Chorro Street Bridge – San Luis Obispo CA

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A low masonry headwall rises above a sidewalk on the west side Chorro Street in a residential area south of downtown San Luis Obispo. Spanning a small creek, the Chorro Street Bridge was constructed under a WPA street and drainage improvement project.

In 1939-40, the WPA paved eight blocks of Chorro Street between Pacific and High streets. This followed an earlier improvement of a different section of the street in 1937.

The wall (14’-long, 32”-high, 20”-thick) is made of square-cut stone laid in regular courses. Embedded in the center is a sandstone tablet documenting the WPA project.

The stonework continues below the street as heavy wingwalls, stepping down the stream channel.

The bridge component of the project appears to have been an addition to an older culvert. Below the WPA rockwork is a small barrel culvert of different design and stone composition. The WPA not only bolstered the existing culvert, but also added the protective barrier on the sidewalk.

WPA labor improved multiple streets in San Luis Obispo in the late 1930s. Their work was not always appreciated. In 1938, a group of Morro Street residents complained about the WPA’s paving of their road.

By 1939 the problems had been resolved through the so-called “Islay system,” named after a successful WPA paving project on Islay Street, an east-west street near downtown.

Under the system, adjacent property owners paid 20% of the total project cost. This translated to roughly 5 cents per square foot. In addition, the paving method improved to a 2.5”-thick surface material placed applied over a rock base.

While Chorro Street has been resurfaced many times since 1940, the sturdy rock culvert and its headwall remain evidence of the WPA’s earlier work.

Source notes

San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune, October 25, 1937, 1.
San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune, March 7, 1938, 1.

San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune, June 20, 1939, 1. 

Project originally submitted by John Murphey on April 2, 2015.

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Location Info

1617 Chorro Street
San Luis Obispo, California 93401

Coordinates: 35.275725, -120.659257

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