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Spiral Bridge was once a landmark in Hastings

The Spiral Bridge was once a major tourist attraction.

Toward the end of the 19th century, the small but growing river town of Hastings faced a dilemma.

One of the oldest cities in the state, Hastings had developed next to the Mississippi River. Steamboats could float right up to the levee, only a short distance from Second Street, then the center of commerce.

A rope ferry was used to get from one side of the river to the other, but with growing river traffic, an equally growing population in town, and the fertile farmland in Washington County to the north, a new mode of transportation was definitely needed.

The answer? A wagon bridge, of course. The dilemma? A bridge of standard design, in order to span the river from bank to bank, would overshoot Second Street, bringing traffic over and away from the developing city center.

The name of the person who designed the bridge is lost in the pages of history. One legend states that the bridge was designed by an inmate at Stillwater prison or the Hastings city jail. Though four men have claimed credit for it, Oscar Claussen, supervising engineer for the bridge, is often credited with the design.

The spiral wagon bridge at the north end of Sibley Street was completed in 1895, at a cost of $39,050. The wide spiral rose where its monument and the American Legion Club now stand in the downtown area.

With the invention of the automobile, the bridge, designed for horse-and-buggy traffic, experienced increased wear. Although efforts were made to save all or part of the bridge, it was declared unsafe for heavier traffic and was demolished in 1951.

Even though the bridge is gone, many remember traveling over the bridge in their youth. Most citizens think of the bridge with fond nostalgia.

A replica of the bridge has been built and is on display at the Little Log House Pioneer Village, about 10 miles south of Hastings off Highway 61.