Monday, February 22, 2016

A Bridge By Any Other Name, Shelby Avenue


East Nashvillians have long held the belief, that the Shelby Avenue Bridge, belonged to East Nashville.  The bridge, that we knew and drove and walked across, is much changed. Even so it will always be the Shelby Avenue Bridge to many. There was disagreement, even as preparations were made to open it, as to how it should be named.  Sparkman Street and McGavock Street were popular suggestions.

An abstract of the above news article was sent to me in June of 2012, while I was working at Metro Nashville Archives, by a patron, John Zuccarello.

T. P. Weakley writes as follows:
"A petition has been sent the County Court for the July term to give the name of the lower bridge as "Jefferson-street" and to call the upper bridge "Shelby-avenue Bridge."  Sparkman street is short, only from Front to Market, and has long ago been forgotten.  This bridge crosses the river and enters Shelby avenue at Second street.  Shelby avenue is 100 feet wide and is destined to be the route of the new boulevard.  Can you advocate Shelby-avenue Bridge as the appropriate and proper name?"....."I notice in papers it is proposed to call it McGavock-street Bridge.  McGavock street stops at High or Sixth avenue and does not touch the new bridge at all.  Shelby avenue is a large, wide street and perpetuates the name of Dr. John Shelby, who owned all the land east of the city across the river. 
T. P. W."

The bridge was opened to traffic on July 5, 1909 and was officially named on that day, as the Broadway Bridge.  The name did not take.  Eventually the sentiment of East Nashville residents, won out and the structure became popularly known as the Shelby Avenue Bridge.


The Shelby Avenue Bridge was closed in 1998.  Both the East and West approaches were demolished and reconstructed, and now fall short of the original landings. On the downtown side the bridge ends at 2nd Avenue, rather than 4th Avenue, where it originally ended.

In 2003, research conducted by staff members at Metro Nashville Archives, did not find any evidence of an official name change from the 1909 designation as the Broadway Bridge.  The research was in response to a question of a Tennessean staffer.

The bridge reopened in 2003 as a pedestrian bridge.  In 2014 the bridge was renamed John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge in honor of the well loved, Nashville journalist and newspaper publisher.

By Kaldari (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


1 comment:

  1. I was born in 1938 and lived my first thirty years or so in East Nashville and I always called it Sparkman Street Bridge; I also was of the opinion that Shelby Street did not begin until a little beyond the East Nashville foot of the bridge where the road bends.

    For the record, Woodland Street does not start until the east end of that bridge- the bridge itself is on Bridge Avenue. Or so I have believed all my life.



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