When Cherokee Indian Chief John Ross founded Ross's Landing as a trading post on the bank of the Tennessee River (an area that was to become Chattanooga in 1838), the only way to get across the broad Tennessee River here was by swimming, boat, a later ferry, and then a War Between the States-era bridge, which soon was swept away by a flood.
But on Feb. 18, 1891, the then-magnificent Walnut Street Bridge—constructed at a cost of $241,388!—was opened for pedestrians, horses, wagons, and later, electricity-powered streetcars and automobiles.
In time, though, the two-lane Walnut Street Bridge became "shaky" and was closed to vehicles in 1978. It was expected that the deteriorating bridge would be torn down for safety.
But nostalgia fortunately energized a "save-the-bridge" effort! Generous contributors financed refurbishing the 2,376-foot-long span as a "linear park" for pedestrians. Brass plaques were affixed to honor contributors.
But brass is valuable, and sadly, there always are vandals and thieves. So, many brass plaques were stolen, for scrap sale or souvenirs.
But all is not lost—yet! The Parks Foundation has begun a fundraising campaign to replace the Walnut Street Bridge's original 1,776 name-engraved brass plaques with zinc postings that are less likely to tempt thieves. About 400 plaques have been replaced so far.
We value the Walnut Street Bridge—and the donors who have long supported it—and we hope the plaque replacement effort will be successful.