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Monday, December 22, 2014
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Published: Monday, 5/12/2014 - Updated: 7 months ago

South Toledoans bid adieu to bridge

Footpath linked neighborhood

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The Curtis Street bridge, built in 1899,  is pulled down. Longtime residents say the bridge was a prominent part of their childhood. The Curtis Street bridge, built in 1899, is pulled down. Longtime residents say the bridge was a prominent part of their childhood.
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The first part of the Curtis Street bridge ripped apart by demolition crews was the last part anyone used.

No cars have driven on the bridge since 1970. But a footpath on the old bridge linked a South Toledo neighborhood together. That link was broken Sunday when, piece by piece, the bridge was torn down.

Built by a corporate ancestor of the New York Central Railroad, the bridge connects two parts of a neighborhood off the Anthony Wayne Trail near Sterling Field. Norfolk Southern Railroad, which passes under it, requested that the old steel bridge surfaced with wood planks be removed. Toledo City Council in November approved the demolition of the bridge, with the railroad covering the cost.

PHOTO GALLERY: Curtis Street bridge torn down

Nostalgia was in the air Sunday as the steel flew, as neighbors watched the bridge being tugged, pulled, and scraped by heavy equipment. Longtime residents said the bridge was a prominent part of their childhood, at least as much as a bridge can be.

Libbey High School was just blocks away, and the bridge was the path there. Kids met up on the bridge before and after school. It was a prime hangout spot for youth, day and night, yet still in view of watchful parents.

“We’d just sit there and sing,” Tamra McNeal said. She lives just a few houses from the bridge. “There’s a lot of memories.”

When council approved its demolition, city officials said the bridge was no longer needed as a school route because Libbey closed in 2010.

But residents said the bridge hadn’t lost its usefulness. It provided easy access to stores along Western. Some employees of Art Iron would traverse the bridge to and from work.

More than anything, the bridge served as a link between a neighborhood split by the tracks. Family and friends live on both sides, residents said. They’ll no longer be a short stroll away.

The north side of the neighborhood is only a few blocks, secluded from the rest of the city with just City Park Avenue as an access point. It’s a sort of neighborhood-sized cul-de-sac. The bridge gave semblance of connectivity to the rest of the city. Now, it’s gone.

Albert Stanton has a car, so the lack of a bridge is more of an inconvenience than anything else. But there are those in the neighborhood who can’t afford a vehicle or are in a wheelchair; it’ll be difficult, even dangerous, for them to use the Trail to get south, he said.

Residents hope the city will place a pedestrian bridge there, and Mike Craig, whose District 3 includes the neighborhood on both sides of the bridge, has suggested such. But city spokesman Lisa Ward said there has been no further development for a footbridge at Curtis Street, nor has any funding been set aside for it.

Not everyone mourned the bridge’s demolition. Theola Cartlidge, Ms. McNeal’s mother, has lived on Curtis Street since 1960. She never had much use for the bridge and got used to driving the couple of blocks to the Trail.

When it was open, cars would drive north on Curtis Street at high speeds, hitting the bridge too fast and occasionally going airborne, she said. Only one house sits between hers and the bridge, and that house is set back from the street. Twice, out-of-control cars hit Ms. Cartlidge’s house.

“Jeez, it was scary,” she said.

Bushes and trees grew on the dilapidated bridge. It certainly wasn’t pretty.

But it served its purpose. Residents used the bridge up until Saturday. Neighbors said there seemed to be more people on the bridge than usual, perhaps savoring one last walk along a soon-to-be-lost link.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.



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