Sadly, another Denton icon has fallen. Due to the cruel whims of fate and physics, the much-beloved pedestrian bridge that has helped visually define the Texas Woman’s University campus was demolished on Wednesday, June 21st. It may have come as a shock to some of us, and with the re-opening of Bell Ave. some are just now noticing the bridge's absence, but the TWU crew offered a thoughtfully dignified farewell to this campus landmark that has offered safe passage to generations of students since back in the day.
We must’ve missed TWU Prez Dr. Carine Feyten’s e-mail blast that previewed the fate of the popular passage, but our social media feeds blew-up with photos documenting the mid-week demolition of the beloved bridge. Built in 1962 to protect students from the speeding traffic that hurtled down Bell Avenue as a convenient cut-thru before the bypass, the pedestrian walkway was also an oft-photographed spot for students, new graduates, and nostalgic alumni despite being closed in 2008 for safety concerns. As Dr. Feyten explained, engineers and construction experts had deemed the deteriorating structure to be beyond repair so, since the costs to replace it were prohibitively expensive amidst years of savage cuts to education by the Texas Legislature, the bridge had to come down.
TWU employees, student pedestrians, and Denton social media gawkers swapped photos on Twitter and Facebook as well as remembrances of the Wemberly Bridge. TWU also created a Google Hangout to bid farewell to their faithful companion with shared photos and stories, some even writing their appreciation onto the bridge itself. Some recalled the turbulent 1960s and ‘70s when Women’s Rights woke the traditionally-conservative all-women’s university – still one of the largest in the US – to the changing societal tides (remember when Gloria Steinem came to visit in ‘71?). Others recalled demonstrations when the school began debating co-ed enrollment back in the early 1990s, when a sheet insisting “NO MEN!” was flown off the side of Wimberly Bridge. And heck, we can’t even count how many grad photos have included the iconic pathway, since long before Instagram selfies were even a thing!
TWU Libraries posted their own retrospective, which made us a bit misty. Reckon we’ll just let the rest of these photos speak for themselves, but feel free to share your thoughts and memories in the comments. Adios, TWU Bridge, we thank you for your service and Denton is gonna miss ya.
Shaun Treat is a former professor at the University of North Texas and founder of the Denton Haunts historical ghost tour. Doc has written about numerous local places and personalities at his Denton Haunts blog, and is forever indebted to the great work of our local keepers of history like Mike Cochran and Laura Douglas at the Emily Fowler Library for their tireless work in helping preserve Denton’s intriguing past. Be sure to check out our local museums curated by the fine folks at the Denton County Office of History & Culture, and follow @Dentonaut on Twitter for local happenings.