A Big Four Bridge Walk Leads to Schimpff’s Confectionery

Isabella atop the Big Four Bridge.

My daughter was hankering for a serious milk shake, and the sublime sugar rush that comes with such a decadent treat. Now I try not to overindulge, but a milk shake craving is no joke. This type of itch can’t be scratched by some shake-like creation from DQ, Mickie D’s or Sonic. So if we’re going for this level of caloric intake, it’s best earned.

On a toasty clear weekend afternoon, my daughter Isabella, 7, and I parked at 1101 River Road in Louisville’s Waterfront Park. This was the jump on spot for the Big Four Bridge, a pedestrian and biker-friendly crossway over the Ohio River that connects Louisville, Kentucky with Jeffersonville, Indiana. Our reward for the day’s little adventure was a visit to Schimpff’s Confectionery, the 128-year old candy emporium, located in the Old Jeffersonville Historic District.

There’s public parking beneath the giant circular bridge onramp, but plenty of street parking is available if the lot is full. As we began our stroll up the onramp, the wide inclined pathway offered plenty of space to talk and joke about as we marched the 1/4 mile to bridge level.

A mixture of humanity joined us this day, families, some pushing infants, kids, runners, serious walkers and bikers. A few illicit skateboarders and motorized long boarders were in the mix too. Also going up was a bridal party making the journey for some fun wedding snapshots atop the bridge.

The UrbanLlama taking in the bridge-top view.

A refreshing crosswind whipped about once we reached elevation, some 50-plus feet above the water below. The views of Louisville, the river’s expanse, and business conducted on this waterway were spectacular. It was a 1/2 mile across the straightaway, where twice while walking classical music wafted down from speakers fixed to the above truss work.

The Big Four Bridge is a former railroad crossing completed in 1895, that took its name from the defunct Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway, nicknamed the “Big Four Railroad.”

It was decommissioned in 1969, with both ramps to the bridge removed. This became the first bridge to fall out of use in Louisville and earned it the nickname “Bridge That Goes Nowhere.” In February 2011, a joint venture between Kentucky and Indiana was announced for the creation of a pedestrian and bicycle path linking Louisville with the City of Jeffersonville. It opened to the public on Feb. 7, 2013, and averages more than 1.5 million visits per year.

Isabella reveled  in the breeze gusting about, and the freedom of feeling suspended above the river. She twirled and skipped along the pathway. There’s a lot to take in from this perch, and my energetic and enthusiastic companion wanted to see it all.

Once on the Indiana side, a 1/4 mile circular ramp led down to the park below. There folks were playing Frisbee and partaking in a celebratory barbecue. A few yards further found us in the Old Jeffersonville Historic District.

A frozen treats store resided on the corner as the bridge’s offramp merged with the street. Several cafes and restaurants looked on invitingly from across the way. I flipped on my GPS to navigate the few blocks to Schimpff’s Confectionery.

Walking up to the storefront, a gentleman sweeping the sidewalk greeted us in his apron with a welcoming salutation. It was pleasant in a manner not heard much these days.

Upon entering this candy emporium, it gave one a sense of returning to simpler times. Glass cases were filled with radiant shelves of confectionary treasures. Aisle-way displays tempted with Modjeskas (caramel-covered marshmallows), hand-dipped chocolates and crunchy almond toffee. Behind the counters were row-after-row of clear glass jars filled to the brim with rainbow colors of lemon drops, red hots and fish candy (celebrating Kentuckiana’s river heritage).

Sweets are serious business in my house. Isabella can render a scouting report on an impressive array of sugared treats. In her young eyes Schimpff’s was nirvana.

In 2001, the store expanded for its 110th anniversary, to include a candy museum, with thousands of pieces of memorabilia, equipment and artifacts collected during the family’s generation-after-generation of being in the confectionery business. Tours and candy making demonstrations were available as well.

Isabella and I did a bit of reconnoitering. A big favorite she still speaks volumes about were the miniature gummy pizzas and hard candies shaped into Lego pieces that could be assembled into edible creations.

With treats in hand we took a seat at the 1950s style soda fountain, located toward the rear of the store’s main room. If a bite to eat is in order, the deli counter is open for lunch Monday-Saturday. Today we were strictly concerned with ice cream treats. Isabella went with a vanilla shake. I have a thing for root beer floats, and this seemed like just the joint that would serve up a memorable one. Both of us were beyond impressed with the velvety smoothness our frothy selections provided.

Never underestimate the simple pleasure a kid gets from sipping ice cream through a straw.

With our whistles whetted, Isabella and I began our mile-long jaunt back to the Kentucky side of the Ohio River. Round trip, including our planned detour, clocked in at 2.5 miles. We accomplished the walking part in 1:09:22.

How long one chooses to enjoy the Old Jeffersonville Historic District or a candy encounter at Schimpff’s is up to the individual. No doubt the walk back was felt, especially toward the end by my 7-year old, but the candy buzz carried her most of the way.

Next time you have an hour to kill and could use an urban adventure with a view, check out the Big Four Bridge and the candy treats awaiting on the Hoosier side.

Schimpff’s Confectionery | 347 Spring Street | Jeffersonville, IN 47130 | 812.283.8367

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