150 Boise Icons: Oregon Trail Memorial Bridge

February 17, 2013 

The span pays homage to Oregon Trail pioneers who crossed the Boise River at this spot (near Boise State University at Capitol Boulevard) on their way west.

In the 1920s, city leaders envisioned the bridge as a key part of the grand axis that connects the Capitol Building and the Boise Depot. Getting the bridge built took some time. Voters failed to pass a construction bond in 1927. Federal relief dollars paid for its completion in 1931.

One hundred men worked 16-hour days for 200 straight days to build the art deco bridge before high-water season, according to the Idaho Heritage Trust. The design included bronze plaques and ceramic tiles made by Works Progress Administration artists. The tiles, in warm, muted tones typical of the era, picture pioneer wagons and Western landscapes.

At its completion, the Statesman described the new bridge in glowing terms as a "masterful work of art" with "glistening white concrete sides that reflect the sun's rays."

The city and Ada County Highway District have wanted to restore that glow for many years, said Terri Schorzman, director at Boise's Arts and History Department.

Good news for bridge lovers: Renovation will begin this spring, with the city, ACHD, Public Works and the Idaho Heritage Trust all pitching in.

The makeover will include paint and light fixtures, tile and bronze repairs, restoration of the bridge's original light poles and more.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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