The Old Waco Suspension Bridge
The first tolls on the Waco Suspension Bridge were collected on January 1, 1870, just a couple of days after the bridge was completed. There was a huge celebration. The bridge ---- which still stands ----- was considered an architectural marvel and the financing and building of it was so difficult that other Texas cities were quite impressed with the merchants in Waco who had succeeded in getting the bridge built. The San Antonio Express newspaper proclaimed, "All honor to Waco! She is leading all the inland cities with enterprise and prosperity!"
The bridge was indeed a a spectacular engineering feat. Built at a time when most of Texas was still reeling from the Civil War and in the throes of reconstruction, it is impressive even to this day. The main span stretches 475 feet across the Brazos and the roadway was so wide that two stagecoaches could pass each other going in opposite directions. No other bridge in the state for years could compete with it in terms of beauty and size.
The suspension span operated as a toll road for 19 years, until 1889. It was under the ownership of the Waco Bridge Company during that time, after which it was purchased by McLennan County. The County then turned it over to the City of Waco for operation as a free public bridge. The last car crossed it in 1971, when it was retired, at least in terms of vehicular traffic. It has been restored/fixed up several times over the last 145 years, and looks to be good to go for another century at least.
Beauty is only skin deep but Texas is to the bone.