Texas over Time: Waco Suspension Bridge

Texas has changed quite a bit over the years, as is readily seen in our vast photograph and postcard collections. To help bring some of those changes to life, we’ve created a “Texas over Time” series of GIFs that will illustrate the construction and renovations of buildings, changing aerial views, and more. Our collections are especially strong on Waco and Baylor images, but look for some views beyond the Heart of Texas, too.

Waco Suspension Bridge

  • Opened to the public on January 7, 1870, the 475-foot structure is one of downtown Waco’s iconic landmarks.
  • At the time of its completion, it was the longest single-span bridge west of the Mississippi.
  • The cables and steelwork were supplied by John Roebling Co., who also helped build the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City during that decade
  • As the only bridge over the Brazos River, it brought much publicity to Waco, helped local economic stimulation and served as a public bridge starting in 1889.
  • During times of high water, the bridge was used greatly for moving cattle herds.
  • In 1914, it went under total reconstruction including a brand new cable system; the roadway is now supported with steel and the towers were remodeled with stucco.
  • In July 1970, it became the first Waco site on the National Register of Historic Sites.


Roger N. Conger, “The Waco Suspension Bridge,” Texana, I (Summer 1963); Minute  Books of the Waco Bridge Company (MS., Waco-McLennan County Library).

“The City of Waco.” Suspension Bridge & Riverwalk, Parks & Recreation. City of Waco Municipal Information, n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2015.

Smyrl, Vivian Elizabeth. “Waco Suspension Bridge.” Texas State Historical Association. TSHA, University of Texas, 15 June 2010. Web. 28 Sept. 2015.

GIF and factoids by Haley Rodriguez, student archives assistant. Learn more about the history of the suspension bridge in our YouTube video and see these images in our Flickr album.


  • Don Sayenga

    July 25, 2017 at 6:17 pm Reply

    The Minute Books of the Waco Bridge Co are in the Waco-McClennan Library
    Has anyone ever verified your statement
    “The cables and steelwork were supplied by John Roebling Co., who also helped build the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City during that decade”

    The question arises because “steelwork” for suspension bridges didn’t exist in 1870

    • Brian M. Simmons

      July 26, 2017 at 4:30 pm Reply

      Thank you for your question. According to sources I consulted, John A. Roebling and Son supplied steel for the Waco Suspension Bridge. Here is a passage from page 193 of Roger Conger’s article about the bridge:
      The drafts drawn by the Roebling firm in New Jersey, for the cables and steel, reached a final total of $20,766.37. The item of freight alone came to $8,276.70. At the outset the nearest railhead was at Millican, over one-hundred miles distant, and the burdensome coils of wire, steel trusses, and even custom made bolts and nuts had to come up the rutted sandy road by creaking ox wagon.
      Conger, R. N. (1963). The Waco Suspension Bridge. Texana, 1(3), p.181-224.

      Conger cited the first sentence as information from volume one of the Minute Books and the freight information from the Waco Bridge Company Journal. I hope this information is helpful. Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance.

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