When I was a young girl in the 1940s, we saved a dime by walking across the Fifth Street Bridge instead of taking the street car to downtown. That dime bought a bag of popcorn at the downtown theaters.
I wish my dad and uncle were around the tell you stories about this bridge! We always called it the Fifth Street Bridge. All of our truck routes went directly over this bridge. For our drivers, it was a straight shot from our grocery to downtown and the whole area.
When we were kids, we biked across the bridge to watch freight trains on the Rock Island Line. This bridge was the only way for us to go downtown.
For years, my mom worked as a seamstress at the Bob Allen Companies at the foot of the bridge. My mother walked across bridge to downtown and always after work on Fridays to cash her check at Des Moines Savings and Loan and then shopping at Younkers and finally a box of sweets from Barbara’s Bakery.
My parents were born in Italy. They met for the first time on the Fifth Street Bridge, and that’s where they kissed for the first time. Little Italy was our whole life. But when we crossed the bridge, it was a trip into another world.
This bridge, completed in 1898, “has generated both fervent debates and landmark decisions,” according to the National Register of Historic Places. Download the full report (972 KB).
“The Southwest Fifth Street Bridge,” as it is referred to by the US Department of Interior, “…retains a high degree of integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association.”
“The SW Fifth Bridge is not only historic in its design and history, it’s also one of the biggest connections to downtown Des Moines for the Southsiders who used this bridge as their gateway to work and socialize with the rest of the city. Very few cities still have old steel wagon bridges. As Des Moines downtown continues with its development track, this bridge is a great reminder of our ancestors and a connector to our core.” – David Barzen, President Des Moines Historical Society
If you share our vision to restore this bridge, please donate online or mail a check payable to the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines. Be sure to note “Jackson Street Bridge” in the memo line of your check.