Crossing Over the Ash Avenue Bridge – Tempe, AZ

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IMG_0527One of my passions in life is to simply screw with people, watch them twist in the wind and laugh all the way to the bank.  Mind you, these mischievous acts of terror are usually followed by my overwhelming sense of guilt, regret and compassion. Usually I can be so dead pan and so genuine that people will believe just about anything I tell them.

For example, next time an out-of-towner asks you where to go and have lunch, send them to Nathans on Central Avenue and tell them about the glories of the flat top grilled hot dogs and crinkle cut fries.  That should keep them busy for half the afternoon.

Now that I live in Arizona, I have to come up with new ways to send people off on journeys for defunct locations that they can never find and one of my favorite things to tell people is to direct them to cross over the Ash Avenue Bridge to get to Phoenix, which as you can see from the picture, will only get you so far…

Completed exactly 100 years ago in 1913, the bridge became only the second of its kind to cross over the sometimes turbulent and other times bone dry SaltIMG_0529 River, allowing residents easy access from Tempe to Phoenix.

However, in life as we all know, you get what you pay for and the poor Ash Avenue Bridge was so poorly constructed that it was rendered obsolete just a few decades after its completion and by the early 1930’s, was closed to vehicular traffic forever. Talk about cutting corners to try and save a buck!

While it remained opened for some time to pedestrians and bicyclist and even was given a distinction on the National Historical Registry, it was in the end demolished due to more concerns over its structural integrity and in 1990, the bridge came down…well, most of it.

The southern abutment structure was left behind purposely as a historic artifact for the city of Tempe and in the late 1990’s, a major rehabilitation project was done to give the structure a facelift and to preserve it for future generations as well to add a touch of history to the newly formed Tempe Beach Park and Tempe Town Lake that the bridge now overlooks.

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One thing I noticed is that if you look beneath the surface of the new paint, cement and whatever else went into the restoration, you can see the layers of time expose themselves and the real and original, however shotty, Ash Ave. Bridge emerges.

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Nowadays, the Ash Ave. Bridge is only about 50 ft long and serves as a fun history lesson for those who take time out of their recreational fun to learn a bit about their surroundings.

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You really have to look far and wide in these parts to find architecture like this and its restoration really does give it perhaps its best appearance in the last century.  In this particular case, I think what is on the inside is NOT as important as what’s on the outside.  I mean this is still the same bridge that was only operational for less than 20 years…

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History meets modernity in this photo of the railings.

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In Arizona, you are never in short supply of places to catch a beautiful desert sunset and the Ash Ave. Bridge is no different.  Sure people will be shocked to learn that the bridge will only take them a mere 50ft and not across the river…but if you send them at the right time of the day, they will have this to marvel at and if you ask me, there’s no need to cross the bridge for this…

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—Josh

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