Monday, February 1, 2010

The Shober Bridge (Ellis Street Bridge)

The Historic Neighborhoods Alliance met on January 13th for its first monthly meeting of 2010.  While the group heard updates from the historic neighborhoods present, the main focus of the meeting was how to save the Shober Bridge, also known as the Ellis Street Bridge.  The Shober Bridge crosses over the Southern Railroad tracks on Ellis Street between W. Kerr and W. Cemetery Streets.  The City of Salisbury, for several years, has had the "Ellis Street Bridge Project" on its books - with the ultimate goal to demolish the existing bridge and replace it with a modern structure, elevating the grade by several feet (reports vary here), and transitioning Ellis Street into a high functioning traffic corridor.  (The photo here is from the Salisbury Post, taken by Jon C. Lakey)

The Shober Bridge is one of the historic highlights of the Ellis Street Graded School Historic District, along with the school at the south end of the bridge.  It is unique in structure, a small humpback bridge with wooden handrails outfitted for pedestrian traffic.  The Shober Bridge has a good deal of folklore associated with it, but stakes its largest chunk of history as the very bridge site that General Stoneman's Union troops passed over to occupy the City of Salisbury at the end of the Civil War.  The Shober Bridge is cited as a contributing structure in the inventory taken to establish the Ellis Street Graded School District as a National Historic District. 

The City of Salisbury is marketed as 'Historic Salisbury'.  When citizens wish to demolish, upgrade, or modernize an historic home, they must go through a highly defined process through the City's Historic Preservation Commission.  Often, if our plans do not coincide with the original structure's design elements and materials, our requests are denied.  Our City Council members, newly elected, ran on platforms and spoke at forums supporting the City's historic neighborhoods, the jewels in Salisbury's crown, and the establishment of accompanying preservation plans. Yet now, the City is moving with head-spinning swiftness to abolish the existing historic Shober Bridge, without so much as a nod to the Historic Preservation Commission.  There is no engineered design in place yet, only a sketched plan to spend money on a new bridge.  This begins to ring of rhetoric.

The citizenry of the City of Salisbury needs voices to support the rehabilitation and restoration of this historic bridge in the heart of a historic district, a rather obvious omission in the City's plans.  The Historic Neighborhoods Alliance urges you to write to City Council, who has formed a committee to make recommendations on this bridge, and express the obvious benefits of restoring and preserving the Shober Bridge, over demolition and restructuring:

  • Restoration of Shober Bridge is less costly to the City than demolition and rebuilding a new bridge.
  • Restoration of Shober Bridge allows the City to honestly and with integrity claim itself 'Historic Salisbury'.
  • Restoration of Shober Bridge preserves this uniquely designed bridge, few of which can be found in the State of North Carolina.
  • Restoration of Shober Bridge preserves the character and nature of a historic neighborhood whose homes and architecture date back to the late 1800's.
  • Restoration of Shober Bridge preserves this historic site for generations to come.
In addition to the marked change the demolition and new bridge will make on the neighborhood and the City, the rebuild project is estimated to take a couple of years.  If you have not already driven down the Fulton Street corridor to see how the current temporary Shober Bridge closing is impacting traffic, you ought to take a look.  To close the Shober Bridge for years, and thereby close off the Ellis Street corridor, one of only three railroad overpasses in downtown Salisbury, makes no sense for the greater good of the public when renovation will take only months - not years - for completion.

You can make your voices heard by addressing letters to City Council and/or addressing letters to the editor at the Salisbury Post.  Additionally, City Council meetings held the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month allow an open forum at the end of the planned agenda.  Citizens have 3 minutes to speak on a topic of their choice.  In 3 minutes or less, you can say, "I, a citizen of Historic Salisbury, support renovation and restoration of the Shober Bridge.  I do not support demolition and the restructuring of a new bridge at this historic site. Thank you Council Members."

Please step forward to preserve the historic nature of our structures, our neighborhoods, and ultimately our City. 

Thank you.

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