The Shakespeare Bridge
Franklin Avenue Bridge
In Los Feliz, you can traverse an elegantly styled Gothic bridge, named for William Shakespeare, that spans a dry stream bed.
The Shakespeare Bridge, officially known as the Franklin Avenue Bridge (but sometimes mistakenly called the Franklin Street Bridge) was designed by civil engineer J.C. Wright of the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering. This span, sometimes called the most romantic bridge in Los Angeles, was was built in 1926 to provide easy roadway access from the Franklin Hills Neighborhood to the East Hollywood and Ivanhoe District. It also opened up the hills of Franklin Hills for residential development.
The bridge is something of an architectural oddity in that it looks like nothing else around it, which really makes it stand out. It runs 261 feet long with a quartet of Gothic-style steepled towers at each end. It’s also quite narrow — about 30 feet including the half-sized sidewalks lining each side of the road. This makes the width allowable for cars only about 20 feet.
What’s In a Name? The Shakespeare Bridge
As near as I can tell, the Franklin Avenue Bridge was always called the Shakespeare Bridge after William Shakespeare — and for no good reason other than the towers on either end of the bridge are vaguely reminiscent of architectural features you’d expect to see in Elizabethan London.
There was a bit of controversy surrounding the bridge’s construction back in the day, primarily over the levy of taxes against the local homeowners to pay for its original $60,000 price tag.
But despite these contentious financial origins, the bridge has become a much-loved local landmark. It was named as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument number 126 on April 17, 1974.
The Sacatela Creek used to run in the ravine under the bridge, but its course was diverted to nearby storm drains back in 1917. Eventually, part of the area was paved over with the end of Monon Street. Today there’s a small park, the Shakespeare Bridge Garden, underneath the bridge and a round building housing the Los Feliz campus of the Lycée International sits just to south.
After the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the powers that be felt the bridge needed to be rebuilt out of concerns it wouldn’t be able to stand through another, closer quake.
The subsequent retrofit, which took four years and required engineers and preservationists to work in concert, saw the entire structure pretty much rebuilt. This was also an opportunity to reverse some non-historic restoration that was done to the bridge in the decades prior. Today it looks very much like it did when it was first unveiled.
There’s always been a bit of Hollywood allure to the bridge. For a short time it was known as the Disney Bridge, likely because the first Walt Disney Studio opened on nearby Hyperion Avenue in 1926. There’s also a persistent rumor that at least one scene from The Wizard of Oz was filmed on the bridge, but no one’s ever verified that (though it hasn’t been denied, either).
However, the bridge did have a supporting role in Kenneth’ Branagh’s 1991 romantic thriller Dead Again. It is featured in the scene where Branagh chases Campbell Scott across the bridge.
The Shakespeare Bridge / Franklin Avenue Bridge
- Franklin Avenue, between George St and Myra Ave, Los Feliz
- GPS Coordinates: 34.105470, -118.278672 [ Google Maps ]
- what3words: ///reply.hulk.weds
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