In One Stayed at Welcome, Maud describes a historical celebration through the eyes of her characters, Dan and Larry. It was in 1854 that construction began on the first permanent bridge to span the Mississippi River at any point along its length. The site chosen for the bridge was located just above St. Anthony Falls and linked the fledgling towns of St. Anthony and Minneapolis. Native Americans had forded the river here and later Franklin Steel operated a private ferry service at this location. Construction was completed in late 1854 and a grand opening celebration was planned for January 23, 1855. The cost of the bridge was reported to be $36,000.
“On the twenty-third of January,” Lillie stated precisely, “father and I are going in for the celebration if a bobsled can get through. You ought to come too.”
The opening of the bridge was celebrated with a gala celebration featuring a mile-long procession with 100 cutters, sleighs and bobsleds, followed by a banquet at the St. Charles Hotel.
Suspended from four shingled towers, two on the Minneapolis shore, two on Nicollet Island, this lifted its lacelike wires against the blue wintery sky.
Standing there it holds the proud character of being the first bridge structure of any kind to be flung across the mighty Mississippi.
The bridge was 620 feet long and 17 feet wide, with wire suspension cables running over wood-shingled towers on stone bases and anchored by cast iron moorings placed below the limestone bedrock. The stone bases of the towers on the west side of the river were excavated and stabilized in 2001-2002 and are now visible as part of First Bridge Park (located at the site of the original bridge).
Maud’s historically accurate descriptions of the grand festivities, the parade and the banquet in the book bring the period to life!
Quotes in italics from One Stayed at Welcome by Maud and Delos Lovelace.