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Sunday
Apr152018

The Pier in the River

Article by Michael Rainville, Jr.

Mill City Times photo from 2014, taken shortly after a number of blocks fell into the river.Many people who enjoy the Minneapolis riverfront throughout the seasons have more than likely noticed an old stone pier jutting out of the river, but what’s the story behind it? Every year, more bricks seem to fall into the river, and it is only a matter of time before the Mighty Mississippi erases all memory of this mysterious pier.

Going back to the early years of Minneapolis, in 1855 when the Hennepin Avenue Bridge became the first permanent crossing to go over the entire Mississippi, the needs of the city were met. However, the city was quickly growing, and when Minneapolis unified with St. Anthony, it became clear that more river crossings were necessary. One of the new bridges that was to be built would become the 10th Avenue Bridge. It connected 6th Avenue SE to 10th Avenue S. Since there is currently a 10th Avenue Bridge just downstream, I will be calling this bridge the Old 10th Avenue Bridge for the sake of this article.

The Old 10th Avenue Bridge from 1906

A painting of a similar view by Arnold Ness Klagstad from 1937

In 1874, the short-lived Kansas branch of the King Bridge Company completed the Old 10th Avenue Bridge. It consisted of a two lane 1,100-foot-long iron deck truss on top of five stone piers, and served pedestrians, carts and wagons for about sixteen years. In 1890, the Twin City Rapid Company installed a street car line on the bridge, which just happened to be a stone’s throw away from the spot where their new steam power plant would be built only thirteen years later. Since it was an iron bridge and not a much stronger and sturdier steel bridge, it did not exactly provide the safest experience when crossing the river. Once automobiles found their way to the area, they were also allowed to cross the bridge, and only a couple decades later, in 1934, the bridge was closed for good.

World War II saw a great need for raw materials, so the unused bridge ended up being torn down for scrap in 1943. During its almost seventy-year existence, the Old 10th Avenue Bridge was a daunting sight that connected the east side of the Minneapolis riverfront to the west side. While it might not have been the safest bridge, it saw Minneapolis grow from carts and wagons to street cars and automobiles. It served as an important river crossing for the city and eventually contributed to the U.S.’s war effort. Nowadays, it’s hard to picture the bridge in its heyday, but the lone stone pier in the river acts as a gateway into its once boisterous life. Let’s just hope we can all cherish the pier while it lasts.

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About Michael Rainville, Jr.

A 6th generation Minneapolitan, Michael Rainville Jr. received his B.A. in History from the University of St. Thomas, and is currently enrolled in their M.A. in Art History and Certificate in Museum Studies programs.

Michael is also a lead guide at Mobile Entertainment LLC, giving Segway tours of the Minneapolis riverfront for 5+ years.

He can be reached at mrainvillejr@comcast.net.

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