Images courtesy FL State Archives
In 2006, the City of Tampa designated six bridges as part of the Historic Bridges on the Hillsborough River Multiple Properties Group: the Lafayette Street (Kennedy Boulevard) Bridge, the Platt Street Bridge, the Cass Street Bridge, the Michigan Avenue (Columbus Drive) Bridge, the Fortune Street (Laurel Street) Bridge, and the T. N. Henderson (Hillsborough Avenue) Bridge.
The earliest of these bridges were constructed in the late nineteenth century, with the Lafayette Street (Kennedy Boulevard) Bridge connecting Tampa’s suburbs and the Fortune Street (Laurel Street) Bridge connecting the City of West Tampa to downtown Tampa. The Lafayette Street (Kennedy Boulevard) Bridge is the oldest rolling leaf bascule span bridge in the state of Florida. The Fortune Street (Laurel Street) Bridge was designed as a trunnion bascule bridge with counterweights uniquely positioned over the single leaf bridge deck.
As Tampa’s population swelled during the Land Boom of the 1920s, the double leaf trunnion bascule Platt Street and Cass Street Bridges and the bob-tailed swing Michigan Avenue (Columbus Drive) Bridge were constructed. The all-steel vertical lift T. N. Henderson (Hillsborough Avenue) Bridge was constructed in 1939.
The City recently finished repainting and performing structural maintenance on the Cass Street Bridge. The $1.7 million structural maintenance work included the replacement of sections of corroded and degraded steel girders and the refurbishment of the bridge mechanics.
The Platt Street and Michigan Avenue (Columbus Drive) Bridge are slated to undergo structural and aesthetic rehabilitation this year. These two bridges are maintained by Hillsborough County; however, as local landmarks designated by the City of Tampa, all modifications to these bridges are reviewed by the City’s Architectural Review Commission. The $8.7 million rehabilitation work on the Michigan Avenue (Columbus Drive) Bridge will include the replacement of the tender house with a historically accurate building; the addition of 14 historically accurate lighting fixtures; and the replacement of the concrete barrier with historically appropriate railings. The $10.8 million Platt Street Bridge rehabilitation will include repairs to the mechanical and electrical systems and to the corroded structural steel.
These six bridges all were evaluated as part of the survey of Historic Highway Bridges of Florida, and were considered eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) as part of this survey. However, the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) has only evaluated three of these historic resources as potentially eligible for listing in the NRHP: Lafayette Street (Kennedy Boulevard) Bridge, Platt Street Bridge, and the Cass Street Bridge.
In addition to these six bridges, the Florida SHPO has stated that the 1959 Brorein Street Bridge may be eligible for listing in the NRHP as an example of a mid-century bridge funded as part of the City of Tampa’s $20 million Public Improvement Program.