Downtown 1958

Downtown 1958

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

First Butte des Morts Bridge?

This hand-drawn map reflects some interesting facts about our fair city.  It not only shows the location of the first house as described a few weeks back in our look at former school board members, but it also shows the first bridge over Little Lake Butte des Morts.  “In 1853, the first bridge across Lake Butte des Morts was built, giving direct communication with the farming country to the west. This bridge was replaced by a float bridge with a draw, in 1856, and in 1861, a pile bridge was constructed, which is still standing but for the past two or three years has been impassable." -Harney's History of Winnebago County p. 219.
This bridge was the impetus for initial retail development at Main and Tayco Streets.  Its demise helped quell development in that area and it never really recovered the way the city's founders had hoped.  A national municipal engineering journal in 1911 gave hope to a new bridge.  It reported that "Plans are being made for reconstruction of a foot bridge across Little lake Butte des Morts, connecting Menasha with farming country.  It is planned to procure state and county aid in construction of the bridge."  But to my knowledge, this never went beyond the planning stage as reported, and no new bridge was in the offing until the 441 span was completed in 1975. 
map courtesy of Prairie, Pines, and People: Winnebago County in a New Perspective, edited by James I. Metz, 1976, Oshkosh Northwestern press.

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