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From the archives: Nearly a century ago, the Boulevard Bridge made its debut

From the archives: Nearly a century ago, the Boulevard Bridge made its debut

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Nearly a century ago, in January 1925, the Boulevard Bridge opened over the James River, connecting the north and south areas of Richmond. Here are excerpts from the RTD, plus some later developments.

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Dec. 31, 1924 (advertisement) — The new Boulevard Bridge across the rapids of the James River from the Pump House Drive in William Byrd Park to the beautiful Riverside Drive, Southampton, Midlothian and all points south and southwest, including a quick route to Petersburg and avoiding downtown congestion, many grade crossings and affording a delightful scenic drive, will be opened for traffic on New Year's Day. ...

A small ornamental enameled brass badge for the front of your car can be obtained for $10 and entitles the car to unlimited use of the bridge for the calendar year of 1925. ... During the years 1925 and 1926, passes good for 10 years from the date of issue will be furnished free by Westover Hills to parties building within its limits. ...

If you have not seen the view from this bridge, don't fail to avail yourself of this opportunity. The scene is unspeakably beautiful.

— By order of the board of directors, Boulevard Bridge Corp.

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Jan. 2, 1925 — The $250,000 steel and concrete toll bridge spanning the river from Byrd Park to Westover Hills was opened to the public yesterday. ... The owners announced that until Monday morning there would not be toll charges, but after that date the established rates of toll would prevail.

These rates are: pedestrians, 5 cents each way, with no charge for children below 5 years of age; bicyclists, same as pedestrians; automobiles, light trucks, motorcycles, regardless of number of passengers, 10 cents each way ... one-horse and two-horse vehicles, 25 cents; four-horse vehicles, 50 cents. ...

The city has the right, within a period of five years, to purchase the bridge at a reasonable figure and change it to a free bridge.

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Jan. 5, 1925 — Thousands of motorists availed themselves of the decided moderation in temperature, combined with the fact that yesterday was the last day that motorists and others were allowed to cross the structure free of toll charges, and "tried out" the Boulevard Bridge. ...

Hundreds of automobiles, from the flivver to the more pretentious high-powered car, crossed the bridge during the day. At times there were so many of the gasoline-propelled cars on the structure that progress was made only at a snail's pace.

An attache of the Boulevard Bridge Corp. essayed to keep a tally of the cars crossing the structure and succeeded fairly well until he had counted 5,000. At that juncture, however, they were coming so fast and so thickly that he got lost in the mathematical jungle and gave up in despair.

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Jan. 9, 1925 — Following the opening of the new Boulevard Bridge across the James River at Byrd Park, ground was broken yesterday for six residences to be constructed in the new Westover Hills property, the cost of which will range from $10,000 to $14,500 each.

This new development, much of which has been instituted by the Laburnum Realty Corp., promises to reach extraordinary proportions, and an ambitious program of building will begin with the advent of spring.

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March 19, 1925 (editorial) — Up to this point, the people of Richmond may console themselves that the construction of a filling station in Byrd Park has been approved only by a subcommittee of the Council Committee on Public Buildings and Utilities.

If the members of this subcommittee can be persuaded to give their best second thought to this matter, it is highly probable they will realize the grave blunder they have made in recommending the establishment of such an abominable precedent. ... They have recommended an atrocity.

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Aug. 8, 1959 — A temporary toll collection system designed to ease congestion on the Boulevard Bridge has been proved successful and should be retained, City Manager [Horace] Edwards said yesterday.

Edwards told City Council the collection system had reduced average bridge crossing time in rush hours from 5 minutes, 14 seconds to 1 minute, 20 seconds. ...

The system involved a move of the toll booths from the two-lane bridge itself to the north approach road in Byrd Park. This permitted the addition of one booth.

The approach street is wide enough for three lanes of traffic. During afternoon rush hours, two of the lanes are opened to southbound traffic, and during the morning peak period, two are opened to northbound traffic.

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July 16, 1969 — Richmond Metropolitan Authority completed acquisition of the Boulevard Bridge yesterday for $1.2 million.

Tolls will continue to be collected on the "nickel bridge," and the authority plans to improve collection facilities. ...

The purchase was signed with the Boulevard Bridge Corp., a privately owned firm which built the bridge in 1924.

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