Three bridges re­ceive pro­tec­tion

Home - Santa Fe Real Estate Guide - - SOTHEBY'S INTERNATIONAL REALITY - By Paul Wei­de­man

ON OCT. 28, THE CITY’S HIS­TORIC DIS­TRICTS RE­VIEW BOARD ACTED QUICKLY ON A TRIO OF PRO­POS­ALS FROM THE OLD SANTA FE AS­SO­CI­A­TION. The H-Board des­ig­nated three down­town bridges as his­tor­i­cally “sig­nif­i­cant,” the high­est level of pro­tec­tion af­ter the “land­mark” sta­tus that is held by just a few struc­tures such as Rosario Chapel and the Gross Kelly Ware­house. Newly des­ig­nated are the 1934Don Gas­par Bridge and the 1928 Del­gado Street Bridge over the Santa Fe River, and the 1920 Bridge of the Hi­dal­gos over the Ar­royo Mas­caras.

“This move of ours was meant as a proac­tive move to place the bridges un­der en­hanced pro­tec­tion in or­der to be a step ahead of [Santa Fe’s Depart­ment of] Public Works, should they be de­sirous in the fu­ture of de­mo­li­tion and widen­ing, as was the case with the De­fouri Street Bridge,” said OSFA board mem­ber John Eddy.

The H-Board was pre­sented with a His­toric Cul­tural Prop­erty In­ven­tory for each bridge. The re­ports, by ar­chi­tec­tural his­to­rian John W. Mur­phey, First Light Con­sult­ing, are full of fas­ci­nat­ing de­tail, a frac­tion of which is pre­sented here.

The prece­dents of the Don Gas­par Bridge/El Puente de Los Con­quis­ta­dores in­clude a wooden span and then a stone arch bridge that was con­structed ef­fi­ciently in 1902 us­ing con­vict la­bor. It was ad­e­quate un­til traf­fic from both res­i­dents and tourists in the late 1920s be­gan to over­whelm its nar­row road­way. Af­ter crews re­moved the old, stone bridge, they put up spe­cial “crib­bing” form­work along the outer edge of the span­drel walls, as­sem­bled an in­tri­cate frame of re­in­forced steel, then poured the con­crete floor.

The bridge’s con­struc­tion was re­lated to a New Deal pro­gram to im­prove mu­nic­i­pal trans­porta­tion dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion. It was built with a wide road­way to re­lieve con­ges­tion at the Col­lege Street — now Old Santa Fe Trail — in­ter­sec­tion a block or two east. (That width, and its de- signed abil­ity to carry a 15-ton live load, are rea­sons why the bridge has served the city well for more than 80 years.)

The bridge, of rigid-frame de­sign, was sup­posed to har­mo­nize “with the Span­ish type of ar­chi­tec­ture pe­cu­liar to this vicin­ity.” Mur­phey said the para­pet or rail­ing was de­signed by ar­chi­tect Trent Thomas (who also worked with Isaac Rapp on La Fonda and with Car­los Vierra on the artist’s own house in the sec­ond decade of the 20th cen­tury). “Even though it doesn’t look like much to the un­e­d­u­cated eye, it’s kind of im­por­tant be­cause it might be the only Span­ish Pue­blo Re­vival bridge,” he said with a laugh. “It’s quite heavy and para­pet like, like a Span­ish-Pue­blo build­ing; it just doesn’t have win­dows.”

A let­ter to the state high­way en­gi­neer from the jour­nal En­gi­neer­ing News-Record praised the bridge as “one of the best ex­am­ples of in­dige­nous ar­chi­tec­ture that has come to our at­ten­tion.” Mur­phey wrote that the bridge “con­tin­ued to play an im­por­tant role as the gate­way be­tween the old down­town and the evolv­ing capitol dis­trict and au­to­mo­bile sub­urbs south of the river.” He added that all Santa Fe bridges since “are of the grace­ful rigid-frame de­sign, prov­ing the per­ma­nence and in­flu­ence of New Mex­ico’s first rigid-frame bridge.”

