Monroe Street Bridge Bison Skulls – Spokane, Washington - Atlas Obscura

Spokane, Washington

Monroe Street Bridge Bison Skulls

The decorations were inspired by an unlikely missing treasure.  

This bridge has unlikely guardians mounted on its pedestrian pavilions: concrete bison skulls. The pale, unconventional ornaments peer out over both the people crossing the overpass and the river rushing below.

The historic Monroe Street Bridge was built between 1909 and 1911 to replace its two predecessors, a wooden bridge that burned down and a steel bridge that vibrated unnervingly. The concrete behemoth was adorned with decorative fixtures, including bison skulls cast in concrete.

Adding the bovines to the bridge was inspired by a bison skull a prominent Spokane-based politician named Patrick C. Shine found while traveling in Alberta, Canada. Shine was so fond of his discovery he brought it back to Spokane, where he then mounted it on the garage of his family’s house for everyone to see.

In the years after the Shine family sold the house, the beloved bison skull vanished. The concrete heads on the bridge now exist as strange monuments to this unlikely missing treasure.

The bison on the bridge are actually reconstructions of the originals. By the 1990s, the bridge had become so weathered and worn that slabs of concrete started falling off and plummeting into the river below. The bridge was then taken apart and rebuilt with replicas of its original artwork.