An early postcard looking northeast from the west side of the White River, dating from soon after the bridge completion. Later editions of this postcard pasted automobiles on the bridge and street. Note the path on the right side of the image; it probably led to the mansion that still stands just south of 16th Street.
After the great flood of 1904 (well, it was great until 1913’s flood), Marion County and Indianapolis, in cooperation with the Commercial Club, put out more than $800,000 for construction of four new bridges over the White River. The most impressive of these was the Emrichsville (or Emrichville) Bridge at 16th Street, adjacent to the south end of Riverside Park.
Pre-construction rendering of the bridge, looking south (Municipal Journal and Engineer, Dec. 1905)
H. W. Klaussmann, the county surveyor, was credited with designing this unique bridge, though it may have been someone else. J. Clyde Power, Indianapolis parks superintendent and co-owner of the Riverside Amusement Park, may have directed that the Emrichsville bridge be unusually elaborate to serve as a gateway to Riverside. While he was a recognized City Beautiful proponent for projects around the city, this one may still have been a conflict of interest.
Whoever designed it, the bridge’s unique medieval romanesque Bedford limestone towers and arch were intended to complement the nearby gateway to Riverside Park. The steel-reinforced concrete bridge was 300′ long, with a 24′ wide asphalt roadway and wide sidewalks that led into the park. The concrete bridge arches were veneered in stone and decorated with ornamented carvings and panels, including seashells and dolphins over the bridge piers. Central States Bridge Company was contracted to construct the bridge was $90,000, but the final price was $160,000.
1907 photo of the bridge from the Bass Photo Company Collection is here.
Photo from January 1912 issue of “Municipal Engineering”
Improvements to surrounding roads came soon after completion of the bridge. From the September 12, 1912 issue of “The Automobile” journal:
In keeping with a promise made the company some time ago, the city of Indianapolis is improving the Crawfordsville road from Indiana avenue to the Emrichsville bridge across Fall Creek [really the White River] in order to provide a passable highway for the Prest-O-Lite Company on the way to company’s new plant near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
A summary from the August 1912 “Municipal Journal” shows the price of this road improvement at $10-15,000.
At some point in its history, stories says that the towers were used by the Riverside Park to display their bears.
Aerial photos of the bridge, 1941, 1962. The Emrichsville bridge towers were on the northeast end of the bridge, adjacent to the then-entrance to Riverside Park. (IMAGIS)
Due in part to the continued pressure of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to improve the route from Indianapolis to Speedway for race traffic, but mostly due to the increase in traffic between downtown and the growing suburbs, the Emrichsville Bridge was replaced with a new 16th Street Bridge in 1948 and demolished in 1949.
Fortunately, owing to its picturesque design and park setting, the bridge was a favorite of postcard manufacturers, and many views of the bridge can now be found for sale on eBay and elsewhere.