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Historic Treasure: Eleventh Street Arkansas River Bridge

Constructed in 1916, the Eleventh Street Arkansas River Bridge predates Route 66 by a decade. The bridge provided a vital link between Tulsa and the rich oil fields in nearby Garden City, Red Fork, and beyond. Its historical significance increased in 1926, when U.S. Highway 66 was commissioned, and the bridge began carrying interstate travelers across the river to what was then called Quanah Avenue. (Quanah was later renamed Southwest Boulevard.)

The 18-span concrete arch bridge features monolithic decking and ornate Art Deco guardrails, which were added in 1929. At the time of its completion in 1917, the 34-foot-wide bridge supported a railroad track, two lanes of vehicular traffic, and two sidewalks. It was widened to 52 feet, eight inches in 1934 to accommodate four lanes. It remained in service for 63 years before finally closing to traffic in 1980.

The bridge was listed on the National Register in 1996. In 2004, it was renamed the Cyrus Avery Route 66 Memorial Bridge in honor of Cyrus Avery, the “Father of Route 66,” who was involved in the construction of the bridge and was later instrumental in bringing U.S. 66 through Tulsa. Due to concerns about its structural integrity, the bridge remains closed, but it continues to serve as a cultural and historical resource and is a focal point of the recently developed Route 66 Centennial Plaza, which includes interpretive materials and a detailed, larger-than-life bronze sculpture featuring an imagined encounter between Cyrus Avery in a Model T and a farmer in a horse-drawn wagon. (The statue and plaza will be the focus of a dedication ceremony at 2 p.m. today. The ceremony will include several members of Avery’s family, along with various Route 66 and local dignitaries. Stop by if you have time!)

To get to the bridge from The Campbell Hotel, take 11th Street west to the traffic circle at Elgin. Stay with Historic Route 66 at Elgin, following the brown-and-white signs until the road tees out at Southwest Boulevard. Turn left on Southwest and pass under the pedestrian walkway. The plaza and bridge will be on your right; parking is available just off Riverside, at the end of the walkway, which offers a nice aerial view of the sculpture and bridge.

While you’re exploring Route 66 in Tulsa, why not make a weekend of it? With more than 50 National Register-listed properties — several of them on or near Route 66 — the city is rich with history and architecture. One of those National Register buildings is the Max Campbell Building — home to The Campbell Hotel.

Spend a night in our family-friendly Route 66 Suite or our elegant Tulsa Art Deco Room and surround yourself with 1920s elegance and 21st Century convenience. To reserve your room, call (918) 744-5500 or visit www.thecampbellhotel.com. We look forward to serving you!

Sources: National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program and Tulsa Preservation Commission.

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