram had a long but whimsical summary of the situation in a 1907 article:

06-27-1907 Fort Worth Star Telegram

By 1911 the 7th Street bridge and the old North Main "Iron" bridge that had been built in the early 1890's were both becoming an issue.  The Fort Worth city fathers, Tarrant County and the businessmen and citizens were getting in a mood to finally spend some money.  In 1911 this rendering was floated out for consideration:

04-16-1911 Fort Worth Star Telegram <Click to enlarge>
The reaction was good. The bridge ball was in play for both a new 7th Street viaduct and a North Main replacement which was to become the Paddock Viaduct.  Bonds were voted and plans were drawn up.  In its way, the Van Zandt Viaduct would be almost as spectacular as the North Main bridge.

Draft Plan - 08-14-1912 Fort Worth Star Telegram - <Click to enlarge>

Late in 1913, construction was finished and the new West 7th Street bridge which was wider and longer and stronger and built to resist the Clear Fork floods was done.  It looked pretty much like the draft plan:

In the spirit of both parsimony and conservation, the old bridge, which does not seem to have ever had a picture or drawing published, was toted off and apparently used elsewhere on the Clear Fork.

The graceful and practical bridge aged well.  The river bed was changed under it several times and additions were made to accommodate all that, but it carried the pedestrians, the wagons, the buggy's, the streetcars, the cars, the buses, the trucks and everything else until its time was up.  A hundred+ years of good service.

We can only hope that the new bridge will do as well..


  1. I sure do miss the 7th Street Pig Stand

    1. It was about gone when I moved to the FW area in 1971