Historic bridge made vital link to North Shore
: I am looking for some special information about a relative, Karsten Thot. The Karsten Thot Bridge, also known as "Airplane Bridge," is named after him. In anticipation of a trip to Hawaii, we'd like to know why this bridge was built for him. What we do know is that he was active in the pineapple culture on Oahu and died in 1932.
Answer: Karsten Thot Bridge is not the old "Airplane Bridge," which was what Wilson Bridge was more familiarly called before it was torn down and widened several years ago.
That bridge is the first one crossed by motorists heading into Wahiawa town from Honolulu.
The picturesque Karsten Thot Bridge is located on Kamehameha Highway at the other end of the town, 0.18 miles north of Kilani Avenue.
According to state Department of Transportation records, it is built in the style of steel railway bridges found throughout the mainland but is one of only three metal truss bridges in the islands and the only one of its type on Oahu.
Transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa provided us with information compiled by consultant Bethany Thompson for the department in 1983, as part of a Historic Bridge Inventory on Oahu.
Karsten Thot was described as "a prominent community-minded citizen," who was born in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, on Feb. 12, 1889.
He came to Hawaii in 1904 and worked as a field supervisor for Hawaiian Pineapple Co. until his death in 1932, the year the bridge was constructed. He was survived by a wife and three children.
According to Thompson, he "was very active in community affairs when the Honolulu Board of Supervisors under Charles Crane asked if they could name the bridge after him. This was not carried out until Fred Wright became mayor in 1937. In 1974 a memorial plaque was placed on the bridge by the family."
His involvement in community affairs was not detailed.
When built, the bridge was said to be an important transportation link between the North Shore and Honolulu, contributing to the growth of Wahiawa.
That ultimately changed after the construction of the H-2 freeway, when Kamehameha Highway no longer was "the primary circum-island road."
The bridge, built for $65,555, is 214 feet long, sits 44 feet above the stream and has a roadway width of 24 feet and a maximum span of 210 feet. It was designed by G.K. Dawson and built by J.L. Young Engineering.
According to Thompson, the bridge is "significant for its contributions to the areas of engineering and transportation in Hawaii. The 1932 bridge is an excellent example of a late-period steel through-deck Warren truss."
Because of saltwater erosion problems, steel bridges were phased out on Oahu. Karsten Thot Bridge sits above the freshwater Wahiawa Reservoir, also known as Lake Wilson.
It had a major overhaul about 10 years ago, including a new paint job.
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