The Toledo area has had its share of detours resulting from bridge repair, with the Anthony Wayne Bridge currently getting an 18-month face lift. It is a hassle, but nothing like the issues that plagued the Fassett Street Bridge, designed to go over the Maumee River to connect Walbridge and South Avenues with Toledo’s east side.
When the Fassett Street Bridge was completed in 1896 citizens didn’t take to the long, spindly structure right away. To reassure the public, city leaders called on a horse-drawn fire wagon and a couple of city firefighters and asked them to give the bridge a “speed test.” The two firefighters were told to drive the team at top speed across the bridge to see how quickly crews could reach the other side in an emergency. Their time was 125 seconds. But the test had the hidden benefit of proving to the public that the $214,000 bridge was safe to use.
During the next six decades, the bridge took a beating. Built on the narrowest part of the Maumee, it took annual poundings from heavy ice floes. In 1906, the bridge’s center span was carried away by ice. The bridge was rebuilt, but only on a makeshift basis. Ice and steadily increasing traffic led to the need for more repairs in 1928 and 1933.
On Sept. 30, 1935, the bridge collapsed in a high wind. Luckily no one was on it. The city floated $210,000 in bonds for repairs and the WPA added another $189,000 for a complete deck repair.
A five-ton load limit was put on the bridge in 1940 and engineers recommended the bridge be shut down in 1945. But it wasn’t. The following year, the bridge was hit by a freighter and closed for two months. The bridge was knocked out of line by another boat in 1954, and was again closed for repairs.
By 1957 the city had spent $650,000, three times the original construction cost, fixing the Fassett Street Bridge. While debates raged over whether the bridge should remain or be torn down, Mother Nature and a ship made the decision an easy one.
On April 5, 1957, 80-mile-an-hour winds ripped the Champlain, an 8,700-ton lake freighter, from its nearby docks and sent it crashing into the middle of the bridge. The span collapsed, and this time there were no repairs. This photo was taken on April 8, 1957 by Blade photographer Doug Moore.
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