Haggling Over Bridges

Door County has been talking about the Michigan Street Bridge my entire adult life (and most of my teen years too). It’s become such an “eye-roll” topic that we’ve come to believe we’re unique (er, ridiculous) because we can’t come to a unanimous decision. But an article in Sunday‘s New York Times Magazine debunked that idea.

Bridges, for many reasons, carry an uncommon aesthetic weight in a community. Like a skyscraper, they stick out, demand attention, and dwarf the structures around them. Bridges stand apart, and for most of us, utilitarian structures as an architectural centerpiece simply won’t do (hence, so many of the structures of the 1960s and 1970s inspired by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe have already been introduced to the wrecking ball). How many postcards and calendars feature Sturgeon Bay‘s uninspired “New Bridge?” (or highway bridge, depending on your preferred tag).

The NYT story discusses the disappointment New Yorkers felt when the Williamsburg Bridge opened in 1903, and how that led to a long struggle to design the Manhattan Bridge in a more eye-catching manner.

The point here is not whether we should have saved the old Michigan Street Bridge or not. I’m impressed that this is a community with enough pride in place that people will fight over such things – be it a building, a vista, a shoreline, or even a rusty old bridge.