EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fourteenth in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington landmarks.
HUNTINGTON -- Collis P. Huntington, who founded the city of Huntington in 1871, foresaw the day his namesake town would need a bridge across the Ohio River. He even bought a plot of Ohio land for the purpose. But the city would be more than 50 years old before its first Ohio River bridge was constructed.
The bridge was built by a group of a dozen Huntington businessmen organized by timber tycoon C.L. Ritter. In April 1925, they chose a site just west of the city's downtown at 6th Street and construction began. The span was opened to traffic on May 23, 1926, with an estimated 10,000 visitors on hand for the dedication ceremonies. Cars using the bridge were charged a toll of 25 cents. Trucks paid up to $1, depending on their size. Bicycle riders and pedestrians paid 5 cents.
The bridge was privately owned until 1940 when the builders sold it to Cabell County for $2 million. In 1952, deferred maintenance had caught up with the bridge and the county was unable to finance the needed repairs. So the county was happy to turn the bridge over to the state.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, drivers waiting to cross the two-lane span clogged the city's downtown streets at the evening rush hour, and the Ohio side saw a similar traffic snarl in the mornings.
Finally, in 1968, Huntington got a second Ohio River crossing, at West 17th Street. And in 1986, after decades of controversy and delay, the East Huntington bridge was completed and opened.
In mid-1993, the Sixth Street Bridge was closed to traffic to allow for construction of an adjacent four-lane bridge (the city's first). The new bridge was completed in 1994 and named for Sen. Robert C. Byrd. The following year, a series of carefully placed explosives blasted the Sixth Street Bridge into history.