The Construction of the Tobin Bridge

 

The idea for the Tobin Bridge began in 1933 when a special commission convened to discuss the idea for a larger bridge between Chelsea and Boston to accommodate expanding traffic.  At that time, a swing bridge served as the connecting route between Chelsea and Charlestown.  It was not until the mid-1940s that the Mystic River Bridge Authority was formed and the $27 million raised for the cost of this extraordinary high-rise bridge that is 130 feet above water and 2 miles long.  Eventually the Mystic River Bridge opened in February, 1950 and the City of Chelsea was forever changed. Many years later the name was changed to the Tobin Bridge.

The dark side of this magnificent structure is the enormous toll it took on Chelsea.  The bridge was built during a period of American history when there was very little regard for historic preservation and many old homes and buildings were demolished with a carelessness that is hard to imagine today.  In Chelsea, the destruction of historic property is always particularly concerning in light of the devastating fire of 1908 that took so much of the city. Although a number of homes were moved from the waterfront to Webster and Clark avenues, many were torn down. Families were paid very little for their property and had no recourse, unlike today. However, even more devastating than the destruction of property, was the severe financial blow to the shopping district.  A once thriving downtown area soon became empty as cars drove over Chelsea instead of through it. The merchants who had initially supported this project, believing that all of the off ramps would result in an increase of business, must have been quite disillusioned.

 

Lee Farrington

Historical Commission