Black seems an appropriate tone for the Murray Morgan bridge in Tacoma. After all, Morgan, the prolific Tacoma historian who wrote one of Seattle's most important books, has been dead since 2000. And he did once kayak the Danube to the Black Sea. But the main reason the Tacoma Landmarks Commission voted to paint the historian's bridge black yesterday was, well, history: Black apparently was the color of the (now drab gray) bridge when it opened in 1913, three years before Morgan was born, connecting downtown Tacoma across the Foss Waterway to the tideflats.
The aged and weakened bridge was closed in 2007 due to "life safety concerns," though it remained open to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. The state wanted to tear it down and replace it, but the city of Tacoma took ownership in 2009 and is in the midst of a $57 million updating and restrengthening of the 98-year-old span, set to reopen in 2012. The bridge was left in the open position last year after thieves broke into the mechanical room and stole copper wiring from the lift-control panel.
The bridge, once black.
A national historic landmark, the span--known as the 11th Street bridge or City Waterway bridge until it was named for Morgan in 1997--has its own Wikipedia entry:
Designed by famous bridge designers Waddell & Harrington, the bridge has some unusual features: higher above the water than most lift bridges, construction on a variable grade and an overhead span designed to carry a water pipe. The bridge structure also contained a wooden road which connected what is now Cliff Street with Dock Street . . .
Morgan is the author (along with 20 other books) of a definitive and oft-cited history of Seattle, Skid Road, published in 1951, selling more than a quarter-million copies, and still popular. He first became, as History Link observes, "a nationally published writer when Scholastic Magazine published his article 'How to Second a Boxer'" in the early 30s, before he graduated from Stadium High. He went to the U-Dub, where he was editor of the Daily, then on to newspaper, magazine, and book writing as a sometimes-globetrotting journalist, eventually including radio work and finally teaching.
His history course at Tacoma Community College was so enthralling, one student recalled, "I was spellbound . . . At the conclusion of that course, the class spontaneously gave him a standing ovation." He had been given a year to live in 1964 after being diagnosed with cancer, but beat death with radical surgery, living to a ripe 84. His life essentially spanned that of the bridge that now carries forth his name.