Oxbow Bridge over Duwamish River is completed in 1911.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 8/25/2001
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 3509
In 1911, the Oxbow Bridge over the Duwamish River on 1st Avenue S at S Michigan Street is completed. The low-level swing span is one of the first three permanent steel bridges in Seattle and is a joint project by Seattle, King County, and a real estate company. It replaces a wood structure built in the 1890s. In 1916, the bridge will be altered and shifted to accommodate the newly rechanneled river.

The location was originally called Oxbow Crossing because of a meander in the river. The oxbow disappeared when the Duwamish Waterway was dug in the 1910s. The strong current and saltwater organisms attacked the pilings of the new bridge, causing engineers constant trouble. The drawbridge mechanism was replaced in 1929.

A single bridge tender living near the bridge handled the openings for that bridge and the 8th Avenue S Bridge. He would close one bridge after letting a ship through and then ride his bicycle along a path to the other bridge to open it. On one occasion, a house floated downstream. It was unoccupied and unidentified. The operator dutifully opened his bridge to allow passage.

By 1953, industrial development along the Duwamish Waterway rendered the bridge obsolete. It was replaced by a bascule-type bridge in 1956.

Sources: Myra L. Phelps, Public Works in Seattle: A Narrative History, The Seattle Engineering Department 1875-1975, (Seattle: Seattle Engineering Department, 1975), 35, 36, 49, 51.

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