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Reno to Demolish 1905 Bridge Made Famous by Divorce

Reno is bidding a bittersweet farewell to an iconic 110-year-old bridge made famous by newly divorced women.

Mon June 08, 2015 - West Edition
Scott Sonner - ASSOCIATED PRESS


RENO, Nev. (AP) - Reno is bidding a bittersweet farewell to an iconic 110-year-old bridge made famous by newly divorced women - and a Marilyn Monroe character - who walked from the courthouse to cast their past and their wedding rings in the river below.

The ”Wedding Ring Bridge,’ also known as the ”Bridge of Sighs,’ became a symbol of Reno as the ”Divorce Capital of the World’ until other states relaxed their divorce laws in the 1960s.

The legend of divorced women walking a block from the Washoe County courthouse to the bridge over the Truckee River dates to the 1920s. Photographs, postcards and Hollywood movies depict the scenes - the most famous with Monroe in the 1961 film ”The Misfits.’

Major demolition work is scheduled for the bridge, which will be replaced by a span critical for flood control.

The classic double-arched, concrete span is officially named the Virginia Street Bridge and was designed by architect John B. Leonard. Iron rails and ornate lamp posts adorn the bridge.

Historic preservationists had been pushing for its protection even before its addition to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Ten years ago, they celebrated its 100th anniversary with a re-enactment, tying ribbons to plastic rings and throwing them over the side.

”We were still trying very hard to save it at that point,’ said Alicia Barber, an author and historian who was a Reno Historical Resources commissioner at the time.

”It’s played a central role in the city for more than a century,’ she said. ”It wasn’t just the divorce trade. It really anchors the civic heart of Reno.’

City planners eventually decided they couldn’t afford the nearly $40 million in necessary repairs. Preliminary demolition work began a week ago and the bridge was closed June 2.

”A few people were down there last weekend to take one last trip over it,’ said Jeff Bean, a vice president for the contractor, Q&D Construction.

The bridge was built in 1905 on the downtown site where the first permanent wooden structure crossed the Truckee River in 1860.

Kerrie Koski, the city’s project manager, said the bridge’s structural integrity ranks among the worst in Nevada. She said there wasn’t any feasible way to make it safer and still meet flood control objectives on the river that tumbles out of Lake Tahoe 40 miles upstream.

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