The earliest drawbridge to span the narrow part of San Leandro Bay between Alameda and Bay Farm Island was built in 1854. The wooden swing bridge, constructed entirely of wood was surfaced with oyster shells. It had been built as a toll road in conjunction with a land speculation deal, so when the land deal fell through, the bridge was abandoned. By 1860, only a few pilings remained.
In 1874, the County of Alameda tried its hand at bridge building, but although the bridge was dedicated and opened with a wild celebration, it too failed to catch on.
A boat captain who passed that way often, claimed that sea lions were so numerous in the area, they sometimes covered the roadway making it impossible to cross the bridge.
This poor photo is said to be of the Alameda County drawbridge described above. With a 754-foot swing span, the manually operated bridge could have accomodated any vessels that would pass that way.
The county salvaged the structure before it rotted away and later used part of it for a wharf in Alameda. Scrapbook photo; Alameda Library
This, the third drawbridge and first successful one at the Bay Farm Island location, was built around the discarded drawspan of the second Webster Street Bridge. That span is the large section in the center of the bridge above.
Constructed in 1881, it served at Webster Street until condemmed in 1896. Later, in 1898, it was barged to this location where it served for 54 more years.
When replaced in 1953 it was, according to the California Highways and Public Works magazine "the state's number one candidate for the junk heap." Caltrans photo.
The moden looking bridge above is the existing Bay Farm Island Bridge. Costing some $2.3 million to build, this single-leaf bascule bridge provides 92 feet of horizontal clearance and could add another leaf it were ever needed. Its 53-foot roadway carries four lanes of traffic.
Unlike its predecessor, this span has been relatively trouble free during its 49 years of service. It was opened to trraffic on July 1, 1953 and dedicated the following day.
Unique in California, this $3,000,000 bridge was built exclusively for bicycles, pedestrians and vehicles for the handicapped. It is the only such drawbridge in the state.
Completed in 1995, it is located adjacent to the vehicle bridge and its hydraulically lifted drawspan is operated in conjunction with the one on that bridge. They can be opened and closed individually, but there would probably never be an occasion for them to do so, except for testing, perhaps.