Deja Kablooey: Bridge Work Spans a Century

These days Fort Worth is getting more bridge work than a punch-drunk boxer: bridges being imploded (Weatherford Street), bridges being built (Clearfork, Hulen, West 7th Street), bridges being planned (two bridges for North Riverside Drive, three for the bypass channel of Trinity Uptown). Whew. But Cowtown goes on a bridge binge every century or so. In 1913 Fort Worth had just finished building one bridge over the Trinity River and was working on four more.

These photos from a full-page spread in a Star-Telegram of 1913 show Fort Worth’s bridge projects. Just completed was the 12th Street (Northside Drive today) Bridge. Under construction were the Paddock Viaduct, the Samuels Avenue Bridge, the West 7th Street Bridge, and the East 4th Street Bridge. Total cost for all five: $600,000, the Paddock Viaduct accounting for half that total.

The cost of building a bridge is not only in dollars.

The five bridge projects encountered the usual construction delays. For example, the Paddock Viaduct was not formally opened until July 3, 1914. Ten thousand people gathered to witness parades, speeches, fireworks. In a gesture of cross-river unity, at a signal an automobile carrying dignitaries from the south side of the river drove north over the bridge, and an automobile carrying dignitaries from the north side of the river drove south over the bridge, both cars passing through “a rope of carnations and evergreen” that was stretched across the middle of the bridge.

Miss Loma Burton, a young woman who had been chosen to be the “sponsor” of the bridge, lifted a purple-and-white-draped bottle of Trinity River water, smashed the bottle against the pavement of the bridge, and proclaimed, “I christen thee ‘Paddock.’”

(Four years later Loma Burton’s older sister Nenetta would marry Amon Carter.)

Civic leader and bridge namesake Captain B. B. Paddock (1844-1922), then seventy years old, spoke briefly and humbly to the crowd, saying that he appreciated the honor and that he hoped that in the remaining years of his life, “there should be nothing which would cause regret that the name had been chosen.”

The powers-that-be are to be commended for keeping the Trinity Trails under the Clearfork, Hulen, and West 7th Street bridges open during construction. It can’t be easy to run a hard-hat zone when it’s shared with spandexed (in some cases Dockers relaxed-fit) gawkers.

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