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MEMORIES IN FOCUS: Bridge over troubled waters years ago

Next to Central Park, nothing was a source of greater civic pride in Marion than its bridges over Luta Creek.

While some lament the removal in 1982 of a bridge with its concrete railings and three-globe lights, preserved in the present Luta Creek crossing, concern over loss of that bridge was nothing like concern about the bridge it had replaced 60 years earlier.

Built in 1883 or 1884, a double-arch stone bridge with a distinctive metal railing spanned Luta Creek on Main St. between 5th and Elm Sts. for 40 years.

The bridge, heralded by the Record of 1885 as a distinctive work of architecture and engineering “said to be the best west of the Mississippi,” was so special that the City of Marion went to court to try to prevent its demolition in 1921.

Cottonwood Valley Drainage District had just overseen a major relocation of Luta Creek, which before the channelization had meandered through Central Park south of the bridge and, north of the bridge, had turned west toward Bown-Corby School and the city waterworks, creating what’s now known as the west edge of Dogfish Island.

The district also had rerouted the Cottonwood River, which previously had snaked through Jex Addition to near the present senior center before joining Luta Creek.

Both projects were designed to reduce flooding, and the drainage district also wanted to replace the stone-arch bridge, which is said impeded flow and aggravated floods.

Its landmark bridge and gateway to beloved Central Park threatened, the city went to court, suing the drainage district to prevent the bridge’s demolition but lost an emotional case in 1921. A couple of years later, the bridge was replaced with the concrete structure that stood until 1982.

Portions of the railing from the original stone-arch bridge, which in the 1880s had replaced what was only a ford across the river, were relocated to a residence at 117 Locust St., constructed by one of the engineers for the concrete bridge.

Last modified Aug. 2, 2018

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