The Monroe Street Bridge

Date of Establishment & General History

The Monroe St Bridge stands as a time-tested landmark for the city of Spokane, as the third bridge to break the raging currents of the river below and ferry people across. Its first construction in 1888 was funded by the City of Spokane, Cable Railway Company, and a few private investors along Monroe Street. It was wooden built and meant to keep horse-drawn wagons and carts moving swiftly on their way as the town grew. As times progressed the city needed a more modern bridge. In 1890 the new Monroe St Bridge was fully constructed of steel and became the beacon of modernism. With its over-head lighting and doubled-tracked streetcar accommodations, this bridge was a marvel to behold at the turn of the century. However, the steel bridge was deemed unsafe due to the heavy vibrations and its over-whelming mass in 1905. To add to the growing concern of the bridge, in 1907 the Ringling Brothers refused to walk their elephants across the “shaky span”. Then the final blow to the pride of the steel bridge a mudslide causing the south side to collapse, leaving the City of Spokane in need of a new bridge yet again. As Spokane saw multiple bridges collapsing and failing across the city, the town officials called in the most celebrated architects to design the new grand Monroe St Bridge. In 1911 the citizens of Spokane celebrated having the world’s largest concrete arch-bridge for that time. As well as being the visual landmark for the City of Spokane, this bridge truly gave the town a drivable bridge.

Name & Location

The Monroe Street Bridge is a major landmark for the town as well as Washington folklore and history.  It is also sometimes known as the Bison Skull Bridge because of the “lost Shine treasure” which was a bison skull cast that was for the original bridge. The bridge stretches across the Spokane River, which cuts through the middle of the town give or take some feet. Spokane was named after the native Spokane Tribe who raged bloody battles against the first American settlers. These dragged out to be very long battles and costly on both sides, but eventually, the settlers won and broke ground to build this historic town.

August 3, 1911 During construction.

Physical Description

The Monroe St Bridge is constructed over a gorge at is 140-ft deep by 1,500- ft wide and plagued with severe windstorms, high water levels, and deathly currents. After 1914 the bridge sported the marring of beauty and structure when a railroad bridge was built right on the top. Named the Great Northern railroad bridge, sat happily above passer-byes until its removal for Expo 74. Aside from the removal of the railroad bridge and reconstruction from 2003 to 2005, the bridge still looks very much the same as the original 1911 build. The concrete behemoth stands towering over crossers, with unconventionally pale ornaments. Adorned with decorative bison skull casts, wagon wheels, and chain handrails this giant shines on the towns pioneering history. The bison we see today are reconstructions of the original replaced in the 1990s due to structural failures. It’s rumored that Patrick Shine brought one of the originals to his home, but after selling the properly the beloved treasure vanished. Thus, creating another legend surrounding this bridge.

Origin

The true origin of the reported figures of Monroe St Bridge is hard to nail down and track, as the history is filled with chaos and disaster. We do know that there were at least three deaths in the early construction years of the bridge, as well as a general numbered of workers hurt. This bridge also seems to be a beacon for suicidal tragedy, as its height and dangerous river below attract the possibility of jumpers. This is a dark, sad, and tragic portion of the history that was hard to discover.  Needless to say, pinpointing which shadowy figure was which is a rather hard and depressing task.

Mythology and Lore

The bridge’s oldest spirits are of the construction worker that died in the original wooden building of the bridge. He is rumored to have extremely old-timey clothing and often asks where the natives have gone. He is also known to throw himself off the bridge if approach, and vanish before hitting the water. In the 1900s two workers also died and over fifty were badly injured, these men are also possible worker-like spirits to be reported walking the bridge.

According to the town’s medical reports, between 2006 and 2018 Monroe St Bridge averaged 204 deaths per year due to suicides from jumping off into the river. Out of the 13 deaths 9 were reported to be caught on tape or camera, as well as the many attempts to jump. The police receive on average 20 calls a year to respond to jump attempts, and now have a task force devoted to just this bridge. Many of the shadowy figures that seem to pop up here are there are attributed to these cases.


Index
  • Haunted Rooms America – Spokane, WA
  • Spokane Historical – Monroe Street Bridge
  • Atlas Obscure – Monroe Street Bridge Bison Skull


Is there anything we missed about Monroe Street Bridge? Let us know in the comments section below!

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