Change is inescapable for the old viaduct
Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 23, 2002
Several years ago, I was attending a conference, and the speaker asked the audience, &uot;What are the three things that we can count on in this world?&uot; The usual responses were given, and then he said, &uot;I believe that the three things are birth, death, and change.
Saturday, February 23, 2002
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Several years ago, I was attending a conference, and the speaker asked the audience, &uot;What are the three things that we can count on in this world?&uot; The usual responses were given, and then he said, &uot;I believe that the three things are birth, death, and change.&uot; He then went on to explain his reasons.
I’ve never been able to argue with his logic. As much as I love the city of Albert Lea as it appeared in the 1950s, I know that change must occur. As beautiful as I believe the old architecture is, I know that everyone does not agree. And, even though I believe that the extra costs of restoration are worth it and the end result is classic beauty, I know that everyone does not agree with that theory either.
With that in mind, I need to do a testimonial to the viaduct.
A June 18, 1934, article in The Evening Tribune begins, &uot;Albert Lea, in this present period of the world depression, is admitted to be about the most active spot in this section of the middle west. And an encouraging thing is that from now on until snow flies, and perhaps later, the activity will become even greater.
&uot;The chief reason for this unusual stir is the extensive paving projects (The creosote bricks in the downtown area were being paved over during the same year. This is a great story. We’ll do it in another column.) and the building of the huge viaduct across the Union railroad station yards connecting up the new routing of Highway No 16 – better known in southern Minnesota as Highway No. 9.&uot;
A May 22, 1934, article in The Evening Tribune states, &uot;The construction of the viaduct is a larger job than the paving in Albert Lea. It will require about 75 skilled and 70 unskilled men to fill the following positions: one superintendent; four foremen; 34 carpenters; 16 iron workers; 10 painters; three gunite operators; six engineers; six concrete finishers; and 70 unskilled workers.
These men must be hired through the local National Reemployment Office located in the Home Investment Building.&uot; (My mother called it the Home Investment Building, I call it the Hyde Building, and current area residents call it the Lea Center.)
The June 18, 1934, article continues: &uot;The viaduct on West Main street must be done by December first, next, – according to contract. The painting of the steel parts of the bridge must be completed by June first ( 1935?). A. Guthrie has agreed to furnish all material and the construction work for this bridge for the sum of $141,826. It is to be more than 700 feet in length.
The east end of the bridge will begin at the brow of the hill in the center of the block that lies just west of Main Street, ending over the railroad tracks to a point west, approximately 700 feet.
&uot;Fred Bohn of St. Paul is the superintendent of this job for A. Guthrie.
&uot;To give you some idea of the hugeness of this project, we investigated and found that 4,500 barrels of cement will be used for the concrete – more than a hundred carloads. There will be 313,000 pounds of reinforcement steel in the structure and more than 700,000 pounds of structural steel.
&uot;Today a sixty-five foot pile driver is driving down what is known as ‘test’ pilings. These pilings are 50 feet in length. When the tests are made, and the engineers know just what the sub-soil is, more than 400 of these long piles will be driven. These piles are driven into the soil 10 or 12 feet below the surface. The piles are really the sub-foundation for the pillars of the bridge to rest on. On top of these piles will be poured heavy, reinforced concrete. This concrete and the long piles will furnish the actual base or foundation for the concrete supports of the bridge.
&uot;The Tribune representative also learned that the piles used have been heavily soaked in creosote. The piles were placed in retorts and filled with creosote and under heat and pressure became thoroughly saturated with this preservative liquid. ‘How long will these pilings last,’ was one of the questions put by the Tribune man to one of Guthrie’s men. He stated that piles, soaked with creosote and driven into sloughs during Caesar’s reign, around 2,000 years ago are being found today still intact and in the best of condition. So no one need worry about these 50-foot pilings under the supporting concrete of this new viaduct, becoming defective enough to cause the condemnation of the bridge.&uot;
As we watch the viaduct removal, life moves on. Change is inescapable. I only hope that the new viaduct will bring the beauty to the city and safety to its users that the one did that was built in 1934.
Bev Jackson is executive director of the Freeborn County Historical Museum.