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The Life and (Explosive) Death of Rochester’s Driving Park Bridge

November 19th, 2012

Driving Park Bridge and Lower Falls, c.1904
Last week we explored some of the caves in Rochester’s Genesee River gorge. While digging around for information about Lower Falls, I came across some great stuff on the nearby Driving Park Bridge. The bridge that you know today was built in 1989. But the previous bridge (shown above) had been there for nearly 100 years. That’s pretty remarkable when you consider its length of 717 feet, the icy Rochester weather, and the relentless spray from the Lower Falls below. Be sure to click on the image above for a much larger view. And check out the link at the end of this article to watch the explosive demolition of the old steel bridge in the 1980′s…

Several workers beneath the road deck of the Driving Park Bridge, Rochester, NY.
The following excerpt is from a Historic Written Description by the Deptartment of the Interior, 1983:

The chief engineer of the Driving Park Avenue Bridge was Lefferts L. Buck. He was born in 1837 and died in 1909. Buck received a degree in civil engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1868. His primary engineering emphasis was on the design and construction of bridges, and he is known as one of the great bridge-builders of his time.
Buck’s greatest achievement in engineering was the Williamsburg Bridge in New York, significant for the length of its span.
He also built the Niagara Falls Bridge in 1895-1898, whose span of 840 feet made it the longest bridge of its kind in the nineteenth century. Buck’s construction and observation of the Driving Park Avenue Bridge, previous to the construction of the Niagara Falls Bridge, allowed him to modify and improve on the hinged arched truss system.

I love all the little details in this 1904 photograph. Like the workers hanging out beneath the road deck (shown above). And the mess of power lines winding their way up the gorge walls from the hydroelectric plant (shown below).

A mess of power lines wind their way up the gorge walls from the Lower Falls hydroelectric plant.

This was a busy busy time in Rochester. These workers on the rim of Lower Falls are constructing a dam, several feet high to regulate the flow for the electric generators.
This was a busy busy time in Rochester. These workers on the rim of Lower Falls are constructing a dam, several feet high to regulate the flow for the electric generators.

Looking west towards Driving Park Bridge (AVENUE E) spanning Genesee River gorge, Rochester, NY.
Look at how narrow this bridge was. The photo above is looking west towards Driving Park Bridge approach (Avenue E). The road deck was just 20 feet wide with two 7.5 foot wide cantilevered sidewalks on either side.

Although the Driving Park Avenue Bridge was trouble-free for the first 48 years after its construction, it was closed in 1938 to replace the deck. It was closed for repaired again in 1952, 1959 and 1965 and had closed more frequently for repairs in its last twenty years, until finally, it was demolished in the 1980′s

A still frame from video of the Driving Park Bridge demolition. [VIDEO STILL: Getty Images]
And now, as promised, watch this incredible piece of engineering get blown up external link and come crashing into the Genesee River, 212 feet below.

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This entry was posted on Monday, November 19th, 2012 at 7:59 am and is filed under Rochester History, Rochester Images, Transit + Infrastructure. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

10 Responses to “The Life and (Explosive) Death of Rochester’s Driving Park Bridge”

  1. Erik Stoneham says:

    shameful that they dumbed all that steel and such in the river. I guess recycling wasn’t the norm back then.

  2. Dave Vogler says:

    Thanks for digging this up!
    Found another picture from the Lib. of Congress archive:
    http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?detr:19:./temp/~ammem_uM7Y::
    It is incorrectly labeled as the Platt Street Bridge, but it is clearly Driving Park.

  3. Marian says:

    This bridge’s nickname was Shaky Annie and being on it in a high wind was like being on a carnival ride.

  4. HA! That’s awesome! Shaky Annie. Love it. Why Annie?

  5. Marian says:

    I don’t know. Why not? :~)

  6. Jeff says:

    I just found this page link…

    As a child visiting family in Rochester in the early 1960s I was petrified when we walked across the bridge to Maplehurst Park.

    The thought of looking down between wooden planks always made me afraid of falling into the river gorge far below.

    Years later, my late mother confessed that as a child (circa 1920s) she, too was afraid of the Driving Park Avenue bridge.

    As a sidebar, I also have wonderful memories of the ‘ghosts’ of RNochester’s past… the closed subway enterance by the main library and the adjacent antique railway station for the defunct Lehigh VAlley Railroad.

    I’d sometimes gave at the train platform and imagine people standing there wating for the next train.

    I can also recall the demolition of the beautiful train station to make way for the expansion of the expressway system.

    We visited Rochester a lot in those days, because we lived in Brooklyn. By 1963 we had relocated to Miami Beach, and I didn’t get back too often to Rochester. Now most of the f amily is gone… but
    I have wonderful memories of this “big little city”… large in industry – but small in ‘home town values’.

    Right now I could sure go for a sherbet cone from McConnell’s Dairy or a hot dog and fries from Don & Bob’s…, then go play some skill games at Sea Breeze…

    Finally, Rochester stays with me in many ways… for a number of years I worked for former pop singer and record producer Steve Alaimo and his partners… Steve was from the Brighton area… and my late uncle (Alfred Stiller) in his post World War II years was the first television meteorologist on Rochester TV!

  7. Jeff says:

    I apologize for the rampant typos and mis-spellings. I sure thought I’d proofread everything, but I guess my old eyes played tricks on me… Hopefully, you’ll still get the gist of my intent.

  8. marian says:

    Thanks so much for sharing the memories. I hope you know that Don & Bob’s is now Don’s Original and still at Sea Breeze :)

  9. Jeff says:

    I appreciate that update, Marian.

    I just ran into Steve Alaimo (my former employer) at a local restaurant today. Mention someone’s name and often times they’ll show up! LOL!

    I forgot to mention my memories of Scranton’s. Having a ‘thing’ for lettering stencils as a child [my first influence with the art of lettering], I used to go there on our vacations to look for things to buy…


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