View south from Washington Blvd
More detail photos
Larimer Avenue Bridge
Larimer Av over Washington Blvd
USGS 7.5" Topo Quad - UTM Coordinates:
Pittsburgh East - Zone 17; 0592 4479
-- Larimer Av
-- Washington Blvd [PA8, Blue Belt]
-- also crosses PRR Brilliant Cutoff on 142 ft plate girder span
TYPE OF CONSTRUCTION / DESIGN:
Reinforced concrete open spandrel deck arch
LENGTH OF MAIN SPAN:
300 ft 4 in [longest of its type in the world when opened]
TOTAL LENGTH (including longest elevated ramp):
50 ft wide
HEIGHT OF DECK:
100 ft est
YEAR ERECTED / ENGINEER:
1912, City of Pittsburgh
John Ashley Ferguson, Design Engineer
T. J. Wilkerson, Engineer, Division of Bridges
Stanley L. Roush, Architect
Deck replaced and ornamentation removed in 1980s
view page - Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) -- PA-488
Mounted on the end pier:
John F. Casey Company
William A. Magee -- Mayor
Joseph G. Armstrong
Director of Public Works
N. S. Sprague
Sup't Bureau of Construction
T. J. Wilkerson
Mounted at the base of the eastern abutment, facing Washington Blvd.:
LARIMER AVENUE BRIDGE|
CARRYING LARMINER AVENUE OVER THE WASHINGTON BOULEVARD
ERECTED FOR THE CITY OF PITTSBURGH STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA IN THE YEAR NINETEEN HUNDRED AND TWELVE AND AUTHORIZED BY THE CITIZENS OF THIS CITY IN THE BOND ISSUE OF NINETEEN HUNDRED AND EIGHT. THIS BRIDGE IS FIFTY FEET WIDE AND SIX HUNDRED AND SEVENTY FEET LONG AND HAS A CLEAR SPAN OF THREE HUNDRED FEET AND FOUR INCHES. AT THAT TIME THE SECOND LARGEST CONCRETE ARCH IN THE WORLD. IT WAS ERECTED BY JOHN F. CASEY CONTRACTORS UNDER THE CITY ADMINISTRATION OF
WILLIAM A. MAGEE
JOSEPH G. ARMSTRONG
DIRECTOR DEPT. OF PUBLIC WORKS
N. S. SPRAGUE|
SUP'T BUREAU OF CONSTRUCTION
T. J. WILKERSON
Replaced 1891 high-level, iron and wood trestle at Larimer Ave which was was dismantled before building the concrete arch structure.
The years preceding the construction of the Larimer Avenue Bridge saw many changes in the northeastern corner of the city. The majority of the eastern neighborhoods of Pittsburgh were annexed by the city in 1868. The Negley Run Valley provided glently sloped access to the Allegheny River for the people of East Liberty, but the valley cut a trench up to 150 feet deep and 600 feet wide -- impeding eastward expansion and settlement on the hilltops. While East Liberty and Wilkinsburg prospered on the plateau traversed by the Pennsylvania Railroad mainline, the land to the north lay undeveloped.
A few roads managed to connect east and west near the southern head of the Negley Run Valley. Frankstown Rd and Penn Av, remaining traces of the British military roads, made the easiest course. Pucketty Road, the Indian name derived from the creek which formed part of Allegheny County's eastern border, ventured down one side and up the other in making the connection between East Liberty and towns on the Kiskimenetas River farther to the east. Not long after the death of the President, Pucketty Road was renamed in memoriam to Abraham Lincoln. An 1875 Hopkins map shows Fifth Av extending as far north as Lincoln Av in an apparent intersection. But at that time Butler St (the lower part of the current Washington Blvd) and Fifth Av did not connect. Butler St followed the current Negley Run Blvd to East Liberty.
Pittsburgh City Council passed an ordinance to open Washington Blvd between Fifth Av and Highland Park on July 15, 1895. The 1904 Hopkins map shows the completed roadway, named Beechwood Avenue. Between Fifth Av and the Allegheny River, the roadway was renamed Washington Blvd and was part of an 11-1/2 mile drive which included Grant (now Bigelow), Beechwood and Washington Blvds in a promenade connecting downtown with Pittsburgh Director of Public Works Edward Manning Bigelow's two new parks (1889): Schenley and Highland.
