Kansas City in Jackson County, Missouri — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
It was July 3rd, 1869. A crowd of 40,000 elbowed their way onto the banks of the Missouri to celebrate the dedication of a politically empowering marvel – the Hannibal Bridge, the first railroad bridge across the Missouri River. Perhaps more than any other historical event, this moment catapulted Kansas City from a backwoods frontier town to a lively metropolis.
The riverís shifting bottom and strong current proved to be a daunting challenge for Octave Chanute, a renowned bridge engineer. The bridge spanned nearly a quarter mile across the Missouri and rested on seven deep-sunk, concrete piers. Itís million dollar price tag (in 1869 dollars) included a pivoting drawbridge for steamboat passage.
Numerous design challenges faced Chanute and the builders including high steamboat traffic. They had to bring in manpower from distant locations for this large project. It took two and a half years to complete the bridge.
Divers faced formidable challenges laying the bridge piers. Several men lost their lives from the “bends” – caused when divers come to the surface too quickly.
The Hannibal Bridge survived damage from storms and several tornados in its 48 year history. In 1917, it was replaced
about 200 feet upstream by the railroad bridge that you see today.
Celebrations for the opening of the bridge brought many people to the waterfront. The bridge was adorned in the patriotic red, white, and blue. A Main Street jeweler watched from a hot air balloon overhead. A cornet band led a parade. And fireworks flashed in the sky as the citizens cheered. When the first train rolled across the bridge, “not a jar or vibration was perceptible.”
Photographs courtesy of Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri.
Erected by National Park Service and Kansas City Area Historic Trails Association.
Location. 39° 6.77′ N, 94° 35.067′ W. Marker is in Kansas City, Missouri, in Jackson County. Marker can be reached from Main Street. Touch for map. On the ground level at the base of the stairs to the Town of Kansas Observation Deck. Marker is in this post office area: Kansas City MO 64106, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Gilliss House Hotel (a few steps from this marker); Building Through the Bluffs (a few steps from this marker); Waterfront Town to Metropolis From Steamboat Landing to City (within shouting distance of this marker); City Market (approx. 0.2 miles away); W. H. Morgan & Company (approx. ľ mile away); J. P. Campbell & Company Building (approx. ľ mile away); General Orders No. 11 (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Kansas City.
Also see . . . Bridge to the Future. The Kansas City Public Library's history of the Hannibal Bridge. Includes links to numerous photos and articles on the bridge. (Submitted on August 21, 2015.)
Categories. • Bridges & Viaducts • Industry & Commerce • Railroads & Streetcars • Settlements & Settlers •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 20, 2015, by Michael W. Kruse of Kansas City, Missouri. This page has been viewed 219 times since then and 51 times this year. Photos: 1. submitted on August 20, 2015, by Michael W. Kruse of Kansas City, Missouri. 2, 3. submitted on August 21, 2015. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.