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COBWEB CORNERS: The 26th Street bridge collapse

By Mel McFarland

       Just up the street from the Westside Pioneer office is a familiar bridge. One of my readers came up with an interesting story and an odd question. It seems that in February 1961 the bridge over Fountain Creek on 26th Street collapsed. Six were injured and a lady died in the accident.
       Mrs. Agnes Obert was a passenger in the car driven by her husband, Ary. The bridge collapsed under a truck driven by Fred Pflum, who could not quite make it off the bridge. The Oberts, coming in the other direction, drove into the hole where the bridge should have been. The accident happened at night and it caused quite a crowd to gather.
       The bridge there now is the one built after the accident.
       My source found additional pictures taken the next day. The scene has not changed all that much, other than US Highway 24, which was built three years later, and one other thing.
       A photo looking north shows a scene pretty similar to today, although there are some newer buildings up 26th Street. The shot of the bridge in the creek bed is quite dramatic.
       The third picture is the most interesting, as it looks across the hole to the south. There is a two-story building just south of the creek, on the east side of 26th, facing west. My reader's question was, "What IS that building?"
       In researching through various records, we could not find a building with quite the right address. Then something showed up, a listing for a club called the Hi Graders. I have not found much on this, but maybe some of you have information. It was probably a miners' organization, which I find quite interesting, since "high grader" is a well-known term for one who steals ore from mines. I am assuming this club was actually a "veterans" group. From what I could find, the club was built only a year or two before the bridge accident, and it seems to have been torn down to make room for the highway.
       If you know more about the building, please pass it along.

Local historian Mel McFarland has been contributing his Cobweb Corners column to the Westside Pioneer since 2004.