Demolition permits are piling up as breakneck progress gallops through Jackson Hole.
Throughout World War II and into the mid-1950s, when Jackson’s nurses finished tending to patients each day they walked out of St. John’s Hospital and across Glenwood Street to their quarters.
It’s been decades since the hospital stood on Glenwood and nurses called the two buildings across the street home. Now those humble abodes — relics of the valley’s transition from eke-it-out frontier settlement to a thriving modern community — are set for demolition to make way for luxury condos.
Saving historical structures in a valley with sky-high land values makes preservation nearly impossible.
Now another Jackson Hole relic is facing the wrecking ball.
The Teton County Historic Preservation Board is rightly calling the public’s attention to Swinging Bridge. The charming structure is thought to be the only three-span, pin-connected steel truss bridge left in the state.
The three truss spans were originally part of the Wilson Bridge built in 1915 that crossed the Snake River, connecting Jackson and Wilson. They were moved to their current location in 1960 and haven’t been altered much since, with the exception of when a truck hit the bridge in 2015, requiring repairs.
Since the bridge is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the Wyoming Department of Transportation is working with the county to determine the bridge’s fate.
Preserving and rehabilitating historic bridges can require a specific approach. But going that extra mile can save money because demolition and replacement do not come cheap. The county engineer has said the bridge is safe but falls short of modern seismic standards.
If the bridge can’t be maintained for cars, other alternatives include repurposing it for bike and pedestrian traffic. One neighbor cares so much about saving the eye-catching structure that he has offered to allow it to be moved onto his property should it need to move downstream to make way for a new bridge. Such an option would be expensive and compromise the bridge’s historical integrity. But that could be Plan B and the community should be ready as such a move would be costly.
The Save the Block campaign, led by the Jackson Hole Land Trust, has shown the community is ready to spend big — digging into their own pockets — when it comes to saving what the Land Trust calls “cultural landscapes.”
Save the Block was a rare success in preserving historic buildings, green space and a place to display local history instead of seeing it all demolished for the sake of a 90,000-square-foot hotel.
Don’t let another piece of Jackson Hole’s character disappear; let your county commissioners know if you appreciate the historic value of Swinging Bridge.