Colorado Street Bridge
The Colorado Street Bridge spans
the Arroyo Seco as part of Colorado Blvd. just south of the
Ventura Freeway and between North San Rafael Ave. and North
Orange Grove Blvd. in Pasadena, CA.
To view the bridge from
below, take West Holly St. west from North Orange Grove Blvd.
and then turn left on Arroyo Dr., which joins with North Arroyo
Blvd. to pass below the bridge. The local advocacy group,
Pasadena Heritage, hosts a summer festival on the Colorado
Street Bridge, closing the bridge to vehicular traffic. To learn
more about the bridge and festival, visit Pasadena Heritage’s
With its majestic
arches rising 150 feet above the deeply cut Arroyo Seco, the Colorado Street Bridge was proclaimed the
highest concrete bridge in the world upon completion in 1913.
The bridge impressed travelers from the day it opened. Until
then, the crossing of the Arroyo Seco required horses and wagons
to descend the steep eastern slope, cross a small bridge over
the stream, and then climb the west bank through Eagle Rock
Pass. Given this harsh topography, the Colorado Street Bridge
proved a challenge to design and build. Solid footing eluded
engineers in the seasonally wet arroyo bed.
engineering challenges were solved when engineer John Drake
Mercereau conceived the idea of curving the bridge 50 degrees to
the south. This solution coupled with a graceful design of
soaring arches and a curved deck created a work of art that
received Historic Civil Engineering Landmark designation and
listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Mercereau
chose to support the bridge’s 28-foot-wide roadway and
five-foot-wide sidewalks using spandrel construction. In this
system, support columns rest on the expansive arched ribs of the
bridge. Mercereau’s design also included classical balusters and
ornate cast-iron lamp posts supporting multi-globed lamps.
Construction took 18 months. Horse carts brought materials
down the steep sides of the gorge. Records show that some 11,000
cubic yards of concrete and 600 tons of steel reinforcing went
into the bridge. The company's single cement mixer poured
concrete half a yard at a time into the bridge's hundreds of
wooden forms that, when removed, revealed the bridge's arches,
girders, spandrels, and decorative details. The bridge cost one
quarter of a million dollars to build. Thousands of Pasadena
citizens came to celebrate its opening.
connected Pasadena to Los Angeles, poising it to grow. Traffic
on the new bridge was heavy. Only two lanes wide, the bridge was
considered inadequate as early as the 1930s. The bridge remained
part of Route 66 until the 1940 completion of the Arroyo Seco
Parkway. By then, the Colorado Street Bridge had a sinister
reputation as “suicide bridge.” The first person jumped from the
bridge in 1919. A number of other deaths by suicide followed,
especially during the Great Depression. Over the years,
estimations put the number of people, who took their lives
leaping into the Arroyo, at more than 100.
bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in
1981, but by that time, it was in disrepair. Chunks of concrete
sometimes fell from its ornate arches and railings. After the
Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, the bridge closed as a
precautionary measure. Eventually Federal, State, and local
funds provided 27 million dollars in renovation costs. The
bridge reopened in 1993, complete with all of its original
ornate detail and a suicide prevention rail.
admiring the bridge’s engineering, find a local and ask about
some hauntings. A number of spirits are said to wander the
bridge as well as the Arroyo below.