Friday, September 28, 2007

The Death of Four Cow Bridge

So Renton loses another landmark, and I wish I had a decent picture of it. Here's the best I can do, a copy of the centennial plaque.

Way back when Renton was founded, the railroad skirted along the southern edge of the then-town, paralleling the then-Black River (which disappeared when the Montlake Cut drained parts of Lake Washington, but that's another story). The route crossed the property of Erasmus Smithers, who gave permission for the railroad, provided they give him a tunnel by which he could drive his cows to the pasture on the southern part of his property.

How wide? asked the railroad. Four cows wide, said the farmer.

And that is how we ended up with Four Cow Bridge, also called Four Cow Tunnel and Four Cow Wide Tunnel. Smithers sold the land, development moved southwards, and FCB's neighbors became strip malls and housing. And the tunnel stayed, converted over to one-lane underpass with minimal clearance. In defiance of logic, it remained a two-way street, with stop signs at each end and a de facto one at a time system of passage. Actually, the presence of the stop signs reduced the speed on the roads, and the Lovely Bride was a fan of using it as a shortcut because it was so cute.

But progress moves on, and in redoing the rail line (it still carries fuselages for Boeing jets, and needs to be upgraded), the Four Cow Bridge is no more, to be replaced with a more modern, two-lane structure which will open up more of the neighborhood south of the rail line (still small homes, an island increasingly surrounded by commercial buildings). And while it will be easier to zip through Renton (always a good thing), some of the charm will be gone.

I just wonder where the centennial plaque went to when they were taking the old bridge apart.

More later,