One of Monona's historic structures, remembered not for its beauty, but because it gave its name to an area known as a center for pleasure seekers, was the Black Bridge. To area residents who date back to prohibition days in the 1920's, the bridge has had many meanings. It was well known not only because it was that area's only route across the Yahara River, but also because of the bootleggers, dancing girls, and other shady characters who congregated in the speakeasies of that area. Many Madisonians would frequent the Black Bridge establishments in the 1920s. It was said that when seeking nighttime entertainment all one had to do was give a Madison cab driver $.25 and he would head out an old country road. This "country road" is now the well traveled southeast route of Olin Avenue, John Nolen Drive and the South Beltline. Since it was then illegal to buy or sell liquor, this area became so seedy that when Monona was incorporated, the new village board considered painting the bridge white in hopes of changing the reputation of the Black Bridge area.
Preceded by a wooden structure, the bridge was fabricated by the Iowa Iron Company in 1904 and formally opened in 1905. It was built like a railroad trestle, with overhead supports. As the years passed, cars and trucks were built heavier and the bridge could not accommodate the increased weight and traffic. The site was originally a crossing for two Indian trails that forded the Badfish or Yahara River.
The Bridge Lounge, a long-time establishment near the site of the Black Bridge, had a six-foot model of the bridge in their bar for many years. In 2017, after ceasing operation, the Bridge Lounge donated the bridge model to the Historic Blooming Grove Historical Society. It is now on display at the Nathaniel Dean House.
Owners of the Bridge Lounge and members of the Historic Blooming Grove Historical Society (HBGHS) holding a 6-foot model of the Black Bridge
L to R: Ron Bull, HBGHS curator Ann Waidelich, Bridge Lounge owners
Billy and Deb Noltner, Gloria Simley, Bob Bean, and Tom Robertson
photo by Kevin Passon, The Herald-Independent