The Eads Bridge was St. Louis’ first span across the Mississippi and the first structural steel bridge in the world.

Amazing civic moment

Monday June 30, 2014

By Explore St. Louis Guest

The Eads Bridge is so much a part of the St. Louis riverfront landscape that it’s easy to overlook the fact that this 140-year-old, still-operating structure is historic and, indeed, a national treasure.

While a new kid on the block -- the “Stan Span,” a stunning new cable stay bridge across the Mississippi River -- is grabbing a lot of attention on the St. Louis riverfront, another downtown bridge continues to be an eye-catcher. In fact, the Eads Bridge, a stunning, historic bridge is a U. S. National Landmark.

Many people looking at the low-slung Eads Bridge with its graceful arches reaching across the fabled Mississippi don’t realize the bridge’s history and the story of the remarkable man who built it.

They may be surprised to learn the bridge opened on July 4, 1874, and at the time it was a crucial major link carrying goods from the East to the American West.  Today, some 140 years later, the Eads Bridge is still carrying MetroLink trains on its upper deck and vehicular traffic on its lower deck.

Visitors may be surprised to learn how many “firsts” this bridge achieved when it was built. Among them it is:

  • The first bridge across the Mississippi River
  • The first bridge in the world to be built with steel as a structural material
  • The first bridge built exclusively with canitlever support methods
  • One of the first bridges built with pneumatic caissons

In addition, at the time it was built, the Eads Bridge was the longest arched bridge in the world --more than 6,400 feet long.

To understand the bridge’s significance, it’s important to remember what St. Louis -- and our country -- was like during those early years.

Insider’s tip: Visit James Eads’ star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame in the Loop neighborhood.

Guest Blogger Kathie Sutin a freelance writer from St. Louis, Missouri contributed to this blog.