Photo provided by the Rochester Hills Museum

Looking back: Bridge Day celebrated

Rochester Post | Published May 8, 2018


ROCHESTER — People young and old celebrated the opening of the South Hill Bridge on Rochester Road on Nov. 9, 1927.

The bridge was built to carry traffic over the Clinton River and the Grand Trunk Railway tracks, eliminating a steep and dangerous hill on the south edge of town. At the time of its dedication, the South Hill Bridge was the longest concrete bridge in Michigan.

Until the bridge was built, horse-drawn wagons and motor vehicles entering town had to make a long downhill run from Avon Road, cross the Clinton River and then climb up a hill to get into town.

According to local lore, many drivers backed up the hills in their motor vehicles because reverse was a lower gear for climbing. Backing up also avoided having the fuel in the gas tank flow to the back of the tank and stall the engine when climbing.

Bridge Day events included a day off of school for local students and a grand celebration.

The Fred B. Carpenter’s clothing store, located at 409 Main St., gave away sweaters and coupons for Bridge Day. The Rochester Era newspaper printed a special 28-page bridge edition with color illustrations, as well as the celebration program. The Clarion newspaper issued a 24-page Bridge Day special edition with two large pictures of the bridge.

The bridge construction was a joint project of the state highway department and Oakland County. The original bridge featured two lanes for traffic, and it was expanded to four lanes in 1958.