R. H. "Bob" Wharton Bridge

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Early photograph of the U.S. 31 bridge at Lakeshore Drive

The R. H. "Bob" Wharton Cloverleaf Bridge is an arched, sandstone bridge creating an early cloverleaf intersection between U.S. Highway 31 and Lakeshore Drive in Homewood.

The reinforced concrete bridge over Shades Creek Parkway was one of numerous Federally-funded improvements made to Montgomery Highway when it was designated as U. S. Route 31 in the early 1940s. The $148,000 bridge was also funded by $5,000 from the city of Homewood and $4,500 from Jefferson County. The W. C. Howton Contracting Company performed the construction work, which was completed on September 26, 1942. The design of the bridge incorporates sandstone facings reminiscent of 1920s installations at the nearby entrance to Mountain Brook Parkway. The extra expense was justified as a way to put idled quarrymen and masons to work.

Upon his retirement in 1945, the Homewood City Council proposed to name the bridge for Bob Wharton, a former president of the Jefferson County Commission. A marble marker with the name of the bridge was placed on the southern embankment, flanked by dogwood trees planted by the Edgewood Garden Club. The plaque honors Wharton for his "unselfish and untiring efforts" toward road improvements and claims "to forever signify the appreciation of the people of the municipality" for his achievement.

Although the bridge is structurally sound and poses no danger to the 32,000-plus vehicles that cross it each day, the Alabama Department of Transportation is planning to replace it in order to accommodate a wider roadway with access ramps engineered to more modern standards. According to a spokesperson, the department is aware of the aesthetic and historical value of the existing bridge and expects to take those factors into account when planning its replacement. The Birmingham Historical Society has issued a statement opposing ADOT's plan.

References

  • Summe, Sheryl Spradling (2001) Homewood: The Life of a City. Homewood: Friends of the Homewood Public Library.
  • MacDonald, Ginny (April 11, 2007) "State ponders replacement of bridge over Lakeshore." The Birmingham News
  • Bennett, James R. (2008) Historic Birmingham and Jefferson County: An Illustrated History. San Antonio, Texas: Birmingham-Jefferson Historical Society/Historical Publishing Network. ISBN 9781893619838
  • "The Lakeshore Bridge" (April 2011) Birmingham Historical Society Newsletter

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