Natchez Trace Parkway arches are complete - HISTORY
Year
1993

Natchez Trace Parkway arches are complete

The last segment of the Natchez Trace Parkway’s Double Arch Bridge is put into place on October 6, 1993. The $11 million, 1,572-foot–long bridge carries the parkway over Route 96 near Franklin, Tennessee. It was the first precast segmental concrete arch bridge to be built in the United States.  (These bridges are more cost-efficient than traditional ones, because workers at the bridge site simply need to assemble concrete pieces that have already been cast.)

The Natchez Trace Parkway is not just famous for its sleek, modern bridge; on the contrary, the road has been around and in use for thousands of years. It was a well-worn trail through Choctaw and Chickasaw territory (along with a handful of prehistoric Native American mounds) that connected the southern Mississippi River with the salt licks of central Tennessee. Starting at the end of the 18th century, the Trace became the primary route north for the famous “Kaintucks,” farmers and boatmen who floated produce, coal and livestock from the Ohio Valley down the Mississippi to markets in Natchez and New Orleans. Once they got there, they sold their boats for lumber and trudged back home. (The 500-mile trip from Natchez to Nashville took about 35 days on foot; on a horse, it only took about 20 to 25 days.)  In 1800, the Natchez Trace became a national mail road. It became obsolete, however, once steamboats made it possible for people and goods to travel up the Mississippi River as well as down.

Since 1938, the National Park Service has been paving the Natchez Trace a little bit at a time, turning it into a scenic modern highway. At the Franklin crossing, engineers had to figure out how to elevate the bridge over Route 96 and the densely wooded valley below while preserving the natural beauty of the site. Engineer Eugene Figg settled on an open, double-arched bridge that supports its deck without spandrel columns, preserving most of the view across the valley. The first arch is symmetrical and has a span of 582 feet and a rise of 145 feet. (That is, the bridge is 145 feet above the highway beneath it.)  The second arch, thanks to the elevated topography at the bridge’s southern end, is not symmetrical: It has a span of 462 feet and a rise of 102 feet. The arches are made of 122 hollow boxes, each precast nearby in Franklin. They were assembled in what engineers call “progressive cantilever,” with steel cables holding them together until each one was finished. The foundation and vertical piers were put together more traditionally: They were cast on-site as they were built.

The bridge officially opened on March 22, 1994 and the Natchez Trace Parkway was finally complete.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Yom Kippur War begins

Hoping to win back territory lost to Israel during the third Arab-Israeli war, Egyptian and Syrian forces launch a coordinated attack against Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Taking the Israeli Defense Forces by surprise, Egyptian troops swept deep ...read more

First Mennonites arrive in America

Encouraged by William Penn’s offer of 5,000 acres of land in the colony of Pennsylvania and the freedom to practice their religion, the first Mennonites arrive in America aboard the Concord. They were among the first Germans to settle in the American colonies.The Mennonites, ...read more

First U.S. train robbery

This new method of sticking up moving trains in remote locations low on law enforcement soon became popular in the American West, where the recently constructed transcontinental and regional railroads made attractive targets. With the western economy booming, trains often carried ...read more

Pierre Laval attempts suicide

On this day in 1945, former French premier and Vichy collaborator Pierre Laval tries to kill himself on the day he is to be executed for treason. He fails.Laval served as premier of France twice, the second time from June 1935 to January 1936, but fell from power primarily ...read more

U.S. jets strike targets in North Vietnam

U.S. Navy pilots fly 34 missions as they again strike the Chien Chiang and Lang Son bridges near the Chinese border, another bridge 39 miles northeast of Hanoi, a railroad yard near Mo Trang, and two anti-aircraft sites south of Dong Hoi.Other jets attacked the Nam Dinh power ...read more

Babe Ruth sets a World Series record

On October 6, 1926, Yankee slugger Babe Ruth hits a record three homers against the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourth game of the World Series. The Yanks won the game 10-5, but despite Ruth’s unprecedented performance, they lost the championship in the seventh game. In 1928, in ...read more

Bill Clinton debates Bob Dole

On this day in 1996, Democratic President Bill Clinton faces his Republican challenger, Senator Bob Dole from Kansas, in their first debate of that year’s presidential campaign.The debate, which took place in Hartford, Connecticut, and was moderated by Jim Lehrer of PBS, gave the ...read more

Jane Eyre is published

On this day in 1847, Jane Eyre is published by Smith, Elder and Co. Charlotte BrontË, the book’s author, used the pseudonym Currer Bell. The book, about the struggles of an orphan girl who grows up to become a governess, was an immediate popular success.BrontÝ was born in 1816, ...read more

Country superstars Faith Hill and Tim McGraw wed

Born just five months apart in May and September of 1967, respectively, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill followed similar paths to stardom and arrived there at nearly the exact same time. Both were raised in the South—McGraw in Delhi, Louisiana, and Hill (born Audrey Faith Perry) in ...read more

Liz Taylor marries husband No. 7

On this day in 1991, the actress Elizabeth Taylor marries her seventh husband, the construction worker Larry Fortensky, in a ceremony held at the pop singer Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch in California. Taylor, a Hollywood screen legend known for her violet-eyed beauty and her ...read more

Train derails in Mexico

On this day in 1972, a train carrying religious pilgrims derails near Saltillo, Mexico, killing more than 200 people and injuring hundreds of others.Wednesday, October 6, was Saint’s Day in Mexico, a holiday many extended families came together to celebrate. People in the central ...read more

The president of Egypt is assassinated

Islamic extremists assassinate Anwar Sadat, the president of Egypt, as he reviews troops on the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. Led by Khaled el Islambouli, a lieutenant in the Egyptian army with connections to the terrorist group Takfir Wal-Hajira, the terrorists, all wearing ...read more