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Lake Street bridge in city’s past

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OGDENSBURG — In another two weeks, when its 60,000-ton center pier has been dismantled and removed, it will be gone.

When the old Lake Street bridge goes, with it will go a 117-year presence connecting the city’s east and west sides over the Oswegatchie River. Its nearby successor, a new pedestrian crossing, will be open to the public on Labor Day.

There is no shortage of memories of the bridge’s vital years, which effectively stopped in late 1979 when it was closed to vehicular traffic.

“It was a tremendous bridge,” said Michael D. Morley, the city’s deputy mayor, recalled on Friday. “It meant a lot to a lot of people.”

For shoppers at the former Hacketts, Surprise and Newberry department stores. For guests at the old McConville Hotel. For workers at the former Standard Shade Roller and Diamond International plants on the west side, it was the way to get to their homes on the east side at the end of the day.

“It was the way to get downtown, to the heart of the city,” Mr. Morley, 61, recalled, adding that as a youth he swam and fished in the river off the steel bridge.

Aging and in need of repair or, some said, replacement, the bridge was closed to vehicular traffic on Dec. 1, 1979. Coincidentally, the state-built Downtown Arterial Highway, known to locals as the Twin Bridges, to the north opened a few years earlier.

Further deterioration and concern over the imminence of a full collapse ended the bridge’s run as a pedestrian crossing in 2008.

In 1978, then Deputy City Historian Fred Erwin wrote of the Lake Street bridge:

n It was built in 1895 by theHilton Bridge Company, Albany.

nThe cost of construction was a whopping $39,000 (this summer’s dismantling cost $1.5 million).

n It was made of steel, the alternative of stone having been dismissed as too expensive.

n Trolley cars once traversed the bridge on a track down the center of the span.

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