single frame: Leeper Bridge

Bridge over the St. Joseph River at Leeper Park

Leeper Bridge
Kodak EasyShare Z730

Of all the bridges I’ve documented, this is one of my top favorites. It carries Michigan Street, former US 31, over the St. Joseph River in South Bend. Built in 1914, its 56-foot-wide deck was unusually broad in its day. Even today it carries two lanes of traffic in each direction, which certainly helped it survive. Starting in 1917, it carried State Road 1; in 1926 it began to carry US 31. A great deal of traffic passed over this bridge over the years. Had it been able to carry only one lane of traffic in each direction, it would have been insufficient and would have been replaced long ago. Even though US 31 was rerouted onto a bypass of the city many years ago, this road remains a highway as State Road 933 today. It carries about 31,000 vehicles each day.

Bridge standards evolve over time, and today this bridge’s 56-foot-wide deck is considered intolerable for that volume of traffic. I’m sure it survives primarily because it is in fair condition overall, according to its last inspection. I hope it gets good maintenance so it can keep serving, because it’s a beautiful bridge. Many excellent views are available in Leeper Park, which hugs the south bank of the river here on both sides of the bridge.

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9 responses to “single frame: Leeper Bridge”

  1. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Your pictures of South Bend always look so great…I’ve met more than a few “Benders” living in Indianapolis that wished they could move back, and were only in Indianapolis for the work (and would go back there to visit family often)…makes me want to take a trip there when the pandemic is over…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I felt that way for a long time. I loved living in South Bend and always sort of hoped I could make my way back. But the last few times I was there, I was disappointed in how the city is decaying.

  2. Lone Primate Avatar
    Lone Primate

    Beautiful bridge. Unfortunate name. ;)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Funny, I don’t even think about that — Leeper is just a historic South Bend name!

  3. brandib1977 Avatar

    That’s an extraordinary bridge! I keep making a note that I need to visit South Bend. So many places to go, so little time!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Life is long – you’ll get there!

      1. brandib1977 Avatar

        I hope you’re right! I’ve been contemplating a trip that would take me to Indiana Dunes via Fairmount for the James Dean/Garfield stuff. It would fit in on that road trip.

  4. NigelH Avatar

    That is a nice bridge; very reminiscent of the bridges in southern England. A beautiful day too by the look of it

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      South Bend has its lovely points! It’s also a post-industrial city with all of the decay that implies.

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