Primary tabs


The St. Louis and Illinois Bridge — Its Influence Upon St. Louis.


The bridge will cross the Mississippi from near the foot of Washington avenue to the dyke on the Illinois shore. The breadth and central position of Washington avenue, the narrowness of the river at this point, and the height of the banks, give this locality the highest advantages of situation. The distance between the extreme piers will be 1,584 feet, but the length of the bridge, including the stone approaches, will be about 3,700 feet. The bridge will cross the rivet on three arches. The central span will be 515 feet between abutments, and the other two will be 497


feet each. The piers will rest upon the solid rock which underlies the bed of the river. No other foundation would be secure against the action of the currents. Of the two central piers, one will be 170 feet high, and the other 195 feet. At the bass the piers will be about 100 feet by 50; at the spring of the arches 87˝ feet by 37˝, and at the top 75 feet by 25 feet. The piers will be faced with Eastern granite. The erection of these piers will be a vast and arduous work. To construct immense coffer dams in the middle of a rapid and powerful stream, to excavate the earth at the bed of the river to a depth of 50 or 80 feet, and to build towers of solid masonry nearly 200 feet high, will test the utmost resources of modern engineering. The stone for the construction of the piers will be procured from the quarries at Grafton, 111. These quarries lie on the bank of the Mississippi, 40 miles above St. Louis. A contract has been made for about 200,000 tons of atone. The material is a compact and durable limestone. The superstructure will be supported by arches of cast steel. Each span will be composed of four arches, placed side by side, with a lateral interval of 12˝ feet between the arches. Each arch will consist of two steel ribs, one above the other, with a vertical distance of seven feet between them. Both arches and ribs will be strengthened with diagonal braces of wrought iron and crucible east steel.

The height from the spring line to the crown of the central arch will be 5l˝ feet, and the height of the other two arches will be 47⅚ feet. The width of the superstructure will be 52 feet — from railing to railing, 50 feet. On each side of the bridge there will be a raised footway seven feet wide. A Nicolson pavement 3G feet in width will afford ample room for carriages, and a double track for street cars will furnish passengers with additional facilities for crossing. The railroad bridge will be directly underneath the carriage way. Its distance from the upper works, to which it will be attached, will be 16 feet. Two tracks, each having a double gauge of 6 feet and 4 feet 8˝ inches, will accommodate all the railroads that converge at this point. The weight of the bridge will be three tons per lineal foot, and its capacity of sustaining burdens four tons per foot. The bridge will be 50 feet above high water, but at the ordinary stage of the river it will be from 60 to 75 feet above the water. The city directrix very nearly corresponds with the curbstone at the corner of the levee and Market street. In 1844 the river rose 7.58 feet above the directrix; and in 1863 it fell 33.81 feet below the directrix. This is the extreme range of high and low water. The ordinary difference of level is less than one-half of this amount. The bridge will cross each levee on five stone arches, each arch having a span of 28 feet. On each side of the river there will be at the outward end of the stone work


a spacious and elegant toll-house, containing the offices of the company. On the west side of the bridge the railway will enter a tunnel at Third street, extend under Washington avenue as far as Ninth street, thence curving broadly to Olive street, pass along under Eleventh street till it emerges in the bed of the old Chouteau pond. On this spot it is proposed to erect a grand central station for all the railroads that intersect or terminate at this point. The average height of the tunnel will be 20 feet, its width 24 feet, and its length about 5,000 feet. The mean depth of the tunnel below the surface will be 25 feet, and the height of the base above the city directrix 33 feet. Two tracks, each having a double guage, will be laid in the tunnel. The estimated cost of the bridge and its approaches, including incidental expenses, is:

Arches $1,665,639 00
Piers and Abutments 1,387,163 60
Approaches 457,568 00
Tunnel 668,292 00
Land 705,736 00
Ten percent, for contingencies 488,439 86
Grand total $5,372,838 46

These were the original estimates. Later changes in the plan of the structure will probably reduce the aggregate to $5,000,000.

The company act under special charters, granted by the States of Missouri and Illinois. Their franchises are liberal and ample.

