This series covers the years leading up to the transfer of the Washington Bridge from the Washington Bridge Society, a private concern, to the city of Providence in 1860. Included are account reports to the General Assembly. of receipts and expenditures.
The Washington Bridge, which spans the Seekonk River between Providence and East Providence, was first opened to traffic in 1793. John Brown and a number of other private investors had received a charter of incorporation for the Providence South Bridge Society. Since then there have been four more bridges at the same location. In 1807, the society changed its name to the Providence Washington Bridge Society. In October 1815, a gale destroyed the existing bridge, soon after which a new charter was granted to petitioners incorporating the society under the new name of the Washington Bridge Society. The bridge was not replaced, however, until sometime in the 1820s. On November 20, 1860 the Society conveyed the "Washington Bridge Estate” to the City of Providence, in accordance with an act passed by the General Assembly. The wooden bridge was destroyed by fire and replaced by another wooden bridge. This bridge lasted until 1885, when the General Assembly appointed a Washington Bridge Commission in 1883, (Public Law 1883, ch. 349) to develop a steel structure to replace the previous wood structure. This bridge was partly meant to remove serious obstructions to navigation along the Seekonk River. In addition, the new bridge also featured a swing span that permitted boats to pass through.
In 1920 the General Assembly established a second Washington Bridge Commission to investigate the feasibility of constructing a higher-level bridge that could accommodate the significantly increased volume of ship traffic. The Commission worked from 1920 to 1924, at which time it submitted a final report to the General Assembly. In 1927, the Commission was directed to proceed with construction. A contract for design was awarded to the Merrittt-Chapman and Scott Corporation and the fifth and current Washington Bridge was completed in 1930.