Hudson Toll BridgeThe Hudson toll bridge spanned the St. Croix River from 1913 until it was closed to traffic in 1951, when the first interstate bridge (I-94) was completed.
By: Doug Stohlberg, Hudson Star-Observer
The Hudson toll bridge spanned the St. Croix River from 1913 until it was closed to traffic in 1951, when the first interstate bridge (I-94) was completed. The fee for a car and driver was 15 cents, with 5 cents for each additional passenger. The bridge, originally built by a group of investors, was purchased by the city of Hudson in 1917 and was the source of considerable income. Because of bridge revenue, taxes in Hudson were relatively low, and numerous civic improvements were financed from toll bridge income. The bridge cost less than $50,000, span and dike included. The dike, of course, remains and is a popular swimming and walking location.
First St. Croix River bridge opened in 1913
However, from 1913 to 1951 that bridge was one of the city’s most widely known landmarks.
For a period of 34 years the ample revenues from the toll bridge went into the city’s coffers for civic improvements and the more than popular reduction of real estate taxes. It was truly the “golden age” for local property owners.
A new interstate bridge was opened to traffic in November 1951.
Since the very early days the need for a bridge from Hudson to the Minnesota side was a much discussed matter.
Back in 1910, a bridge booster committee was formed, with Harry L. North as the chief proponent of the idea. Even before that, Horace D. Champlin had campaigned for such a span, giving him the official title of “Father of the Hudson Bridge.”
The Hudson City Council gave its endorsement to extend Walnut Street into the lake (thus creating the dike). Consequently, a group of civic-minded citizens formed a bridge company and each subscribed $5,000 apiece to make the bridge span a reality.
Members of the St. Croix Bridge Company included president, Hans J. Andersen; vice president, W.E. Webster; and secretary-treasurer, Fred J. Carr. Directors were William H. Phipps, David Humbird, Dr. E.P. Kermott and Christian Burkhardt.
According to records, the dike was built at a cost of $37,000, while the span itself was an additional $10,000.
The bridge became municipally owned in 1917.
The new bridge was opened with appropriate ceremonies at a celebration June 13, 1913. According to a reporter from the Star-Observer, “There were no fights, no exhibitions of temper, no bad blood displayed anywhere the jolly crowd congregated.”
Early Saturday morning before the festivities, the new bridge was blessed by the Rev. J.A. Barney, pastor at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.
Because of the large number of people attending the celebration, there were extra train accommodations from the Twin Cities, Ellsworth and River Falls.
In the parade, the River Falls Auto Club arrived with a chain of cars an equal distance apart, reaching from Buckeye Street to the courthouse.
It was Louis Ostby’s decorated car that won the first prize in the parade.
The formal dedication program was in Prospect Park, where the Hon. Frank M. Nye, a congressman from Minnesota, was speaker of the day.
Other notables at the program included Wisconsin Attorney General Walter C. Owen and Minnesota Lt. Gov. J.A.A. Burnquist, ex-Minnesota Gov. Van Sant and Congressman James A. Frear.
More than 2,000 people attended the ceremony.
One of the big features of the day was a giant barbecue where a “mammoth, fat and juicy ox was served to an appreciative multitude.” Assisting in the serving of the crew were F.O. Crary, H.J. Andersen and William J. Barter.
A big shower marred the afternoon of the celebration, but did not dampen the enthusiasm for the special attractions from the Twin Cities, a trained dog show, the Scott Sisters and the “colored entertainers,” which were said to be “all of high order.”
Still later, the Scott Sisters performed before a large audience using the platform at the Hudson Garage at 101 Walnut St. for a stage and the lights of John C. Denniston’s Cadillac car for illumination.
Policing during the celebration was excellent and no disturbances occurred. Four experienced detectives from the Twin Cities had little to do. They remarked they had never seen a crowd of that size that gave so little trouble.