In 1903 the Pennsylvania Railroad built the Brilliant Cutoff along the eastern wall of the valley. The Brilliant Cutoff includes a five-span landmark Roman viaduct at Silver Lake and a three-arch span over Highland Rd at Leech Farm. The city of Pittsburgh replaced an earlier Lincoln Av bridge with its own stone viaduct of two spans. Though the PRR project was part of a larger plan to upgrade its lines with more permanent structures, it seems the city made an effort to encourage the parklike setting of the boulevard and surrounding valley.
Between 1900 and 1910, there were a few more houses beginning to fill the hilltops near Larimer Avenue. Curiously, even after the construction of this Larimer Avenue Bridge in 1912, new housing only seemed to trickle into place. There are patches of infill homes from the 1920s and 30s. It seems part of the reason may be traced to the public facilities constructed on the northern reaches of the Lincoln-Belmar-Lemmington plateau. (The name "Lemmington" comes from a tract surveyed in 1771, patented to Hugh Alexander in 1788.) The 1872 Hopkins map shows shows large tracts of land between Negley Run and Shades Run owned by prominent businessmen of East Liberty, such as Hoeveler, Wilkinson, and Schoenberger. The 1904 map shows the land not owned by Schoenberger had been purchased by National Transit Co.-- perhaps in speculation of development. The remainder was and is occupied by St. Peter's Lutheran Cemetery. While constricting the expansion which might have followed the opening of the Larimer Avenue Bridge, the large, somewhat isolated, hilltop proved to be useful for such facilities as St. Joseph's Orphan Asylum and the city's Leech Farm Tuberculosis Sanitarium. Today the area includes the Veteran's Hospital, the Pittsburgh Job Corps Center, a US Army Reserve Center, and the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center.
Back in the Negley Run Valley, Silver Lake was filled in and converted to a drive-in movie theater. The theater was replaced by a set of industrial buildings. Any trace of a parklike ambiance is gone -- Washington Blvd is lined with a haphazard jumble of concrete block commericial buildings jammed in the narrow valley floor. Barely wide enough to be marked for four lanes, traffic blazes through at nearly double the speed limit.
And circumstances have not been kind to the hilltop neighborhoods on each end of the Larimer Avenue Bridge. Residents struggle to recover from the pressures of urban neglect and decay; they try to maintain a sense of community amidst vacant lots and vacant buildings. On the weekend that photographs were being taken for this webpage, the Post-Gazette reported the discovery of a body below the Bridge.
view page - PRR Brilliant Cutoff stone arch viaduct
view page - Lincoln Avenue stone arch viaduct over Washington Blvd
John F. S. Collins, Jr. in "Stringtown on the Pike" quotes from "Greater Pittsburgh" by Lee A. Gutkind:
General William Larimer has the rare distinction of having an avenue in Pittsburgh, a township in Somerset County, PA, a street in Denver, a county in Colorado, and Fort Larimer in Arkansas, named in his honor.
A prominent Pittsburgh business leader, Larimer owned the Conestoga Wagon System which hauled freight between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. He was the first President of the Pittsburgh and Connellsville Railroad and one of the founders of the Westmoreland Coal Company.
The general entertained many of the nation's famous writers, powerful industrialists and influential poltical figures of the day in either of his two elaborate homes. The larger of the two was a rambling red brick structure located on Penn Avenue near Washington Blvd.
His second home stood high on a hill overlooking what is today the East Liberty section of Pittsburgh. The mansion stood alone for many years on Larimer Lane, which was named in his honor. In the years subsequent to his departure from the city, the "Lane" began to grow and eventually became known as Larimer Avenue.
The depression of 1854-55 all but ruined the financial dynasty the General had built in and around the Pittsburgh Area. Abandoning his career here, he traveled west to make a new start.
Larimer displayed courage and enterprise leading to almost immediate success. Soon after his arrival in Nebraska he was elected to the Legislature. In Omaha he organized Nebraska's first Republican Party.
During the "Pikes Peak" gold fever of 1858, Larimer moved to Colorado. He became one of the founders of the city of Denver and served there as a U.S. Commissioner and Federal judge.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Larimer formed the Third Regiment of the Colorado Volunteers and was appointed its first colonel.
After the War, he served in the Kansas State Senate and then retired to his farm near Leavenworth where he remained until his death in 1875.
field check; Kidney, "Pittsburgh's Bridges"; Collins, "Stringtown on the Pike"
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