Tolls from the bridge quickly paid off the project as Waco became a primary river crossing for the north-south travel through Texas, including cattle drives on the Chisholm Trail. The town quickly got a railroad tap line and doubled in size over the next decade.
This photo from about 1900 on the west end of the bridge shows a lively Victorian scene.
Geoff Hunt, an audio and visual curator at the Texas Collection at Baylor University, said the bridge helped make Waco what it is today.
“A lot of people don’t put together the significance of it,” he said. “Looking at it now, people don’t realize how revolutionary and important it was in its day, and that it necessitates the money we’re putting into it now. Future generations will be very pleased we did.”