Walnut Street Bridge named top public place decades after nearly - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Walnut Street Bridge named top public place decades after nearly being destroyed

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Architect and resident engineer, Garnet Chapin, played a major role in the restoration of the Walnut Street Bridge in the early 90's. "This is my best work. It means more to the people of my city than I can express," Chapin says.

He was on hand Tuesday morning as the Chattanooga landmark was named one of America's top 10 Great Public Places in 2013. However, if city officials had their way in 1980 it wouldn't be here at all.

While the Walnut Street Bridge is getting national attention now. In 1980 city leaders wanted to blow it up into the Tennessee River. That was until one local man and his friends put a stop to it.

"The city commission voted to tear it down. I didn't want them to so I didn't let them," Hank Hill, a local attorney says.

Hill, a St. Elmo native, saw the potential of the bridge when no one else did. "Mickey, Charlie and Stan and I foremost, we decided it was too good of a thing to waste," explains Hill.

He filed a federal lawsuit which put the city's plans on hold and allowed the Corps of Engineers and TVA to investigate.

"There were more violations of the law than there were not violations of the law to tear the thing down," says Hill.

The judge ruled in their favor and a couple years later plans to refurbish the bridge were in place but Hill doesn't mind being called the bridge's hero. "Yeah, I would say that. We didn't refurbish it but we saved it," Hill says.


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