Bridge of Lions Re-Opens after 61 Months and $82 Million

Posted by: Jock Ochiltree in Uncategorized

BOL 08The morning of March 17th, a couple hundred of us gathered at the west end of the Bridge of Lions for the re-opening of the Bridge. It was raining. It was also raining in 1927 for the original opening ceremony. But, the rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of those of us attending. We were all there to participate in the history of the moment and to honor those who fought to renovate the bridge instead of tearing it down and building a modern bridge. The Save Our Bridge committee led a community wide battle that ended with the commitment of the city and the state to renovate.

BOL 03Just before 10am, the festivities began.  Mayor Boles made the introductions and reviewed the history of the bridge.  He introduced attending city and state leaders, the attendees who had been at the original ceremony, the Save Our Bridge committee, and members of the ’27 Club.  The surviving attendees in attendance were Isabella Ingraham Heard, who is 92, and Lois Bennett Todd, who is 98.  Ms. Heard had the honor of cutting the ribbon.  Both of these women rode floats during the opening ceremony 83 years ago.BOL 04

Following introductions, the ribbon was cut, and the ’27 Club members were the first to begin crossing the bridge. The 27 members were selected by drawing to lead the rest of us onto the bridge. They were followed by vintage cars representing each decade since the original bridge opened. Once the last car reached the bridge, we all were allowed to walk across the bridge. It was a most inspirational experience. By then, the rain had stopped and we all wandered around, taking pictures and marveling at the quality of the workmanship. You’d think it was 1927 all over again.

Some facts regarding the bridge renovation:

The original bridge was named the Matanzas River Bridge. The city fathers made a gutsy decision to build something more than a replacement wood bridge.

BOL 02Construction on the temporary bridge began in Feb 2005 and began service in May 2006. Demolition of the old bridge began at that time. Dismantling of the temporary bridge center span began Monday, March 22 and should take a week. Between now and 2011, the temporary bridge will be completely dismantled, parks at both end of the Bridge of Lions will be completed, lights installed to illuminate the bridge at night, and The Lions replaced at their rightful and historical spots.

35,000 tons of concrete and 2,130 tons of steel were used in the renovation. The columns that hold up the bridge are up to 100 feet long including the portion beneath the riverbank.

There will be a total of 195 light fixtures on 72 poles on the bridge, adjacent roadside, and in the parks at the east and west end of The Bridge.

During the opening ceremony, Mayor Boles talked about the significance of the Bridge of Lions being functional, a work of art and architectural design, and of historical significance. His comments are reminiscent of remarks made at the original opening ceremony.

BOL 10“As the new Matanzas bridge stretches in sweeping arc 1,545 feet from shore to shore of the turbulent river which runs in St Augustine’s front yard, it is obviously a thing of beauty. Its graceful proportions, its massive pillars, its symmetrical towers, moreover, were not accident, as has been the case with many bridges, but were planned long in advance according to the original stipulations that the bridge be, not only useful, but also ornamental.”

Congratulations to the original city fathers and to the current city fathers for having the courage to continue to protect the architecture, artistry, and historical significance of the oldest city in the United States.

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2 Responses to “Bridge of Lions Re-Opens after 61 Months and $82 Million”

  • russell lee davis jr says:

    glad its open im now 60 years father and mother used to carry my brothers and myself to daytona beach when there was no 95.we had to come through st augustine to get there and to get back home .we live in danville va.i was 8 years old the first time i saw this town and the bridge of lions and i fell very musch in love with this place.we still come to daytona once a year and we always spend 1 night in st augustine.on th south side of the bridge in an older little hotel right on the river and i love it.i as my dad have showed my children this wonderful place and now im showing my grand may publish if you like russell lee davis jr.

  • Rosalind Radcliffe says:

    Have stayed in St Augustine a few times,the bridge is magnificent.I am glad that the glorious bridge was renovated rather than being rebuild as a modern construction,it would have been rather unfitting and certainly out of place in St Augustine.I live in Ireland and it was when visiting my Brother in Orlando that he took us up to St Augustine on a few occasions, he loves the place and thought we would also,he was right,we fell in love with the place,we usually stay at St Francis Inn at one of their beach houses.My Husband and i were out at Christmas for a short vacation,time was short and we were disappointed that we did not get to see The Bridge of Lions,it is something that we will put to rights soon.I am so looking forward to being there again.Just thinking about it excites me,i have travelled a lot and been in some lovely places,but St Augustine is the perfect place for me.

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