Bridge That Helped Stamp Reno as Divorce Capital of the World to Be Demolished

Law Firm Newswire



Fairfax, VA (Law Firm Newswire) July 27, 2015 – Marilyn Monroe in “The Misfits” walked from courthouse to bridge to toss her wedding ring into the river.

Bridges are made to span the gap between two sides of a divide, and they are not normally associated with the creation of any division. But one bridge, a 105-year-old span over the Truckee River in Reno, Nevada, that has long been linked to newly divorced women through photography and film, has been scheduled for demolition.

The span, which is officially called the Virginia Street Bridge, but is also known as the “Wedding Ring Bridge” or the “Bridge of Sighs,” became an iconic symbol of Reno’s status as the “Divorce Capital of the World.” The city earned the moniker in the days prior to the 1960s when divorces were hard to come by in other states and so-called quickie divorces were available in Reno and elsewhere in Nevada.

But the Virginia Street Bridge became especially symbolic of newly divorced women due to a legend from the 1920s that they would walk one block from the Washoe County courthouse after their divorce became official and toss their wedding rings into the Truckee River. Photographs, postcards and Hollywood films have captured the scene of the divorcee dumping of rings, most famously when Marilyn Monroe performed the rite in the 1961 film “The Misfits.”

“There is nothing quite like a famous Hollywood film to capture the public’s imagination and establish a connection between a place and an act in their minds,” said Lisa McDevitt, a prominent divorce attorney in Fairfax, Virginia. “The reality of divorce, at least in most states, however, is still more than a just a few frames in a film or a stroll across a bridge.”

The bridge was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1980, and historic preservationists have long lobbied for its protection. But civic planners determined that the span’s structural integrity ranked among the worst in Nevada and that the $40 million price tag for repairs was too steep, and they ordered that the bridge be closed June 2 in preparation for demolition.

A new bridge critical for flood control will eventually rise in place of the old span. Reno has experienced major flooding events at least once a decade since the 1950s; the most destructive flood occurred on New Year’s Day in 1997, which cost $1 billion in damage across six counties, including $700 million in Washoe County alone.

“It is too bad that efforts made to save the historic Virginia Street Bridge will not bear fruits,” McDevitt said. “But while that span hopefully will be replaced with a structurally sound bridge, when efforts to save a shaky marriage prove fruitless, it is best for the parties involved to seek the counsel of an experienced divorce attorney.”

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