The Bridges of Denton County

By Pamela Bond

Denton Record-Chronicle

June 1, 2006

In the 1920s, Moleana Mason Carson crossed the Old Alton Bridge everyday on her walk to school. Hickory Creek gurgled and bubbled along below her and the oak trees on either side of the creek bank glowed a lush green in the spring and fall, and their bare branches waved in the wind in the winter.

The old iron bridge has seen many seasons pass. It is now ridden with tire tracks instead of footprints, and it has been weathered with time. So has Carson, now 80. But the view from the Old Alton is ever the same.

Walking across the Old Alton is like taking a step back in time. The bridge, built in 1884, is located in a park on what used to be Old Alton Road, now Copper Canyon Road at Hickory Creek.

While the names may have changed, the bridge itself has not. The Alton is the oldest out of the 17 historic bridges in Denton County and is one of the only ones that has not been relocated.

In the 1880s, Denton County hired the King Bridge Company and the George E. King Company to build a total of 26 bridges, mostly iron, according to Allan Sloan King of the King Bridge Co.

At the time, Denton had a major population increase, with the opening of the Texas Normal College in 1891 (now NT), public schools, the first bank and others.

The iron bridges were considered “symbol of modernity, a badge of stature for the community and its growing economy and culture,” according to the Texas State Historical Commission.

The county appropriated $125,000 to their construction, which was completed in 1910, according the Denton County Historical Commission. Elections were held throughout the 1880s and 1890s to decide on expenditures for the bridges. Eventually, $10,000 was borrowed from the permanent school fund to afford the structures.

Today, three of Denton’s 17 historic bridges – the Alton, the Gregory Bridge, and the Rector Road Bridge – are listed in the National Park’s National Register of Historic Places. There are 10 other historic listings in Denton: the Courthouse, the square historical district, the Continental State Bank, 2 farms and 5 pottery kiln sites.

Established in 1966, the register is meant to “honor a historic place by recognizing its importance to its community,” according to the National Park Service.

A few years ago, the county started to replace the old iron bridges with new ones. Only five remain in their original locations.

To preserve the bridges, the county’s engineering department, a division of public works, established an “Adopt-a-Bridge” program. While the program has existed for many years, it only became active recently, when the county started to replace the bridges.

Guyer High School, on South Teasley Lane, was the first to adopt a bridge a year and a half ago. The Rector Road Bridge now “spans an environmentally sensitive area,” according to the Denton County Historical Commission.

But not all the historic bridges share its fate.

“When a bridge is going to be replaced, it is slated and moved into storage for a year,” Robin Davis, of the county engineering department, said. “If it is not adopted, then it is scrapped for metal.”

For Carson, the bridge is more than a historic landmark or a structure of iron. For her, it is a part of her past, a tangible memory.

“My brothers would go up the creek to a spot where they’d jump in the water and float back downstream,” Carson said. “Then, as the water started getting fast, they’d catch the iron bridge in order to climb out. I never was that brave. Of course, Mother and Daddy didn’t know anything about it. If they had, they would have been scared to death.”

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