McKee Street Bridge in Houston

Photo of McKee Street Bridge in Houston, Texas
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz
Photo of McKee Street Bridge in Houston, Texas
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz

McKee Street Bridge

McKee Street at Buffalo Bayou, Houston, Texas, Downtown 77002
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A peculiar low-slung span joining two halves of the downtown warehouse district, the McKee Street bridge is one of those few structures that is seeing better life and recognition in its waning years than it did in its prime. The bridge is constructed of concrete girders, topped with cobblestone and a serpentine concrete railing that can remind one of either the waves of Buffalo Bayou below, or some sea serpent that might live beneath is ripples. At the time of its completion, the McKee Stret Bridgeq was the longest unreinforced concrete beidge in the world. If those are the humps of the Loch Ness Monster's relative, then the historic globes topping its light standards are its multiple eyes. The bridge wasn't always this festive. Until the 1980's, it was an abused and maligned tressle, absorbing the city's anger through graffiti and vandalism. That was when artist Kirk Farris made it his pet project. He cleaned off the rust and urban decay, and applied the first coats of pastel paint. It didn't revitalize the neighborhood, but it certainly made the people whol live there feel better about their environment. But the area's history goes farther back than the bridge. The place where the bridge is and the adjoining Bute Park used to be known as Frost Town in the 1800's ("Frost" as in Frost Ranches, related to Frost Bank). The family that lived here raised cattle on the banks of the Bayou. Houston Mayor John T. Browne was born in County Limerick, Ireland, but moved to Frost Town in the later years of the 19th century. Eventually the town was demolished. Much was lost when the rail lines were put through downtown. The rest eaten up by the Eastex Freeway. But the bridge still stands, and gives people a place to stand, sit, or lean while watching the same bayou, the same banks, and the same water that some of the state's earliest settlers watched more than a hundred years earlier.

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