The Hague Bridge

Norfolk, Virginia

 

Bridge History

A wood bridge originally connected Norfolk with the plantations on the other side of Smith's Creek. Such a bridge may have existed for some two hundred years. The photo below was taken in 1888, a year before a storm destroyed the old wood bridge:

 

In 1891 the steel Botetourt Street Bridge was built at the site of the old wood bridge. This was about the same time the western portion of Smith's Creek became known as "The Hague." The new bridge, which was paved with oyster shells, carried vehicular traffic and even streetcars between Norfolk and its new suburb of Ghent. The photo below of the Botetourt Street Bridge was taken in 1895:

 

The Hague used to be a world-class haven for large sailing yachts going up and down the Atlantic seaboard, back when the turnstile bridge between it and the Elizabeth River allowed large sailing yachts to enter. Despite the protests of boatmen and commercial interests on The Hague, the City of Norfolk decided to build the current low, fixed Brambleton Bridge, and that put an end to the yachts:

 

Photo of Mowbray Arch taken from the bridge in 1902:

 

Photo of the bridge, circa 1912, taken from the Freemason area, looking toward Ghent. The bridge was paved at some point for more modern vehicular traffic. Note too the streetcar tracks on the bridge with a streetcar approaching the bridge (on Botetourt Street, just to the right of the Holland House apartment building:

 

This old photo shows the streetcar tracks and cables in front of the Holland House apartment building where they turned off the bridge to proceed up Botetourt Street:

 

Circa 1940:

 

Photo of the bridge in 1956. The streetcar tracks have been removed. In 1963 automobile traffic was discontinued on the bridge too. Only pedestrians and bicycles henceforth:

 

In 1976 the bridge was replaced with a new, narrower pedestrian bridge that incorporated parts from the older bridge and maintained the historical bridge's general appearance.

 

Section of the 1891 bridge's original handrail in storage at the Chrysler Museum:

 

Pattern of the original handrail:

 

New bridge's "quarry tile" handrail pattern, reminiscent of the old bridge's handrails:

 

Remains of concrete pile cap from original bridge, with old timber piles still in place. Two such caps can be seen on either side of north foot of the current bridge at low tide:

 

Application to be listed in the Register of Historic Places

(though the replacement bridge wasn't deemed old enough):

 

The finished new pedestrian bridge:

 

Entryway to the historic Ghent neighborhood:

 

Approaching Ghent from the Downtown side of the bridge:

 

A true footbridge:

 

On a busy day:

 

A tranquil respite for people and gulls:

 

Hundreds of "love locks" added to the rails of the old bridge since 2014

deface the historic bridge:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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