In the late 1870s, James J. Hill formed the St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Manitoba Railway Co. which formed a significant portion of the Great Northern Railway. Before James J. Hill could realize his goal of crossing the continent, he needed to cross the Mississippi River. The crossing became the Stone Arch Bridge. James J. Hill hired Bridge engineer Col. Charles C. Smith to do the design which resulted in the 2100-foot long bridge with 23 arches and an 817-foot, six-degree curve on the west end.
The bridge was constructed between 1881 and 1883 for a total cost of approximately $650,000 (almost $16,500,000 in today’s dollars).
In 1962, two of the original 23 spans were replaced by a 196-foot warren steel deck truss to allow river traffic to pass upstream to north Minneapolis as part of the Upper Harbor project which also included two sets of locks and dams.
The Stone Arch Bridge saw its last passenger train cross in 1978 with the line officially abandoned in 1987. The Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority purchased the bridge in 1989. Ownership was transferred to MnDOT in 1992.
The bridge currently carries bicycle and pedestrian traffic over St. Anthony Falls.
The bridge has been through about half a dozen projects to expand, repair, or rehabilitate the structure over it’s almost 140 year history.
(Source: MnDOT Historic Bridge Management Plan Bridge 27004, June 2006)