Engineers know history firsthand

Posted in: Cultural Resources

Arlington Street Bridge, Minnesota
Arlington Street Bridge, Minnesota

Interviewing the engineers who designed or oversaw construction of important bridges built in the recent past provides important insight into technological developments. The post-World War II era, in particular, is recognized for important advances in materials and construction methods. Oral histories for recent past bridges are especially valuable. We’ve been fortunate to have opportunity to do some.

Oral interviews played a key role in the documentation of the Arlington Street Bridge in Minnesota – an early example of the use of prestressed concrete in the state. The history of this 1958 structure, now documented for the Historic American Engineering Record, has been uncovered through discussions with state and consulting engineers.  Although built within the recent past, few other sources were available to understand its important role in bridge engineering.

Historical mitigation requirements associated with the dismantling of the eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge were partially met with a similar oral history project. The history of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is captured in oral histories, totaling approximately 30 hours of interviews. The focus of oral histories is described as follows: “interviews were sought with individuals who would be able to share unique experiences related to the bridges from a variety of personal and professional vantage points…”

Details of the recording project, are available from the Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) at the University of California, Berkeley.

Historic photographs and other interesting facts uncovered are collected here.


Christina Slattery

About the Author

Christina Slattery specializes in historic preservation of transportation and engineering structures. She evaluates the significance of properties ranging from missile defense systems to road corridors, and develops creative mitigation strategies for projects.

Read more posts by Christina Slattery

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *