Monday, October 3, 2022

Old bridge gets new designation

An old bridge in southern Denton County has received a new historic designation.

The Texas Historical Commission has recognized the Old Alton Bridge as a significant structure in Texas history by naming it a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.  The designation is the highest honor the state bestows to a historic structure for architectural integrity and historical associations.

A dedication ceremony will be held to commemorate the event on Thursday, April 5, at 2 p.m. at the site of the historic iron bridge located off Old Alton Road in the Copper Canyon area.

Speakers for the afternoon will include Denton County Judge Mary Horn, Denton County Commissioner Andy Eads, and Rob Jordan, Lake Manager of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Worth District, Lewisville Lake. The Guyer High School AFJROTC will present the colors.

The ceremony and unveiling of the historic marker is sponsored by the Denton County Historical Commission (DCHC) and is free and open to the public.  The marker application was sponsored by the DCHC Historical Research and Marker Committee.

In 1882, the Denton County Commissioners Court authorized the construction of eight bridges on the county’s major transportation arteries.  Old Alton Bridge was one of  the bridges.  It was completed in 1884 and was constructed from a kit provided by King Iron Bridge and Manufacturing Company of Cleveland, a major supplier of bridges to Texas. 

The bridge is 145 feet in length and spans Hickory Creek, a tributary of the Trinity River.  It consists of a main span, running east-west, with two secondary spans.  The main span, an iron six-panel Pratt through-truss, is 108 feet long. 

Old Alton Bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.  The National Register brief describes the bridge as “a good and very early surviving example of a bridge type popular in Texas and much of the United States from the mid 19th century through the mid 20th centuries.” 

Located in rural Denton County, the bridge was on the main road that connected Denton to Dallas, a major connection at that time.  It was placed near the declining Alton community, county seat of Denton County from 1851 to 1867, with the hopes that the dying community would grow; however, this did not happen. 

Old Alton Bridge remained significant to Denton County’s transportation history and was still functional until January 1997, when county officials closed the bridge after a state study found the 113 year old structure was unsafe.  In July 1998 and in response to public demand, the bridge was reopened after rehabilitation.  

In 2002, a new concrete bridge was built adjacent to the Old Alton Bridge.  The historic bridge was restored for pedestrian and equestrian use, linking trails and parks in the Lake Lewisville Area.   

Old Alton Bridge is one of two iron bridges in Denton County still located at its original site. The other bridge is the Elm Fork Bridge on FM 429, just west of Aubrey.  It is now part of the Green Belt Park between Denton and Lake Ray Roberts.

Denton County’s new bridge brochure “Bridging Yesterday to Tomorrow” lists 17 historic bridges, including Old Alton and Elm Fork Bridge.  All are closed to vehicle traffic and most have been moved from their original site.  Denton County officials, who are committed to saving these iron bridges, have coordinated with towns and cities to relocate almost all of the bridges.       

The Denton County Historical Commission is seeking historic photos of the Old Alton Bridge.  If you have photos of Old Alton Bridge or any information or photos of any of the historic iron bridges in Denton County, contact Beth Stribling, DCHC Marker Chairman, at 940=241-2523.

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