The Hawk Street Viaduct

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The Viaduct was a long (almost 1,000 ft) cantilevered bridge that ran from Clinton Ave. to Elk St., opposite the Capitol across Sheridan Hollow. It connected Arbor Hill with Downtown and the area that is now the Empire State Plaza and Center Square, without having to walk down Clinton Ave. to N. Pearl St.

It opened in spring 1890 and was demolished in 1970. By then, it needed enormous repair, which would have been at great cost, and the newly constructed arterial highways eliminated the perceived need for the Viaduct. There was a discussion of building another bridge from Clinton to Swan in the late 1960s, but that never happened.

It was a curious structure, since the bottom of part of the bridge wasn’t far from the roof tops on Sheridan Ave. (In 1890, that was Canal St.- the name changed c. 1900).

I always thought it was narrow (19 ft.) and I was raised on stories (from a Gram who grew up in Arbor Hill) of the perils of walking across the Viaduct in the early 1900s, when it was not uncommon for both automobiles and horse drawn wagons and carriages to share the bridge with pedestrians on the sidewalks of the bridge. Apparently the car motors and speed (and horns) would make the horses shy and buck.. and you hung on to the railing, out of the way, clinging for dear life or tried to outrun the horse. The Arbor Hill kids were, of course, forbidden to walk across the Viaduct by themselves, and of course, they did. Dangerous Viaduct crossings became the stuff of childhood legend.

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Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

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