On Colorado Street Bridge’s 100th, New Recognition and a Plaque

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1:57 am | December 9, 2013

A plaque celebrating the historic Colorado Street Bridge’s centennial was unveiled Sunday in a ceremony at the Pasadena Museum of History, coinciding with an ongoing exhibition about that iconic landmark which includes paintings, pictures and a movie reel showing biplanes flying under the famous span.

The plaque declaring the bridge a civil engineering landmark was presented by the American Society of Civil Engineers, Los Angeles.

Pasadena City Mayor Bill Bogaard said during the event that the bridge was once considered an impossibility.

“I consider this occasion to be of historical significance to the City of Pasadena, the 100th anniversary of the Colorado Street Bridge,” Bogaard said. “[Former] Mayor Richard Lee Metcalf of the City of Pasadena [once noted] that many had said, ‘It couldn’t be done,’ and more had said that it was too expensive.”

But Bogaard said the former mayor proceeded with the construction of the bridge, which was completed in 1913.

“[Metcalf] installed the bridge not only for strength and durability but for its beauty,” Bogaard added.

The current mayor also noted that Colorado Bridge was once hailed by the Scientific American as “one of the few bridges that can properly be classified as a work of art.”

“Pasadena and the designers achieved a bridge that won the admiration of engineers and citizens alike,” he said. “It quickly became a destination for countless tours.”

The plaque will be installed soon, probably this month, organizers said.

“What I love about this plaque is that it summarizes details about the engineering and the physical aspects of the accomplishment that it represents so that casual passersby who have the opportunity to experience the bridge and to observe this plaque when it’s placed will carry away some meaningful information,” Bogaard said.

“So much could be said about this bridge and the stories that have emanated about it, the saving of it at various occasions, and some of the heroes that are in this room who are part of that effort,” he added.

The Colorado Street Bridge Centennial Exhibition features the work of local artists, photographers, authors and designers who have portrayed the iconic structure over the past 100 years. It includes photographs, drawings, and related ephemera from the collections of Pasadena Museum of History and the Pasadena Public Library.

Photographs by Tavo Olmos of the 1991-1993 bridge reconstruction project detail the complexity and extent of the efforts that were necessary to preserve the structure.

Bogaard noted that the bridge survived “difficult engineering problems,” deterioration and proposals for demolition for the past 100 years.

“Over the years, the bridge has been threatened more than once. In the 1950s, demolition was suggested when the 134 freeway was first proposed,” Bogaard said. “And then during the 1970s, state engineers asserted that the bridge needed extensive repairs and was no longer important because of the then existing Route 134 that could carry local traffic.”

But the bridge survived its challenges and is now noted for connecting thoroughfare, for its artistic inspiration, and is often used as a setting in Hollywood movies and television shows.

Also present during the unveiling ceremony is exhibition co-curator/photographer Tavo Olmos, who was contracted by the City of Pasadena to document the 1991-1993 restoration of the Colorado Street Bridge.

The Colorado Street Bridge Centennial Exhibition is currently on view until April 19, 2014 at the Museum of History, Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Gallery, from noon to 4:00 p.m.

Gallery admission includes viewing of Kites, Wings, and Other Flying Things and the exhibition in the adjacent gallery. Entrance fee costs $7, while students and seniors can avail a discounted price of $6. Members and children under 12 years are free of charge.

Pasadena Museum of History is located at 470 W. Walnut St. Free parking is available in the Museum lot and on Walnut St. For more information, call (626) 577-1660 or visit http://www.pasadenahistory.org.