Digital Storytelling and Visitor Analytics for City and Cultural Institutions
The history of the Blue Bridge gives a great peek into Grand Rapid's past. Originally, the Blue Bridge served trains transporting goods from Muskegon to Mackinaw City. It was first built in 1868 and subsequently replaced in 1874.
And then came the Great Log Jam of 1883. Lumber was in great demand after the Great Chicago Fire, and Grand Rapids was doing it's best to help fill the city's orders. Lumbermen cut logs and stored them in "booms" (holding pens) along the river, to be later chained together and brought up to lumber mills, cut into lumber, and shipped. That winter, though, heavy rain made water levels in the Grand River rise so high it sparked one of the biggest log jams in U.S. history. With 150 million feet of timber careening toward Lake Michigan, something had to be done. Heroic efforts by lumberman finally staved off disaster, but not before the Blue Bridge came tumbling down in the process.
The bridge was once again rebuilt in 1892, and continued to serve train traffic until the 1980s. At that time, the former trestle was converted into a pedestrian walkway, connecting downtown Grand Rapids to attractions such as the Gerald Ford Museum and Grand Valley State University on the other side.
Today, the Blue Bridge is a beloved Grand Rapids landmark. Everything from yoga classes, proposals, and music festivals happen here regularly. A fifteen-ton table and chairs were even installed on top of the Blue Bridge during ArtPrize 2009. It is a favorite spot for watching fireworks and of course, taking killer photos.
Cover photo credit: roamario via Instagram.