Fassett Street Bridge Collapses, 1957
Print features a Blade original photo of the bridge coming down — includes digitized authentic Blade nameplate from the original date, detail of Toledo Times newspaper page, and caption text contextualizing the event. (Customization available.)
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CAPTION TEXT ON PRINT:
The Fassett Street Bridge was designed to go over the Maumee River to connect Walbridge and South Avenues with Toledo’s east side. When completed in 1896, citizens didn’t take to the long, spindly structure.
To reassure the public, city leaders called on a horse-drawn fire wagon and a couple of city firefighters to give the bridge a “speed test.” The firefighters were told to drive the team at top speed across the bridge to see how quickly crews could reach the other side in an emergency. Their time was 125 seconds. But the test had the hidden benefit of proving to the public that the $214,000 bridge was safe to use.
During the next six decades, the bridge took a beating. Built on the narrowest part of the Maumee, it took annual poundings from heavy ice floes. In 1906, the bridge’s center span was carried away by ice. The bridge was rebuilt but only on a makeshift basis. Ice and steadily increasing traffic led to the need for more repairs in 1928 and 1933. On Sept. 30, 1935, the bridge collapsed in a high wind. Luckily no one was on it. The city floated $210,000 in bonds for repairs and the WPA added another $189,000 for a complete deck repair. A five-ton load limit was put on the bridge in 1940 and engineers recommended the bridge be shut down in 1945. But it wasn’t. The following year, the bridge was hit by a freighter and closed for two months. The bridge was knocked out of line by another boat in 1954, and was again closed for repairs.
By 1957 the city had spent $650,000, three times the original construction cost, fixing the Fassett Street Bridge. While debates raged over whether the bridge should remain or be torn down, Mother Nature and a ship made the decision an easy one.
On April 5, 1957, 80-mile-an-hour winds ripped the Champlain, an 8,700-ton lake freighter, from its nearby docks and sent it crashing into the middle of the bridge. The span collapsed, and this time there were no repairs.
BLADE ARCHIVE PHOTO | DOUG MOORE