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The history of Indy’s magnificent 30th Street Bridge

In 1922, “The Indianapolis Star” wrote, “For general effect, attractive design, and setting, the bridges of Indianapolis are praised above even those of Paris.” Here’s the history behind one of the most beautiful bridges.

INDYtoday: INDY_30th Street Bridge staircases Riverside Park_JUN24

The 30th Street Bridge rehabilitation will include adding lighting back to the bridge, like the lamps seen here.

Photo via The Indiana Album: Props Family Collection

Just five miles from downtown Indy, the 861-acre Riverside Regional Park offers dozens of recreational activities and amenities to keep even the pickiest of Hoosiers entertained. In the middle of it all stands one structure often hailed as one of Indianapolis’s mot beautiful historic structures: The 30th Street Bridge.

Let’s go back in time to 1904, when two floods within two months destroyed most of the outdated bridges over the White River. With travel impacted for thousands of residents + businesses, the city quickly created the Bridge & Stream Improvement Commission, which then secured $830,000 to replace the bridges that were lost.

INDYtoday: INDY_30th Street Bridge Riverside Amusement Park history_JUN24

Three girls pose on the 30th Street Bridge, with the Riverside Amusement Park visible in the background.

Photo via The Indiana Album: Judy Carole (McKinzey) Carter Collection

Spurred on by the success of the incredibly popular Riverside Amusement Park which opened one year prior, the commission began work on the 30th Street bridge to serve as a gateway to the attraction. It employed state-of-the-art concrete + steel technology and was surfaced, like many of Indianapolis’ historic bridges, with beautiful Indiana limestone. Its scenic overlooks and grand staircases down to the river contributed to its signature Parisian feel.

The bridge was completed in 1907 for roughly $200,000. After being first rehabilitated in 1979 (nine years after the Riverside Amusement Park ceased operations), the bridge closed once more in 2022 for a $15.1 million restoration project.

INDYtoday: INDY_30th Street Bridge Canoes Riverside Park_JUN24

Canoeing has always been a popular activity on the White River.

Photo via The Indiana Album: Glenn M. Nelson Glass Negatives

Rehabilitation efforts currently underway by the Indianapolis Department of Public Works include:

  • A reinforced concrete arch
  • Rehabilitated limestone bridge walls
  • A new railing separating pedestrians from traffic
  • Rehabilitated pavement
  • New curbs
  • ADA-compliant ramps and sidewalks
  • Historically appropriate globe fixtures to remain in compliance with the bridge’s National Register of Historic Places listing

Do you have any memories linked to the 30th Street Bridge? We’d love to hear them.

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