Historic Bridges Over Sligo Creek

Visitors to Sligo Creek Park immediately notice the many footbridges that make Sligo Trail possible. These bridges continue a long tradition extending back more than a century.

Foot bridge across Sligo near the Glen Sligo Hotel - early 1900s

Visitors, however, should also take a good look at Sligo Creek's road bridges. Three have been determined eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, according to the Maryland State Highway Administration and the Maryland Historical Trust1:

Park Valley Road (built 1931, concrete beam)

Carroll Avenue/MD 195 (built 1932, concrete arch)

East-West Highway/MD 410 (built 1934, concrete beam)

Map showing the location of these bridges

The Carroll Avenue Bridge is by far the most impressive and observable of the three. Built in three graceful spans across the entire 225 foot Sligo Creek Ravine, it was one of 170 secondary road bridges erected as part of a State building campaign in 1932-342.

The current bridge is the third to span Sligo Creek at Carroll Avenue3. The first, built in 1878, was a wooden bridge down in the ravine at the level of today's Sligo Creek Parkway. From the south bank, Old Carroll Avenue crossed the creek near the present hiking trail footbridge, then meandered back uphill on the north bank. Like many of its contemporaries, this low wooden bridge was vulnerable to storm-driven high water.

In 1909 the wooden bridge was replaced with a reinforced concrete structure at the location of the present bridge. This bridge provided convenient access from the District of Columbia to the new Washington Sanitarium (constructed by the Seventh Day Adventist Church in 1907) The Sanitarium has evolved into Washington Adventist Hospital. While the 1909 bridge was safe from floods and eliminated the hard climbs out of the ravine, by the 1930s, it was not up to the rigors of the automobile age.

The collapse of the 1909 bridge during its de-construction is documented in Sligo Creek Bridge Collapse 1932.

1 Legler, Dixie and Highsmith, Carol M., Historic Bridges of Maryland. Maryland Department of Transportation, State Highway Administration,2002, pp. 125-132. Friends of Sligo Creek has no information that National Register status is being pursued.
2 Ibid, p.63
3 Ellen R. Marsh and Mary Anne O'Boyle, Takoma Park, Portrait of a Victorian Suburb, 1883-1983, Takoma Park, MD: Historic Takoma, Inc., 1984, p.136.

Research and text by Larry Hodes