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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Wells Street Bridge

Spindly and fragile, like a fantasy gateway to another era, the old span on Wells Street holds steady as trucks and cars stream across daily. All iron and pavement, it's hard to believe the frilly bridge is as sturdy as it is.

The city built an iron bridge - the first in town - across the St. Marys River on the site in 1859. While a large herd of cattle were crossing it the next year, the structure crashed into the river. The same year as the collapse, Stephen Douglas reportedly led a parade of his followers to the river banks by the bridge, where a log representing Abe Lincoln was thrown into the stream.

The iron of the first bridge still lay beneath the waters when B.J. Griswold wrote his 1917 history. Griswold neglects to say when the iron bridge was rebuilt, but the medals on the bridge proclaim it was built by the Wrought Iron Bridge Co. of Canton, O., and the persons responsible were Commissioners H. Hartman, W.H. Bryant and J. D. Gloyd, with engineer W.H. Goshorn, the same man who supervised the 1902 courthouse. Their terms coincided from 1882 to 1886.

The bridge is now the center of a controversy over its fate. The county wants to build a bridge west it. ARCH Inc., the historic preservation group, persuaded county officials to keep the bridge, either for other traffic uses or as part of a riverbank park system.

The county plans show keeping the bridge, but plans filed with the Army Corps of Engineers show it removed, leaving its future, at least temporarily, under a cloud.