October 7 - A small crew made of members of the Rotary Club of Cottage Grove and other dedicated volunteers — including Dana Merryday, Larry Bottemiller, Michael Cunningham, Amy Merryday, Mayor Jeff Gowing and local helpers Chris and Jeremiah —stopped by to lend a hand for the installation of an information kiosk at the J. Polk Currin Swinging Bridge, South River Road and Madison Ave.
“Everyone was pleasant and very helpful and hardworking,” said Merryday, who led the project.
Local history found on the kiosk, with graphics prepared by local historian and designer Alice Christianson, will visually transport readers to Cottage Grove’s infancy, when the precinct was called Slabtown from the 1870s through 1890s. It’s also where River Road, then Main Street, functioned as a thriving commercial district in the Coast Fork Township in Lane County. Merryday worked closely with Christianson on the overall design.
“We had an incredible experience bouncing stuff off of each other in preparing the display,” he noted.
The opposite side of the kiosk will tell the tale of the original Swinging Bridge’s architect, James Polk Currin, a local pharmacist, engineer and merchant. Currin’s family is highlighted among some of the other pioneers, homes and local businesses that helped shape western Slabtown and later eastern Lemati, when the economical outgrowth extended into what we now know as the Historic District on Main Street. Feuding sides finally consolidated into a singular Cottage Grove in 1899.
Those who walk across the bridge can take a moment to reflect on those early settlers that wished to own a home on one side of the river and a business on the other, particularly Currin, who first built a footbridge closer to Pioneer Park, then a wooden trestle bridge and later the first suspension bridge in 1917.
As the bridge evolved in different incarnations, originally made of simple rope and boards, the current one is by far one of the city’s greatest collaborative achievements in terms of fundraising, grant sourcing, architectural design, engineering and construction.
Currin’s historical suspension bridge is a cultural landmark, built for the public’s enjoyment for many years to come, and its new kiosk will also leave visitors with a lasting impression.
A dedication for the kiosk will soon be announced by the community members that were committed to restoring and maintaining the iconic suspension bridge in Cottage Grove during its recent fundraising stage, the Friends of the Swinging Bridge. It will act as a final touch to all of the current planned stages for the bridge and its landscape. The J. Polk Currin Swinging Bridge is now open to the public at South River Road & Madison Avenue.