By Elverhoj Museum Staff

On August 23, 1953, workers completed the dismantling of the “The Old Red Bridge,” which spanned the Santa Ynez River at Alisal Road. 

Solvang founder Rev. J.M. Gregersen (kneeling on left) and friends on the bridge.
Photo contributed

The bridge had been in a perpetual state of disrepair for many years before being demolished. It took a week to pull timbers and the seven steel spans apart piece-by-piece. The county sold the timbers to ranchers and much of the steel was recycled locally. It is likely that remnants of the bridge were used in many projects built by blacksmith Kris Klibo in the 1950s and 1960s.

Built in 1880, the bridge was for years the only means of crossing the Santa Ynez River during the winter months. When Solvang was founded, Buellton didn’t exist and Gaviota Road (present day Alisal Road to the top of Nojoqui Grade) was the main connection for those traveling to and from the south coast. It was a narrow and twisting road with its terminus point in Solvang at Lompoc Road (present day Mission Drive).

As the area grew, a wider and more modern thoroughfare than was needed. A concrete bridge was built over the river in Buellton and the San Lucas Bridge was constructed on Highway 154. These bridges, along with improvements to Highway 101 in the 1930s, significantly changed the nature of Solvang by moving traffic away from downtown. 

The current concrete Alisal Bridge, which spans 850 feet, was constructed in 1971 after the epic 1969 floods.
Photo contributed

All that remains of the Old Red Bridge are some concrete piers, which will see water flow in the coming weeks as a scheduled release from Bradbury Dam was planned to begin on Aug. 31. The release is part of an agreement between Cachuma Lake water users to recharge the groundwater basins along the Santa Ynez River downstream of the dam. These groundwater basins provide an essential source of water for the cities, towns and farming interests along the river and on the Lompoc Plain – and provide a natural playground for the community.

So what made the old bridge red? It’s not clear if it was red paint or rust, or a combination of the two. 

Want to learn more about the history of Solvang? “The Spirit of Solvang” book is available for shipping or curbside pick-up. Call 805-686-1211 or email to place an order.