Year
1990
Month Day
November 25

Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge sinks to the bottom of Lake Washington

After a howling wind- and rainstorm on Thanksgiving Day, Washington state’s historic floating Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge breaks apart and sinks to the bottom of Lake Washington, between Seattle and its suburbs to the east. Because the bridge’s disintegration happened relatively slowly, news crews were able to capture the whole thing on camera, broadcasting it to a rapt audience across western Washington. “It looked like a big old battleship that had been hit by enemy fire and was sinking into the briny deep,” said one observer. (He added: “It was awesome.”)

The Murrow Bridge was the brainchild of engineer Homer Hadley, who in 1921 proposed a “floating concrete highway, permanent and indestructible, across Lake Washington.” Figuring out a way to cross that lake, between up-and-coming Seattle and its (at that time) sleepy small-town neighbors to the east, was a particular challenge because an ordinary “fixed-pier” bridge was out of the question: The lake was too deep, and its bottom was too mushy. Still, people scoffed at what they called “Hadley’s Folly” (one civic organization declared that his “chain of scows across Lake Washington would stand out as a municipal eyesore”), but eventually, mostly because they had no other options, they came around to his way of thinking. Construction began on the bridge, named after the state highways director (and brother of famous newsman Edward R. Murrow), in 1939; it was completed 18 months later.

In November 1990, the 6,600-foot-long bridge, made of 22 floating bolted-together pontoons, was in the process of being converted from a two-way road to a one-way road. (A parallel bridge had been completed the year before, effectively doubling the amount of traffic that could cross the lake.) The state highway department alleged that construction crews had left the pontoons’ hatches open, leaving them vulnerable to the weekend’s heavy rains and large waves. (For its part, the construction company refused to accept responsibility for the disaster, countering that “the probable cause of the failure was progressive bond slip at lapped splices in the bottom slab…due to failure in bond.” It did eventually agree to pay the state $20 million, however.) For whatever reason, at midday on November 25, the center pontoons began to sink. As they disappeared under the water, they pulled more and more of the crumbling roadway down with them. By the end of the day, the bridge was gone.

Fortunately, no one was injured in the incident. The Murrow Bridge was soon rebuilt.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Japanese author Yukio Mishima dies by suicide

World-renowned Japanese writer Yukio Mishima dies by suicide after failing to win public support for his often extreme political beliefs. Born in 1925, Mishima was obsessed with what he saw as the spiritual barrenness of modern life. He preferred prewar Japan, with its austere ...read more

People around the world mourn the death of the thirty-fifth president of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

JFK buried at Arlington National Cemetery

Three days after his assassination in Dallas, Texas, John F. Kennedy is laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was shot to death while riding in an open-car motorcade with his wife and ...read more

Iran-Contra connection revealed

Three weeks after a Lebanese magazine reported that the United States had been secretly selling arms to Iran, Attorney General Edwin Meese reveals that proceeds from the arms sales were illegally diverted to the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua. On November 3, the Lebanese ...read more

"The Mousetrap" opens in London

“The Mousetrap,” a murder-mystery written by the novelist and playwright Agatha Christie, opens at the Ambassadors Theatre in London. The crowd-pleasing whodunit would go on to become the longest continuously running play in history. When “The Mousetrap” premiered in 1952, ...read more

U.S. Army retaliates for the Little Bighorn massacre

U.S. troops under the leadership of General Ranald Mackenzie destroy the village of Cheyenne living with Chief Dull Knife on the headwaters of the Powder River. The attack was in retaliation against some of the Native Americans who had participated in the massacre of Custer and ...read more

"Storm of the century" hits eastern U.S.

The so-called “storm of the century” hits the eastern part of the United States, killing hundreds and causing millions of dollars in damages, on November 25, 1950. Also known as the “Appalachian Storm,” it dumped record amounts of snow in parts of the Appalachian Mountains. ...read more

First International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

The United Nations General Assembly passes a resolution designating November 25 the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The resolution, which was introduced by the Dominican Republic, marked the anniversary of the death of three sisters, Maria, Teresa ...read more

Last British soldiers leave New York

On November 25, 1783, nearly three months after the Treaty of Paris was signed ending the American Revolution, the last British soldiers withdraw from New York City, the last British military position in the United States. After the last Redcoat departed New York, U.S. General ...read more