The time allotted for the completion of the bridge is three years. The initial labor is already begun. The coffer dam for the western pier is finished, and the excavations for the foundation are far advanced. The work will be prosecuted with untiring energy. Under favorable conditions of climate and river, active operations will be unremitting. The architect of this bridge has undertaken a task of rare difficulty. He has, boldly attempted the solution of original problems in civil engineering. The successful erection of the proposed structure would justly enroll its author among the great engineers of all times. There is not now in the world an arch of 500 feet span. Yet men of practical skill and scientific eminence assert the feasibility of arches of 1,000 feet. This experiment will determine whether such an immense distance between piers is consistent with stability and economy in this style of bridge architecture. For the first time in the history of bridge-building, the chief material of a great structure will be steel. Our neighboring mountains of iron invest St. Louis with supreme facilities for using this kind of material. Crucible cast-steel, which, it is alleged, is belter for resisting compression than steel made by the Bessemer process, will be used in the construction this bridge. The greater strength of steel will permit the erection of less ponderous arches. Such structure would possess the twofold advantage


of greatest resistance and least weight. If the actual equals the ideal, the work will indeed be beautiful. Light and airy, the bridge will yet be strong and durable. This colossal structure, spanning the most majestic river on the continent, will bear upon its arches the freight of an inter-oceanic trade. The massive piers will stand in these Mediterranean waters like Atlantean giants, upholding with their sinews of steel the burden of a world's commerce.

The necessity for this bridge is urgent and national. In 1866 the number of passengers who crossed the Mississippi at this point was nearly 500,000, and the amount of freight transported by our ferries during the same year was more than 1,000,000 tons. The transit across the river at St. Louis is now enormous and rapidly increasing. If built with economy and managed with prudence, the bridge cannot fail to be a profitable investment. In the movement of products and the distribution of merchandise, a vast amount of freight will inevitably cross this bridge and enrich its stockholders. New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore are deeply interested in the success of this undertaking. The great trunk lines of travel will cross the continent on the parallel of St. Louis. Economy of Lime is the supreme demand of commerce. The shortest distance and the least obstruction are the conditions which will determine the route of the main highway to the Pacific. A straight line from Philadelphia to San Francisco passes very near St. Louis. In the mild climate of this southern latitude, the snow which barricades the northern routes will-oppose no serious obstacle. The constantly increasing and almost insuperable difficulties which would attend such an undertaking at any lower point on the river, render it extremely probable that no bridge will ever cross the Mississippi below St. Louis. Hence the great cities of the Atlantic frontier should be vitally interested in the erection of a bridge, which, lying virtually upon their own parallel and at the lowest available point on the Mississippi, will afford them the most direct, east obstructed, and only unbroken southern route to the Pacific.

The construction of this bridge will be a great benefit to St. Louis. It will give employment to a large number of workmen, attract artisans from other cities, develop engineering talent, stimulate the growth of our iron factories, and convert our quarries into populous workshops. After its election, the abundance of accessible material and the cheapness of transportation may inaugurate the establishment of various manufactories at this distributing centre of the West, and invigorate the whole industrial commercial life of the city. Any interruption of communication with East St. Louis occasions a serious loss to this metropolis. Ice sometimes wholly obstructs the passage of our ferries. The delay of merchandise involves loss, yet the injury affects a class that is competent to sustain


it. But the detention of coal has at times raised the price of fuel five-fold; and, in this case, the hardship oppresses a class that is ill able to bear it. The heavy assessments which these ice blockades levy upon the necessities of the poor sometimes cause general distress. The bridge will obviate these difficulties. It is estimated that the avoidance of these detentions, and the reduction in the rates of transportation which the competition between the bridge and the ferries will insure, will be an annual saving to St. Louis of more than $1,000,000.

This bridge is another guarantee of the metropolitan supremacy of St. Louis. Its construction will again attract the attention of capitalists to the rare opportunities for investment which this city and State present. Fresh impulses now quicken the popular life. A new spirit of industrial enterprise animates the commonwealth. New works of public improvement are undertaken. The Southwest Pacific Railroad will doubtless be extended from the Gasconade River to the rich lead mines at Granby. The Iron Mountain railway will soon connect with the Southern system of railroads at Belmont. The North Missouri, now rapidly approaching the State line, will al an early day enjoy an unbroken railway communication with St. Paul. The work upon the western extension of the North Missouri, from Moberly through Brunswick to Kansas City, is now actively progressing. Two branches connecting with Omaha — one running from Brunswick via Chillicothe, and the other starting from Kansas City and following the valley of the Missouri river, will be built within a few years. This winter the Union Pacific Company will attempt to obtain Congressional permission to change the location of their road. Starting from Pond Creek, they wish to extend their line to San Francisco by the way of New Mexico and Southern California. The obvious superiority of this route will doubtless induce Congress to confer the requisite authority and land grants. The work will then be prosecuted with ceaseless energy. This vast system of public, improvements, of which St. Louis is the centre, offers to capitalists safe and profitable investments for their idle millions. St.Louis enjoys unrivalled advantages for manufacturing. Reasons of commanding importance urge Eastern and foreign manufacturers to establish their factories in the vicinity of this metropolis. Illimitable quantities of coal, iron, lead, plastic clay and saccharoidal sand are found at our very threshold. Recently an addition, perhaps important, has been made to our long list of mineral resources. Tin has been found in a neighboring county in quantities sufficient to encourage the hope that another source of public wealth has been discovered. Vast quantities of mineral coal are found within 70 miles of St. Louis. The comparative freedom of this coal from sulphur justifies the belief that it can be used, without coking, for smelting iron ore. Experiments are now in progress


