Bridge L9329 on Lake Harriet Blvd over railroad tracks
Bridge number: L9329
Year built: 1905
Engineer: Charles A. Shepley
Contractor: Minneapolis Street Railway Company
Overall length: 42 feet
Overall width: 53.1 feet
Adapted from the National Register of Historic Places nomination form prepared by Robert M. Frame III. The Queen Avenue Bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.
The Queen Avenue Bridge is located in south Minneapolis, Minnesota, where it carries West Lake Harriet Boulevard over the restored street railway right-of-way and track of the Minnesota Transportation Museum. East of the bridge is Lake Harriet and city park land. The remainder of the area around the bridge is residential. Originally, the bridge carried Park Boulevard at its junction with Queen Avenue and was within city park lands.
Aligned on a northwest-southeast axis, the Queen Avenue Bridge is single-span, reinforced concrete, filled-spandrel, skew-barrel-arch bridge. The bridge has an overall structure length of 42 feet with a span length of 40.5 feet. The bridge has an out-out width of 53.1 feet, carrying a 43-foot roadway and a single 6-foot sidewalk on the southwest side. It has U-type abutments and concrete buttresses that parallel the centerline of the span and extend 12 feet beyond the abutment wall. The spring line of the arch is 10 feet above rail-top. The vertical clearance is 9.5 feet.
According to the original bridge plans, the Queen Avenue Bridge has a reinforcing system using longitudinal bars along the intrados and extrados, with shear bars between them. Stylistically, the Queen Avenue Bridge is designed in the Classical Revival mode. It has defined and panelled abutment pilasters and arch ring, with inset panels on the spandrel and abutment walls. The buttress tops follow an ornate, classical curve. The railings are filled-panel concrete slabs with end posts; intermediate posts are extensions of the abutment pilasters. The bridge retains complete design integrity although the extended buttresses have suffered some damage.
The Queen Avenue Bridge is historically significant as an extremely early example of a reinforced concrete arch bridge in Minnesota. Built in 1905, it is Minnesota's third oldest known extant reinforced concrete arch bridge with a documented construction date. The bridge survives with complete design integrity as judged against the original plans.
The Queen Avenue Bridge was planned to replace an inadequate wooden bridge that was built between 1883 and 1887. When the question of financing the new bridge arose in 1904, there was a conflict between the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners, who controlled the surrounding property, and the Minneapolis Street Railway Company, who controlled the tracks. The Park Board attorney determined that the railway company was responsible for conforming to the boulevard grade as set by the city and had either to build a bridge or raise its tracks. According to Park Board attorney's report in the Proceedings of the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners for 1904, "The proper course for the board, is to prepare plans and specifications for a suitable bridge, to notify the company to proceed at once with the construction of a bridge upon such plans and specifications." The board decided to proceed with mutually agreed upon plans, to split all costs with the railway company and that either party could initiate a suit to determine the final financial and maintenance responsibilities. A suit against the Minneapolis Street Railway Company was commenced in 1908 to recover $4,375, the amount paid by the city for the bridge. In 1910, the suit was decided in favor of the city, but was appealed by the railway company to the State Supreme Court where the decision was affirmed.
According to information on the original plans of the bridge, they were prepared in December, 1904, by Charles R. Shepley, a Minneapolis civil engineer. The bridge construction appears to have been handled by the street railway company, since park board proceedings indicate scheduled payments to the railway and not to a contractor. Work was completed in 1905 and a photograph of the Queen Avenue Bridge was featured with the Superintendent's Report in the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners, 23rd Annual Report of 1905 which stated that "at Lake Harriet the principal improvement was the building of a bridge over the tracks of the Street Railway Company, at the upper drive."