SEPTEMBER 4, 2010 – Snake Alley – Burlington, IA
Snake Alley in Burlington, Iowa was a neat little place. Sonny and I each took a turn to drive down the “Crookedest Street In the World” and it was actually quite nerve wracking! But a fun little detour on our way to Winterset.
From the Snake Alley website:
Snake Alley was constructed in 1894 as an experimental street design. The intention was to provide a more direct link between the downtown business district and the neighborhood shopping area located on North Sixth Street.
Working together, three public-spirited German immigrants conceived and carried out the idea of a winding hillside street, reminiscent of vineyard paths in France and Germany.
Local newspapers proclaimed the street “a triumph in practical engineering.” The city had considered constructing more streets in this same manner, but the switchback design proved to be less successful for horse carriages than the city had anticipated.
There is a legend that the fire department used this alley to test horses. If a horse could take the curves at a gallop and still be breathing when it reached the top, it was deemed fit to haul the city’s fire wagons. Unfortunately, many teams would run out of control or stumble over the limestone curbing, sometimes resulting in a broken leg.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not titled Snake Alley “The Crookedest Street In The World.”
The alley is composed of tooled, curved limestone curbing and locally-fired blueclay bricks. The constantly changing slant from one curve to the next necessitated a complicated construction technique to keep the high grade to the outside. Snake Alley consists of five half-curves and two quarter-curves over a distance of 275 feet, rising 58.3 feet from Washington Street to Columbia.
The craftsmanship and soundness of materials used in the construction of Snake Alley have made it a durable street. It stands today as a singular landmark in Burlington and a reflection of the city’s ethnic heritage.
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