I was in South Bend over the long weekend. I went for a drive one afternoon and wound up following Northside Blvd. its entire length along the St. Joseph River. I hadn’t driven that way in more than 20 years, back when I didn’t have enough experience to appreciate what the city had to offer. If I noticed these beautiful bridges at all in my youth, I took them for granted. Driving along with a more discerning and appreciative eye this weekend, I was blown away by how beautiful the Ironwood Dr. and Twyckenham Dr. bridges are. So the next morning I took my youngest son along for a return trip.

We searched for a way to get close to the 1940 Ironwood Dr. bridge, but had no luck. We settled for this long shot.

Ironwood Drive bridge

The Twyckenham Dr. bridge was ready for us, though, with a neighboring parking lot and easy shore access.

Twyckenham Drive bridge

This bridge was built in 1929 and renovated in about 1982. I have memories of a crumbling concrete railing that did not survive the renovation, but at least the obelisk-like pedestals atop each pier did. The bridge extends over Northside Blvd.; this photo from there gives a good look at the metal railing that emerged from the renovation.

Twyckenham Drive bridge

The water reflected beautifully off the concrete arches that morning. I climbed up inside the bridge a little bit to to get an inside look at the bridge’s structure and see the reflected water too.

Twyckenham Drive bridge

While I was busy looking at arches and railings, my son’s Wii-trained eye quickly found this old-school Mario painted onto the abutment.

Mario on the Twyckenham Dr. bridge

Where the Grand Trunk Western line crosses the river, the railroad built a bridge in 1938 that lifted the tracks over the Lincoln Highway, the river, and Northside Blvd. So many railroad bridges are just rusted steel, but Grand Trunk poured a concrete skin over the portions that spanned the roads and painted their name on each side. The white-on-black lettering on those spans form a classic South Bend scene that’s as much a part of the city’s identity as the East Race or the empty Studebaker plant. In the distance is the plain, modern steel bridge that sweeps Sample St. over the river to Eddy St. It is so not worthy.

Grand Trunk Western

My bridge thirst not quite slaked, we drove downtown to my favorite bridge in South Bend, which carries Michigan St. over the river. I’ve always called it the Leeper Park bridge, but I guess officially it’s the Michigan St. bridge.

Leeper Park bridge

Designed in the style of the City Beautiful movement, this ornate bridge was built in 1914. It is five lanes wide, which is remarkable when you consider that even the best highways were two lanes of gravel then. This shot is from the river’s south shore facing west.

Leeper Park bridge

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6 responses to “South Bend bridges”

  1. Ryan Avatar

    That was quite a tour! You can’t beat that shot of the bridge reflecting into water, great shot! I really like the last bridge, especially the street light. And 5 lanes, they must have been planning for the future.
    The railroad bridge is also really cool. We have something similar in a town called Bellaire, Oh. which is just across the Ohio River.

  2. Jim Avatar

    Thanks, Ryan! Those lights on the bridge are reproductions installed last year; the originals disappeared from the bridge probably before I was born. This bridge was the subject of many, many postcards. If you do an eBay search on “leeper park,” there are usually a couple postcards of the bridge with the original lights.

  3. hoosier reborn Avatar
    hoosier reborn

    sweet pictures. you’re taunting me to do my own bridge post from river city!

  4. Jim Avatar

    HR, consider yourself further taunted!

  5. Rick Keller Avatar
    Rick Keller

    Three men died in 1981 while restoring the Twykenham bridge.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh wow, I didn’t remember that. I was in middle school then, so perhaps I wasn’t paying attention.

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