The old riverfront and the old bridge

Dunn Memorial Bridge 1969 Albany NY 1960s

Random historical photo we stumbled across while looking for something else: This aerial photo of the Albany riverfront is from 1969 and shows the old Dunn Memorial Bridge as the new (that is, current) Dunn is being constructed just up river. It's from the local history rabbit hole that is the Albany Group Archive on Flickr.

Two things about this photo:

1. There is an ongoing conversation about how Albany can make its riverfront more accessible and hospitable to people. And one of the things that often gets lost in that discussion is that Albany riverfront has really been a place for people in a very long time. Like, a century or more. That's not say it shouldn't be in the future -- it just provides some context for the challenge.

2. The old Dunn Memorial Bridge had a section that lifted to make way for passing ships, sort of like the Green Island Bridge does today. That allowed the bridge to be closer to the water, and as a result, its connections on either end were much closer to street level. See the photo below -- also from the Albany Group Archive.

Dunn Memorial Bridge Albany NY 1933

The current Dunn is not in anyway friendly to pedestrians or bikes because of its elevation and steeply sloped ramps. (The pedestrian ramp to the top on the Albany side feels remarkably steep.) But the ramps for the old bridge, which was built in the early 1930s? You can maybe see an alternate timeline in which that's fixed up so it's not so unfriendly to people who are not in cars.

"So what," you ask? Fair question. Well, a lot of people would like to see 787 take on some different form -- maybe a boulevard. As we've written before, that is a seriously complicated problem to untangle in large part because of the current elevation of the Dunn Memorial Bridge and the South Mall Expressway.

So maybe the point here is just to highlight how designs made half a century ago can shape the set of options we all have today. The best time to start planning is always in the past. That's a good reason to think about the future now.

Bonus pic
This photo is from the Albany Institute's collection. We're pretty sure it's from the first Dunn's opening in the 1930s. (The photo is marked 1955, but this version of the Dunn opened in 1933 and also the cars point to that era as well.)

first Dunn Memorial Bridge opening 1933

Bonus history
The Dunn Memorial Bridge -- both versions -- is named after Parker Dunn, a Albany native who died in France during WWI while serving in the US Army. He was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Interested in more history of the Dunn Memorial Bridge? Cross over to Hoxsie.

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