For generations it helped people cross the Clear Fork of the Trinity River, taking East Siders to, for example, Montgomery Ward or Farrington Field or the Chevy plant or the Bowie Theater, taking West Siders to Leonard’s Department Store or Stripling’s or the Worth Theater or the Westbrook Hotel. In 2013 the ninety-nine-year-old West 7th Street Bridge was torn down and replaced by a new bridge.
The new bridge is thirty feet wider than the old bridge, has lanes for vehicular traffic in the center and sidewalks for pedestrians and bicyclists on the sides.
The twelve concrete-and-steel arches of the new bridge, each weighing three hundred tons, were cast and stored at a construction area northwest of the old bridge.
The new bridge, like the old bridge, officially is named the “Van Zandt Viaduct” in honor of civic leader and banker Major Khleber Miller Van Zandt, who owned land stretching from the river west to today’s Will Rogers complex and who in the 1880s built the first bridge at the site. (Before he built his bridge he once had to throw the combination to his bank’s safe over the river so that a depositor could make a withdrawal.)
Van Zandt’s bridge of the 1880s was replaced in 1890 as Arlington Heights was developed and streetcar service to Lake Como trolley park began along Arlington Heights Boulevard (West 7th Street today) to “the city.” This clip from the Fort Worth Gazette says the 1890 bridge would be ready before the Spring Palace exhibition opened.
After the 1890 West 7th Street Bridge was damaged in the flood of 1908 its deck was refloored with oak planks.
In 1911 the Star-Telegram published a drawing of the proposed viaduct over the Clear Fork at West 7th Street. Because the eastern approach of the bridge on the downtown bluff is higher than the western approach at Trinity Park, the new viaduct, like the 1939 Lancaster Avenue Bridge, had to be long enough to allow a gentle slope between east and west.
Plans for the 1914 West 7th Street Bridge were approved in August 1912 as Fort Worth went on a bridge binge.
According to this Star-Telegram clip, the bridge opened on January 15, 1914.
Old postcards show the bridge’s east end. The top postcard shows a streetcar.
Arches old and new during the transition.
Before the new bridge was built, you could see a slight trough where the original channel flowed under the main arch of the old bridge. The arch, similar to those of the Paddock Viaduct and the Henderson Street Bridge (1930), was part of the 1914 construction on the east side of the 1954 river channel.
Yellow line shows the bend of the original river channel under the main arch before 1954.
New piers and beams built in 1954 to extend the old bridge over the 1954 channel.
Rust in peace, old bridge. Maybe your replacement will make it to one hundred.