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The 1913 Van Buren Bridge on Highway 34 at Corvallis, is my favorite bridge. It is the oldest of the only two remaining swing span bridges in Oregon, and a rare example of an obsolete pin-connected movable span truss bridge in Oregon. The bridge is now a single lane, one way bridge across the Willamette River eastbound from the north end of downtown Corvallis.
The swing span operated by muscle power. When steamboats needed to pass the span, a large key – that resembled a huge old-fashioned roller skate key – was inserted in the deck mechanism. Six burly individual were recruited from the nearby warehouse district, and three on a side, turned the key in a circle, allowing the central portion of the bridge to swing on its central pier, opening the bridge to allow steamboats to pass through.
Originally, Benton County provided most of the funding for the Van Buren Bridge, with smaller contributions by Linn County, private citizens of Linn County, the City of Corvallis, and one contractor. Importantly, the first women's vote in Benton County was a bond election to underwrite the costs of bridge construction.
The Van Buren Bridge last opened for river traffic on October 5, 1960. Today it still serves auto-traffic and in the future, it will provide a bike/pedestrian link from the current Riverfront Park on the west side of the Willamette River to city parks on the east side.
posted 2 years, 10 months ago
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