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Look back on the Washington Ave Bridge

By October 26, 2015September 16th, 2023No Comments

By Erik Moore

Fifty years ago this month the new Washington Avenue Bridge opened to connect the main campus and the then newly established West Bank campus. The bridge opened to pedestrian traffic on its upper deck on September 27, 1965 and automobile traffic began on October 4.

The original bridge constructed with iron trusses opened in 1884 and served to connect Saint Paul, the university campus, and downtown Minneapolis.Coffman Union. Mpls. Campus. View from Wash. Ave. Bridge w_ Trolley Cars.This 1940 photograph captures both street car and pedestrian traffic with Coffman Memorial Union in the background.


una103058The new bridge under construction with the original bridge still in use.


bridge-map-1965A 1965 campus map depicting the new bridge with Washington Avenue labeled at the connection point of the old bridge. Today, the previous Washington Ave is 21st Avenue.


bridge-1966The enclosed walkway on the upper deck is completed in 1966. From the Minnesotan, January 1967.


Anti-War Demonstrations, Washington Avenue Bridge BarricadeIn May of 1972, anti-war demonstrators blocked traffic along Washington Avenue limiting access to the bridge.

Today, Elmer L. Andersen Library, home to the University Libraries Archives & Special Collections, sits at the site of the footing for the original bridge on the West Bank.
—Erik Moore is the University Archivist and Co-Director of the University Digital Conservancy. To learn more about the University of Minnesota Archives, please visit

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