The Howard Street Bridge over the South Channel of the Spokane River in downtown Spokane was the first downtown river bridge, built around 1881, a full decade before the first wooden Monroe Street Bridge. Prior to this, locals had to use a ferry that operated just east of Division Street or use their own boat or canoe.
From around 1881 to 1929, the wooden bridge was renovated four times to add strength and width to the 185-foot wooden span. This bridge only allowed access to Havermale Island, where commercial buildings and homes were being constructed.
A sequence of three bridges was needed to move cars from the south shore to the north shore, via Havermale Island and Crystal Island, which today bears a Salish name, snxwméneɁ, meaning “salmon people” . It is pronounced “sin-HOO-men-huh”.
The gap between Havermale Island and the smaller snxwméneɁ Island was called the central channel of the river. In 1892 it was first spanned by a steel bridge with cantilevered sidewalks outside the bridge deck. Part of the impetus for construction was the arrival of the railways and the construction of depots around Havermale Island.
Although the wooden decking of the Central Canal Bridge was covered with a thin layer of asphalt, thousands of cars and buses used the bridge for decades, causing potholes and decay . Around 1965, the wooden beams and decking were replaced with prestressed concrete beams and more asphalt. Due to decay, the Central Canal Bridge was restricted to pedestrian traffic only during Expo ’74.
Also in 1892, a steel bridge was built across the north channel of the river from snxwméneɁ Island to the north bank, completing the course. The North Channel steel bridge was replaced in 1907 with a concrete bridge. This was part of a trend in the early 1900s to replace steel bridges with concrete, which could withstand damage from high river flows.
The South and Middle Howard Street Bridges were showing their age but were not part of Riverfront Park’s $64 million bond passed in November 2014. To pay for the new 6.6 South Channel Bridge replacement million dollars, park planners have found a way to service the city’s utilities. to slowly repay the bridge, now lined with orange benches overlooking the river. It reopened in 2018. The replacement of the central canal bridge is postponed until the money is available.
Captions: 1931 – The recently completed Howard Street Bridge over the South Channel of the Spokane River in downtown Spokane is the first concrete bridge there, replacing a wooden structure. This structure will last until replaced by a new version that opened in 2018. Washington State Archives – Digital Archive
2022 – The new Howard Street Bridge, built by LaRiviere Corporation, opened in 2018 at Riverfront Park, features benches where park-goers can admire the calm waters of the South Channel of the Spokane River. Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESPERSON’S REVIEW