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Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015

The Emerson Bridge: Five years later

Posted Thursday, December 11, 2008, at 12:15 PM

My favorite photo of the Emerson Bridge, taken just after an April thunderstorm rolled through during sunset.
This Saturday will mark the fifth anniversary of the opening of the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge. It doesn't seem like five years, but the ribbon was cut on Dec. 13, 2003.

Needless to say, crossing the new bridge is a completely different experience than crossing the old traffic bridge. Rumors circulated that the old rusting hulk was held together with duct tape and bailing wire. That's not quite true: it was actually held together with chains. And it was missing some parts:

Seeing daylight through the bridge deck is not usually a good sign. There was also a missing diagonal girder underneath the bridge.

This amusing graffiti from underneath the old bridge called it the "Bridge O' Death."

Despite the structural problems, the clipped mirrors, and the frequent traffic jams, the old bridge had a certain charm that was lost when the Emerson Bridge opened. As I've written in the past, the 1927 bridge was ahead of its time for engineering techniques.

On the day that the Emerson Bridge opened, I couldn't resist the temptation to walk across the old bridge to get some parting shots. Construction workers looked at me funny but didn't seem to mind.

As someone interested in historic preservation, the demolition process was hard to watch, but it did produce one of the most memorable sights in Cape Girardeau history:

The Emerson Bridge was lined with cars as people leaned over to see the aftermath of the demolition that took out more than the engineers had bargained for.

After the new bridge opened, it was possible to drive down to the Illinois shore using an access road from the levee. Since then, fences and a locked gate have been erected to keep people away (with limited success).

It's a shame, really, because the Illinois shore next to the Emerson Bridge could make for a wonderful park, with a full view of the bridge and the Cape Girardeau riverfront.

Illinois and East Cape are really missing the boat on this one.

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Holy Cow! I just read the blog blurb.

YOU maintain www.bridgehunter.com ?!?!

I have to tip my virtual hat to you. I've always liked that site. I didn't realize that I had just tried to send you to your own site.

I'll have to find some way to send you some video of my dad blowing a bridge over Black River after he built a new one.

-- Posted by Ken1 on Sat, Dec 13, 2008, at 3:39 PM


I had missed your earlier post on the Cape Bridge. Nice job on both of them.

Here are some resources you may find helpful:

http://www.bridgehunter.com/ is a site with info about historic bridges all over the country. There are a lot of them, including the old Cape Bridge, in SEMO.

Bridges are the kind of thing we never notice when we're hurtling down the road, so it's nice to have a chance to catch up on the history of them.

http://oldcapebridge.com/ has live webcams of the bridge and river. The site also has Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record photos and engineering blueprints on it. (When it first loads, it comes up with yellow type that's hard to read. Give it a minute and the picture of the bridge will come up and the page is easier to read.)

And, I'll be self-serving enough to post this link to some riverfront pix I posted when I passed through town this fall.


-- Posted by Ken1 on Sat, Dec 13, 2008, at 10:00 AM

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The webmaster of seMissourian.com and its sister newspapers, James Baughn has lost track of the number of websites he manages. On the side, he maintains even more sites, including Bridgehunter.com, LandmarkHunter.com, TheCapeRock.com, and Humorix.
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