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On Nov. 5 Caltrans held a meeting in St. Helena about their intentions to demolish the original stone work on both sides of the Sulphur Creek Bridge on Main Street. Sadly only a handful of people attended.

The Sulphur Creek Bridge on Main Street in St. Helena marks the entrance to our town. It is visually and historically important to the fabric of St. Helena.

For over a year in 1909-10 the St. Helena City Council and citizens debated over the design and costs of building a new stone bridge over Sulphur Creek to replace the wooden eyesore that was there. The project was complicated by the fact that the San Francisco, Vallejo & Napa Valley Interurban tracks were in the way of a new bridge. Finally in February 1910 an agreement was reached and the contract awarded to A. Martini & Co.

According to the St. Helena Star on Jan. 22, 1910: “The old unsightly structure at the most commanding view as one approaches Main Street should be replaced by a stone structure that would at once impress the visitor with the spirit of municipal pride that should animate the community.”

From the St. Helena Star, March 24, 1910: “Letting the contract for a new stone bridge to span Sulphur Creek marks the beginning of one of the most important public improvements ever undertaken in St. Helena.”

Finally, Aug. 26, 1910: “So at last through the favorable action of a progressive board of town trustees, the old bridge has disappeared, and in its stead now stands a bridge that will endure for ages and ever be a joy and pride to the people of this place.”

Now the ages seem to have ended as Caltrans proposes to demolish the side walls of this bridge and replace it with “form liner for architectural treatment” and “concrete barrier rails.”

Concerns:

1. Will the look of the replacement rails will be the same texture and color of the original stones?

2. Will the 1914 Electrolier street lights be replaced in the exact position they were in before?

3. Will the form liner hold up to cars hitting it and the weather?

4. Will the historic 1910 plaques be removed with care in order not to damage them?

5. What will happen to the pedestrian bridges outside of both the northbound and southbound lanes? The one west of the bridge is concrete and separated from the roadway. The one east of the bridge near the railroad tracks is suspended over the creek.

6. How will it be accomplished to have 4-8 foot shoulders within the existing space?

7. Will the underlying bridge structure be widened?

8. What if the additional right of way is unavailable?

9. What will the pedestrian walkways look like after the project is finished?

Our best hope of saving the bridge is a public outcry against its destruction. Please help by emailing Nathan.Roberts@dot.ca.gov by Sunday, Nov. 24, which is the deadline. Tell them “the ages” are not over and hands off our bridge!

Mariam Hovanesian Hansen

Research Director

St. Helena Historical Society

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