Broken Bridge To The Past

Last year I took a walk across the pedestrian bridge that connects Marietta with Old Town. It’s an old railroad bridge that crosses the Muskingum River and it is scary.

While the terrifying aspects of the trip were no fun, this bridge offers great views of the city and the river so I recently went back, planning to brave it once more.

And it was closed.

That’s right. My belief that it was a death trap was accurate. The bridge is now closed. The owners are so adamant about the closure, they actually disconnected a section and turned it around.

The bridge has an interesting history. The piers were built in 1857, according to the local paper. It replaced a covered bridge that once spanned the river. The iron work is old as well. It was last replaced after a big flood in 1913some 107 years ago.

The paper also said that it is one of the oldest swinging railroad bridges in the country and it is the only one of its kind that still turns.

Officials estimate restoration costs to be between two and four million dollars. I cannot imagine where that amount of money could be found for a pedestrian bridge but we can hold onto hope, I suppose.

When I saw that a section had been turned, I was overwhelmed with emotion- first shock because I had no idea that an entire section of bridge could just be turned like that. Then I couldn’t decide if I should be happy because I couldn’t take that long and scary walk, sad for the people who rely on it for utilitarian purposes every day or devastated that a piece of our history is at risk.

And part of me was irritated that I couldn’t face a fear that day.

It was quite the roller coaster of emotions as I stood on the shore, gaping at this spectacular piece of our heritage – literally a bridge to our past broken and possibly soon lost altogether.

And that just made me sad.

Saving Mount Zion Baptist Church

bmt2.jpgThere’s a church in uptown Athens that I pass by occasionally. It often causes me to pause and wonder what the deal is but yesterday was the first time I’ve been on foot and really had a chance to do anything more than wonder.

The deal is that it’s a fabulous historic church that is teetering on the brink of ruin but that is in the hands of good people who are doing their best to save it. Here’s the short story: It’s called Mount Zion Baptist Church. The congregation was founded by African Americans in the late nineteenth century and this building was dedicated in 1906.


mt zion church insideIt enjoyed years of prosperity but a declining congregation forced the church to close. Years of neglect and lack of use have been incredibly damaging. You can see the signs of damage from the street but you can see even more from the interior pictures posted online by the group working to save the church. The picture of the inside shown above is not mine but the exterior shots are.

The Mount Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society is doing its darndest to raise money for the repairs that will save this piece of Athens history. They even have the help of RVC Architects, the leading architectural firm in Athens. They have already replaced the roof, the first step toward stabilizing the structure and preventing further damage. But it’s a lot they have to raise and the amount of work needed is intimidating even to a stranger just walking by.

But look at the bones. Isn’t it fabulous?

Want to know more? You can read about the Preservation Society on their website where you will also find information on the church’s history as well as a place where you can donate if you feel inclined.