Longview’s signature squirrel span, the Nutty Narrows bridge, has joined the ranks of Frank Lloyd Wright homes and the Empire State Building.
The 51-year-old bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places late this summer, placing it among a class of national treasures.
Since the late contractor Amos Peters dreamed the bridge into existence in 1963, the bridge has attracted national attention and started a following that blossomed into the Longview’s annual Squirrel Fest in 2011.
“Dad was responsible for a lot of construction in the area through the years, the tallest building in the area at the time — Campus Towers — and Calvary Community Church, too many to even remember,” Peters’ youngest son, Roger Peters said Tuesday. “The thing that bought him the most joy, kind of unanticipated at the outset, was this small structure, the squirrel bridge.”
The bridge joined the local and state historic registers last year when it became eligible at 50 years old.
Local historic preservationist Doris Disbrow said credit for the national listing goes to Portland’s Adrienne Donovan-Boyd and Tim Askin, who prepared the nomination for free.
“Generally these nominations, on houses anyway, would run $3,500, but she loved it so much,” said Disbrow, who had written a great deal on the squirrel bridge in the past. “There’s a lot of nitty gritty to it — I think it’s such a cool thing.”
Historic registers exist to preserve culturally important areas or artifacts for posterity.
“The Nutty Narrows is historically significant for its status as a resource that represents the efforts of a small group of citizens who created a beloved community landmark to save local squirrels from having to cross a busy thoroughfare,” according to a state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation news release.
The squirrel bridge is the 31st object or site in Cowlitz County on the national list, joining the Lewis and Clark Bridge, the Civic Center, the Stella Blacksmith Shop and many others.
In addition to Nutty Narrows on Olympic Way near 18th Avenue and Maple Street, three other squirrel bridges now span city streets. A fifth bridge, a steel span unveiled at Squirrel Fest this year, will find its home in the sky this summer.
Nutty Narrows was officially added to the national register on Aug. 18 — just two days after the 2014 Squirrel Fest. The state started publicizing the listing last week.
“It’s kind of fun just to drive by, and so often you see people that are looking at the bridge or the squirrel monument, especially the kids who like to crawl up on it,” Peters said. Now that the historic Shay locomotive is back at the nearby Longview Public Library lawn, he added, “you kind of have a two-fer there in terms of a tourist attraction. You’ll see a lot of people with out-of-state plates.”
To attract more of those out-of-state plates, there are plans to put in paths and interpretive panels alongside the restored locomotive and the wood squirrel statue — and donations are always welcome. Contact Adam Trimble with the city and Friends of Longview at 442-5092 to get involved.