Torrance's Iconic Bridge Gets a New Name

It only took a century, but Old Torrance’s rehabilitated historic bridge over Torrance Boulevard finally has an official name:  Pacific Electric Railway - El Prado Bridge!

Early photograph of the 1913 bridge (Torrance Historical Society)
West elevation of the bridge after rehabilitation
When Chattel joined the project team, the concrete bridge was covered in dense ivy vines and dull gray paint to mask graffiti.  Huge cracks extended across the surface and smaller bits of concrete were falling off.  When the ivy was removed, more concrete came with it and because the vines had trapped moisture against the bridge, the ivy-covered areas were actually the most deteriorated.  
Ivy vines covered the bridge
Chattel worked with structural engineer Krakower & Associates, concrete specialist Preservation Arts, and City of Torrance Department of Public Works to develop a project that brought back the modern elegance of the arched bridge.  The team removed all the paint and vines, patched damaged concrete, reconstructed wood guardrails, and added clear anti-graffiti coating.  Elements that contribute to the bridge's historic character, like soot produced by steam and diesel locomotives were retained.  Chattel also consulted with Torrance Historical Society to come up with the new, official name that was approved by the Torrance City Council after a spirited presentation by Chattel at the council hearing —the structure was previously called “the bridge” and several other colloquial names.  The new name meaningfully unites “Pacific Electric Railway,” the first bridge owner, with “El Prado Bridge,” the name on original construction drawings.  In the works is new in-ground lighting that will illuminate the bridge at night.
Workers carefully patched damaged concrete to match the original concrete

Soot from steam and diesel locomotives are part of the bridge's historic character and were left in place
Designed by architect Irving Gill and exemplifying his love of concrete and arches, the bridge was built in 1913 for the Pacific Electric Railway and served freight trains passing over tracks used by southern California's famous Red Cars.  It is one of the first bridges to use arches purely for decoration, disguising an otherwise simple structure of concrete girders and beams.  Southern Pacific Railroad later took over ownership of the bridge and donated it to the City of Torrance in 1986.  The bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.  

At a 100th birthday celebration on May 23rd, 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers presented a plaque commemorating the bridge as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, joining the ranks of the Golden Gate and Brooklyn bridges.  Chattel Associate Shane Swerdlow was featured on Torrance CitiCABLE's coverage of the celebration. On Sunday, June 2nd, he also presented a program at the Torrance Historical Society's Annual Meeting and Board Installation on Irving Gill and how the bridge embodies the distinguishing characteristics of Gill's architectural style.  Today, the bridge serves as Torrance’s eastern gateway and an icon of civic identity, prominently featured in the logos and seals of City departments and organizations.  

East elevation of the rehabilitated bridge