The story of the Del­gado Street Bridge be­gins with a re­port of a Septem­ber 1904 flood that swept away sev­eral Santa Fe River bridges, in­clud­ing one at Del­gado Street. It would be nearly a quar­ter of a cen­tury be­fore the Santa Fe County gov­ern­ment found the funds, and sum­moned the mo­ti­va­tion, to re­place it. Mur­phey de­tails the ups and downs of its plan­ning, but a new bridge be­came more of a pri­or­ity in the midst of the city’s pop­u­la­tion dou­bling be­tween 1910 and 1930.

A con­crete deck-girder de­sign was cho­sen. Un­like ear­lier bridges over the river, this type “per­mit­ted an un­sup­ported span, free of a pier that could catch de­bris dur­ing flood­ing. The se­lected hand rail­ing was a sturdy post-and-rail de­sign. Sig­ni­fy­ing the ur­ban am­bi­tion of the pro­gram, the posts and rails were en­hanced with re­cessed stamped pan­els and cham­fered edges. Fol­low­ing the aes­thetic of ur­ban bridges of the pe­riod, the rail­ing con­tin­ued be­yond the deck, trac­ing the radii of the wing­walls to cre­ate a gate­way-like ap­proach.”

The Del­gado Street Bridge is the city’s old­est sur­viv­ing ve­hic­u­lar span over the Santa Fe River.

The third struc­ture hon­ored by the H-Board is the one most res­i­dents

would prob­a­bly think of first as be­ing his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant: the Bridge of the Hi­dal­gos at the north­ern end of Grant Av­enue. It was built to pro­vide a di­rect and ef­fi­cient con­nec­tion from the cen­tral city to the high­way to Taos and other ar­eas of north­ern Santa Fe County. City en­gi­neer Wal­ter G. Tur­ley was the con­struc­tion su­per­vi­sor on the project. In an ar­ti­cle pub­lished in Con­crete High­way Mag­a­zine, Tur­ley “at­tempted to equate the mod­ern use of con­crete to the his­toric use of adobe plas­ter… This con­nec­tion be­tween old and new ma­te­ri­als was man­i­fested in the rough, plas­ter-like con­crete coat­ing of the Bridge of the Hi­dal­gos and the rounded el­e­ments of the heavy posts,” Mur­phy wrote.

The bridge type is con­crete bow­string truss (also known as “rain­bow arch”). The splen­didly dec­o­ra­tive form peaked in pop­u­lar­ity a fewyears af­ter the Santa Fe bridge was fin­ished in 1920, but not too long af­ter­ward fell out of fa­vor as “too costly in its con­struc­tion, due to the large amount of steel needed to re­in­force the curved and ver­ti­cal mem­bers of the arch.”

It is an in­ter­est­ing co­in­ci­dence that the bridge had its cer­e­mo­nial open­ing dur­ing the city’s an­nual Fi­esta, serv­ing as a cross­ing for a grand pa­rade march­ing from the Santa Fe Plaza to the ded­i­ca­tion of the Cross of the Mar­tyrs on Paseo de la Cuma— and both the cross and the new bridge were con­structed by the Mid­land Bridge Com­pany of Kansas City, Mis­souri.

Mur­phey did all three bridge re­ports this sum­mer. Now an in­de­pen­dent ar­chi­tec­tural his­to­rian and con­sul­tant, his re­sumé in­cludes work for the Texas His­tor­i­cal Com­mis­sion (1997-2000), New Mex­ico His­toric Preser­va­tion Di­vi­sion (2000-2008), Na­tional Park Ser­vice (20092011), and the City of Santa Fe His­toric Preser­va­tion Di­vi­sion (2011-2014).

“The Old Santa Fe As­so­ci­a­tion hired me to do a Na­tional Reg­is­ter nom­i­na­tion for the Del­gado Street bridge, so thought I might as well throw in, pro bono, forms for the other two bridges as well,” he told Home. “My per­sonal in­ter­est is that they have al­ways been ig­nored, even though they’re quite im­por­tant.”


The Don Gas­par Bridge

The Bridge of the Hi­dal­gos

The Del­gado Street Bridge

A de­tail of the con­crete bow­string truss bridge on Grant Av­enue

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