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Monday, June 22, 2009

BOOM! Farewell to the Lowry Avenue Bridge

The Lowry Avenue Bridge came down Sunday morning a few minutes after 9:00.

It was no accident, of course, but a planned implosion done by men and women with a taste and talent for these kinds of things.

It was all on the up-and-up.

Willie and I stood on the banks of the Mississippi River sharing a pair of binoculars.

The Lowry Avenue Bridge spanned the river for over a hundred years, linking North – a predominantly black neighborhood – and “Nordeast” – a predominantly Polish/Slavic neighborhood. My friend Bart, who grew up in Northeast Minneapolis, said that in the mid-70s the whites would stand on one side of the bridge and the blacks on the other and shout insults at each other hoping for a fight.

A joke for you, courtesy of Bart and a working-class Minneapolis neighborhood, circa 1975:
Q: What’s the fastest way to go from Poland to Africa?
A: The Lowry Avenue Bridge.

But the bridge had to go. Built in 1905, it hadn’t been worked on in any real capacity since 1958; and in 2004, one of the piers was found to have shifted 11 inches out of vertical alignment.

That doesn’t seem safe, does it?

So of course it’s not been driven on since 2008.

Today was the day of its demolition; and the full truth of the fact that light travels faster than sound was made evident as only an organic example can. One moment the bridge was there; then it was falling, smoke everywhere; and then there was the sound of dynamite: BOOM! BOOM!

And then the bridge was lying in the river looking for all the world like a dinosaur’s spinal column.

There’s another one being built, of course. And I won’t miss the old one – it had a creepy kind of grid-like surface that always made me feel that the car was shimmying – but there’s a kind of solemnity that goes with watching something so old, by Minnesota standards, anyway, go away.

You used to cross a river to link neighborhoods. Now you are about-to-be-recycled metal, linking the past to the future.

Good-bye, old bridge.


mbuna53 said...

Hey Pearl, How was the vacation?

I wish I had gotten up yesterday to watch it now.

I remember, when I was a kid, going over that bridge when the family would go to Jax for a fancy dinner. I'll miss it.

Not The Rockefellers said...

There is something about implosions that just brings out the little daredevil kid in me...

I can't miss it whenever they televise and old casino being imploded in Vegas

I would have loved to have been there...

Peace - Rene

Anonymous said...

Great post! Sad to see old landmarks go - but then, hey - change is good and necessary!

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

There is something eery yet cool about that story.

Chris@Maugeritaville said...

Did they write a song about it? All good bridges need a song.

Kavi said...

Its with bridges. People. Clothes. Cars. All else. That lasted beyond its expiry date

sometimes such implosions take the structure away & leave the memories behind!

ICKY said...

My grandfather lived in nordeast, and any time we would go to see him, we would go over that damn bridge. Scariest bridge ever. I believe it was constructed with an erector set and very little else. I mean seriously....when your sharing a bridge with 1 semi in your lane, and 2 approaching on a bridge is frightening enough, but when you can actually SEE the water THROUGH the bridge....well, that's just down right terrifying.

Beth said...

So, once they figured out the bridge had structual issues they waited four years before closing it? Wow!

Eskimo Bob said...


Ch-ch-ch-change. Just another reminder that the wheel of time keeps a movin'.

powdergirl said...

Thanks for linking me to that great post!

You described it well, the speed of light over sound is one of my favorite things, I noted it with every shot I ever took. You should witness a night blast. Totally awesome! You would want to be the light, promise!

I hear you about the nostalgia too though,
I've been contracted to take out a few blocks of rock that I really wanted to leave alone. Did a huge sub-division locally on a mountain I used to ride-horseback on. I did it under protest.

Yeah, the BOOM of thermal air blast on a cloud covered day? Gets ya right in the chest. Feels good.
Sorry, I'm going on a bit, the subject is close to my heart : D

Vic said...

I'm always a little sad to see old thing go, but this bridge sounds like it needed to be replaced.
I wonder what the new one will look like?

lizspin said...

I said a silent prayer for that bridge. . . I just wanted to let you know. . .

Anonymous said...

We are gathered here today to celebrate the life and death of a bridge.

All join hands, please.

May the spirit in the sky welcome this shitty bridge into its bretheren.

RIP Lowry Bridge...

Punch and cookies are out on the veranda. Help yourself.

Comedy Goddess said...

Too much bad energy in that old bridge I would say. Hopefully the new one will be much more PC.

KMcJoseph said...

I would love to witness something like that in person.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Ah, good-bye, old bridge: I must have seen it when I was there but I can't remember which one it was. Why didn't the Poles and the African-Americans end up killing each other? Was it a toll bridge?

Pearl said...

mbuna, vacation was all I wanted in a number days off in a row, including but not limited to margaritas, new clothes, and the Mpls Institute of Art.

Rene, what really stood out for me was the delay between the visual and the audio. SO cool.

ladyfi, that old bridge had it coming. :-D

Pseudonymous, thank you!

Chris, I've no doubt that a ditty or two have been written about that bridge!

Kavi, it's true. There are memories of this bridge -- and the plans for new one (completion date of fall of 2011) really look impressive...

Icky, seeing the water through the grid of the road never seemed to bother me, but the shimmying of the car? I always thought a crash was imminent.

Beth, yes! Do you believe that? We all stopped using it well before, though...

Eskimo Bob, ain't that the truth.

powdergirl, I thought of you when I heard the BOOM! :-)

Vic, the new one looks like back of a sailfish, but shinier.

lizspin, that bridge needed it!

Sweet Cheeks, very nicely done. :-) Save me a seat next to you while I run up for another cookie, will you? :-)

Comedy Goddess, North is trying to reclaim itself from the gunslingers that moved in in the 80s and Northeast has become less slavic and more "art". The neighborhoods don't clash like they used to, and that's a good thing.

Gadjo Dilo, very funny. :-) You know, there may have been deaths, but the stories all sounded more like fists and maybe knives were used, not guns.
They apparently didn't want to kill each other, they just wanted to hurt each other. Over and over again.

Warty Mammal said...

I always kind of feel saddened when old structures like bridges get blown up, even when they've outlived their usefulness. Still, I'll bet it was spectacular!