This article draws on the excellent history by Michael Moy, Story Bridge: Idea to Icon, as well as articles and information.
This fine structure is an icon for many New Farm residents as well as Brisbane and Queensland people. In 1926 the new Brisbane City Council recommended the building of a bridge linking Kangaroo Point to the northern suburbs. However, it was not until 1932 that the new Forgan Smith State Government decided to push ahead with the bridge as a public works program of the Depression, and appointed Dr John Bradfield as head of the building team. He brought extensive experience in the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge along with engineer James Holt.
Evans Deakin won the contract and building began on 24th May 1935 when Premier Forgan Smith turned the first sod at Kangaroo Point. The foundations for the southern main pier of the Bridge lie under the Captain Burke Park at Kangaroo Point and reach 40 metres below the level of the Park. Open excavation was not possible because of water seepage on the south bank, so a pneumatique caisson technique for the five southern piers was used, with an air lock at the top of a concrete cylinder and a steel blade around the bottom to make the excavation. Workers removed the silt and sand that was cut out. The pressure was almost four atmospheres and workers risked getting the bends. There were in fact 65 cases of the bends, all of which were treated nearby in a special pressurized hospital built on site and all were treated successfully.
The Bridge was almost entirely made of Australian steel fabricated locally by Evans Deakin. Work was often around the clock, with many of its workers living in New Farm close to the site. The gap was completed on 28 October 1939, after a delay while construction ceased to wait for the right weather to make the join.
Remarkably, there were few fatalities – only three men fell to their deaths, from accidents. The novel by Simon Cleary, The Comfort of Figs, dramatizes the concern of the workers with their safety, and the reputation that American engineers had for budgeting for one death per story in the building of New York skyscrapers. Unfortunately, there were quite a few nonfatal accidents.
The design was influenced by the Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal of 1930. The Bridge was opened on 6 July 1940 by the Governor of Queensland Sir Leslie Wilson, and named after J D Story, the Public Service Commissioner. The Bradfield Highway from Main Street Kangaroo Point onto the Bridge is named after John Bradfield, the engineer who designed Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Further information is also available at the office of the Historical Society, next to the New Farm Library, open Thursdays from 2.00pm to 4 pm or by appointment.