WHEN COAL WAS KING: Fairfax Bridge Over The Carbon – Voice Of The Valley

Fairfax Bridge 1921bw

It’s 100-years-old and one of Washington’s most stunning bridges.  The Fairfax Bridge over the Carbon River on State Route 165 was built in 1921 for $80,000.  The bridge was part of a nearly $500,000 project that provided a road connection to Fairfax, Montezuma, and Manley-Moore, from other towns in the east Pierce County coal district, the closest being Carbonado 2.8 miles north.  It came about when the county road commission headed by James R. O’Farrell, recognized the need to serve the coal mining towns and logging camps up river.  The bridge was dedicated on Dec. 17, 1921 at an official opening attended by scores of citizens.  Prior to the bridge, the three  towns were only connected to the outside world by railroad.  The road and bridge also provide access to the Carbon River entrance to Mount Rainer National Park, one of its four points of entry.  This scene from the winter of 1921 features the newly constructed bridge from a view looking northeast back towards Carbonado.

The Fairfax span is one of only two still-existing, three-hinged, steel arch bridges in the State of Washington.  It’s 494 feet in length and sits 250 feet above the Carbon River.  At the time of construction, it was the highest bridge in the state.  There are two observation lookouts midspan.  Originally known as the O’Farrell Bridge, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.  The Fairfax bridge was closed in 1995, so the approaches could be rebuilt and decking redone.  It has survived other temporary closings due to landslides and fires and is now a single-lane bridge.  This photo is part of the Marvin D. Boland Collection #BOLAND-B5048, held at the Tacoma Public Library.

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