The 6th Street Bridge at Shoal Creek: A Historic Treasure

May 7, 2014  | By Shoal Creek Conservancy

West 6th Street Bridge, Shoal Creek, Austin, Texas by Ted Lee Eubanks
West 6th Street Bridge, Shoal Creek, Austin, Texas by Ted Lee Eubanks

 

Did you know that the West 6th Street Bridge over Shoal Creek is older than the Texas State Capitol Building?

Built in 1887, this historic bridge is one of the state’s oldest masonry arches and located at the site of the first bridge in Austin, which opened up the area west of the city to development. It continues to serves as a major east-west transportation artery for motorists, walkers and cyclists.

The Shoal Creek Conservancy is committed to restoring this significant landmark by registering it with the National Register of Historic Places and the City of Austin, restoring the stonework, installing lighting, enhancing the immediate area with landscaping, and addressing ongoing graffiti and other maintenance needs.

An Important First Step
On Saturday, May 17, the Texas Historical Commission State Board of Review will consider an application for the nomination of the Sixth Street Bridge at Shoal Creek for the National Register of Historic Places. This nomination is a critical component of the Conservancy’s project to protect and restore the bridge. If recommended, the nomination will be consider by the National Park Service for listing in the coming months.

Listing in the National Register provides national recognition of a property’s historical or architectural significance and denotes that it is worthy of preservation. Along with the City’s historic designation, this designation will assist with the Conservancy’s efforts to raise funds for its restoration.

More About the Bridge – Expert from the Nomination Application
The 1887 West Sixth Street Bridge (historically known as Pecan Street Bridge) is a three-arch masonry bridge spanning Shoal Creek approximately one-half mile west of the intersection of Sixth Street and Congress Avenue.In reversal of the usual pattern of short-span bridge replacement with factory-made truss bridges, this hand-built structure replaced an earlier iron bowstring arch.

Its wide street dimension conforms to the width of the streets originally determined by Edwin Waller’s 1839 city plan, which allowed for the passage of wagons going in either direction, and also facilitated the installation of tracks for mule-drawn streetcars, which were first used in Austin in 1875.

South Elevation of West 6th Street Bridge at Shoal Creek, From HAER

 

The bridge retains a high degree of integrity and is an excellent example of a multiple-arch masonry bridge built with local materials to carry vehicular traffic. The bridge also reflects the establishment of ambitiously wide arterial streets in the City of Austin in the mid-19th century, as well as the city’s substantial investment in road infrastructure to encourage expansion beyond the original city plat.

This bridge is one of the state’s oldest masonry arches, is located at the site of the first bridge in Austin, and continues to serves as one of the city’s principal east-west arteries. Numerous stone, iron or concrete bridges have been built over downtown creeks, but none have met the needs of the community as long or as well as the West Sixth Street Bridge.

An Invitation to Take a Closer Look
Next time you walk or bike along the Shoal Creek trail or drive across the 6th Street Bridge take a moment to look at this amazing hand-crafted historic structure. To learn more about this project and Shoal Creek’s historic bridges, please contact us or visit Conservancy Board Member Ted Eubanks’ online gallery.

West 6th Street Bridge, Shoal Creek, Austin, Texas by Ted Lee Eubanks
West 6th Street Bridge, Shoal Creek, Austin, Texas by Ted Lee Eubanks

 

Thank you to the Texas Historical Commission as well as the Conservancy’s Historic Bridge Committee for your support of this project.