Photo Record

Object Name Transparency, Slide
Catalog Number 2012.025.075
Description This is an image of the Walnut Street bridge. There is no description and the photographer is unknown. The printed date on the slide is September 1968.
Construction of the bridge began in 1889 and was completed in 1891. The bridge spans the Tennessee River in Chattanooga and connected Downtown Chattanooga to the North River Community. The bridge played a vital role in the development of Southeastern Tennessee.
The bridge was designed by Edwin Thatcher a famous bridge engineer and inventor of the "Thacher Cylindrical Slide Rule". The slide rule was an analog device that was used to add and subtract the logarithms of the numbers involved in a calculation. These devices were very popular from the time of their invention in 1881 until the 1960's when electronic calculators became available. The New York Company, Keuffel & Esser manufactured the product but misspelled the inventors' name calling the item the "Thacher Cylindrical Slide Rule" for the duration of the items production.
The bridge's super structure was constructed by Smith Bridge Company of Toledo Ohio.The bridge's substructure was constructed by Neeley, Smith and Company of Chattanooga, and most of the parts for the bridge were manufactured by Manly Jail Works of Dalton, Georgia. The bridge parts were then shipped to the site by rail. A former Union officer from Ann Arbor, Michigan, William Andrew Slayton, was the stone contractor. Many of the low stone walls in North Chattanooga are made up of the remnants of stones that were cut too small for use in the piers.
The bridge is historically significant as an extremely long and old example of a certain style of bridge architecture. The main spans are pin connected Pennsylvania through truss spans. The top chord of these truss spans are configured in five sections, making the spans similar to the Camelback truss design. The bridge is also known as the first Non Military bridge across the Tennessee River. The first bridge in the area was a military bridge built in 1864 where the current Market Street bridge now stands. The military bridge came to be known as Meigs folly after the Union engineer, General Montgomery C. Meigs who designed it. The Military bridge was destroyed in the great floods of 1867.
Chattanoogan's of the time came to call the bridge the "county bridge".The bridge would connect the predominantly white city on the south side of the Tennessee River to the large black workforce on the north side ("North Shore") in Hill City, a town that was absorbed into Chattanooga in 1912.
Sadly two black men were lynched on the bridge: Alfred Blount on February 14, 1893, was hanged from the first span for allegedly attacking a white woman; and Ed Johnson on March 19, 1906, was hanged from the second span, also for allegedly attacking a white woman. Johnson's lynching initiated a court case (United States verses Shipp) that went all the way to the Supreme Court.
The bridge served pedestrian and vehicular traffic for 87 years before its age and mounting repair costs forced the city to close it in 1978. The bridge remained unused for around ten years until the Walnut Street Bridge Fund was established by Chattanooga Venture. The organization was a community planning group, that received funds to be used along with city funds to match a federal grant to restore the bridge. At the conclusion of the fund-raising campaign and following the restoration project, there remained a small surplus of funds. These funds were held in a trust account by the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga in order to provide a source for additional improvements and enhancements to the bridge. Those funds have been used for the replacement of the original plaques dedicated in the names of donors to the bridge that were damaged, vandalized or stolen.
With the launch of a new plaque campaign to replace the original plaques, the original group has been reorganized as The Parks Foundation. The foundation not only continues the original mission, but has expanded beyond the bridge to include other public parks and spaces. The restored pedestrian bridge reopened in 1993. From December 2009 to May 2010 the bridge's deteriorating asphalt surface was replaced with wood planking.
Date 1968
Print size 2.00" x 2.00"
Accession number 2012.025