to determine this important question. But the probability of a successful solution borders on certainty. The blacksmiths of St. Louis are beginning to use this raw coal in their forges. It gives an intense heat, and is practically free from sulphur. The success of this experiment will affect the iron interests of the world. The immediate vicinity of the raw materials — ore, coal, limestone for flux, and refractory sandstone for furnaces — and this new faculty for the cheap conversion of our mountains of ore into iron, constitute advantages that will compel St. Louis to assume a commanding position in the manufacture of iron. If our iron mills were equal to our deposits of ore, this metropolis would be the greatest machine-shop on the face of the globe. All that St. Louis lacks in order to become the manufacturing centre of the continent is capital and skilled labor. It possesses a rare combination of advantages. It has a great variety of the most important raw material, an exhaustless source of motive power, and unequalled facilities for the distribution of the manufactured products. Consider for a moment the extent of the market. There is no conclusive reason why St. Louis should not send its wares in every direction throughout the Mississippi valley. But if we restrict the market for our fabrics to the west side of the Mississippi, the field is still immense. An area of more than 500,000 square miles lying west of St. Louis is naturally tributary to this mart. Regions which a quarter of century ago were trackless solitudes, whose silence the invasive football of a white man had rarely broken, are to-day populous States with well ordered governments. The discovery and lure of gold have built upon the slopes of the Rocky Mountains villages and cities, which already begin to bear the appearance and the fruits of an older civilization. The future development of this region will be incomparably more rapid than the paSt. The millions who will soon people this vast domain will be geographically dependent upon the markets of this emporium. The Pacific Railroad will strengthen this natural allegiance to the Queen City of the WeSt. Hence the near abundance of raw material and motive power, the large demand for domestic products, and the facilities for their cheap distribution, the natural dependence of a vast territory upon this market, and the mercantile convenience of the valley and Mountains, unmistakably point out St. Louis as the manufacturing centre the continent. St. Louis should be the industrial as well as commercial sovereign of the Mississippi valley, aided by capital and the practical skill of European artisans, our city will yet achieve manufacturing supremacy.

The prospects of St. Louis are now grand and exhilarating. Its advantages of geographical position are peerless. Located in that clime which has in all ages been the zone of highest development and civilization


in the centre of a valley of exhaustless fertility, which embraces more than one million square miles — on a river which traverses the continent, and, together with its tributaries, affords more than 16,000 miles of water carriage; on a railroad which will soon stretch from ocean to ocean, and perhaps become the highway of travel between Europe and the Orient, at the intersection of these two great thoroughfares, which will in the near future transport a larger " inland commerce" than the world has yet seen. St. Louis, thus situated, enjoys a matchless supremacy of natural advantages. A metropolitan greatness is within the easy reach of St. Louis, but only enterprise can grasp it. Thus far, this city has perhaps relied too much upon the favorable accidents of position. Hereafter it can only maintain its ascendancy by sagacious and tireless effort. In other localities, energy has created great cities in defiance of natural obstacles — here it has only to avail itself of physical advantages to develop St. Louis with a rapidity of progress that shall defy competition.

In the achievement of the splendid destiny of St. Louis, our great bridge will render efficient service. It will have no peers but its own. If completed on the grand scale of the present plan, it will be at once a work of national utility and a noble triumph of civil engineering. Such a structure will be monumental — it will perpetuate the names of its builders.

In classic times the building of a bridge was a sacred undertaking. The beginning of the work was consecrated with pontifical rites and liturgies, and the completion was solemnized with stately pomp and ceremony.

Let this bridge be a votive offering to national unity and material prosperity. Let litanies for civil peace and paeans for this conquest of nature be chanted. Let ovations of the useful arts commemorate this trophy of mechanical triumph. Let festive processions and industrial pageants celebrate the inauguration. Let this new bond of union between Missouri and Illinois bind the East and the West in the indissoluble ties of common interests and genuine brotherhood.


1. Written at the Invitation of the Executive Committee of the Social Science Association.