JESSAMINE COUNTY, Ky. – Just to the south of Nicholasville in rural Jessamine County sits a bridge carrying Kentucky 39 across Hickman Creek. Built in 1929, the bridge, known locally as Black Bridge, has connections to prominent African-American photographers Morgan and Marvin Smith.
Decades of use had led to cracked and spalling concrete, exposed rebar and deteriorating beams, leading the Bridging Kentucky team to earmark it for complete replacement. Stains and rust were also visible throughout much of the structure.
Additionally, the bridge’s unique design—concrete rails resembling fence posts—no longer met the Federal Highway Administration’s guidelines for safe bridges, furthering the need to replace it.
Because the bridge was eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, a mitigation report was performed to document the history of the Black Bridge community before the bridge was torn down.
Although little research existed, interviews and archives revealed the area was settled by Black sharecroppers in the 1800s. The area grew to include a church, school, store and several houses. Its most famous descendants were the Smith twins, who were born in the area in 1910 and later moved to New York to become the first photographers of the Apollo Theater.
The new Black Bridge was completed in fall 2021 and sits just a short walk from where the Smith family lived. It has a lifespan of at least 75 years, features classic rails and comes with no load restrictions, making it safe for any vehicles traveling on Kentucky 39.
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