John P. Grace Memorial Bridge
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John P. Grace Memorial Bridge
This article is about the original bridge which was demolished. For the bridge that was demolished along with it, see Silas N. Pearman Bridge. For the current bridge, see Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.

Cooper River Bridge
Silas N. Pearman & Grace Memorial Bridges (Charleston, South Carolina).jpg
Grace Memorial Bridge is on the left and the Pearman Bridge is on the right
CrossesCooper River and Town Creek
LocaleCharleston, SC
Official nameJohn P. Grace Memorial Bridge
Maintained bySCDOT
DesignCantilever truss with suspended center span
Total length2.7 miles
Width20 feet (Two 10-foot lanes)
Height250 feet
Longest span1,050 feet
Load limit5 tons
Clearance below155 feet
Construction startFebruary 7, 1928
OpenedAugust 8, 1929
ClosedJuly 16, 2005 (July 16, 2005)
Daily traffic35,000
Toll$0.50 per vehicle and driver and $0.15 for each additional passenger (until 1945)
A diagram of the truss of the John.P. Grace Memorial Bridge.
A diagram of the truss of the Grace Bridge, as documented in its HAER file.

The John P. Grace Memorial Bridge, or the Cooper River Bridge as it was familiarly known, was a cantilever bridge that crossed the Cooper River in Charleston, South Carolina. It opened on August 8, 1929 and was built by the Cooper River Bridge Company. Shortridge Hardesty of Waddell & Hardesty, New York City designed the bridge.[1]

The Silas N. Pearman Bridge was opened beside it in 1966 to relieve traffic. They were both replaced by the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge in 2005.


A group of businessmen, led by Harry F. Barkerding and Charles R. Allen, announced their plans to get a charter from the state to construct a steel bridge across the Cooper River in June 1926.[2] The group formed the Cooper River Bridge, Inc. on June 7, 1926, with Ashmead F. Pringle as the first president.[3] On June 8, 1926, the state issued a charter to the new company to "buy, rent, lease, build or otherwise acquire bridges across streams both intrastate and interstate, together with rights of way and right to construct and own and operate the same, and to charge tolls for passage across and enter upon such bridges, etc."[4]

The ribbon was cut on August 8, 1929, at 1:12 p.m. by Col. James Armstrong, and between 30,000 and 50,000 people[5] crossed the bridge during its first day. The bridge was owned by Cooper River Bridge, Inc., a private company. President of the company was John P. Grace, former mayor of Charleston. The bridge was built by a consortium of four engineering and construction firms. Construction lasted seventeen months, and the final cost of the bridge was six million dollars, to be financed by a 50-cent toll. The bridge had two 10 ft (3.0 m) lanes. In 1946 the state bought the bridge from Cooper River Bridge, Inc. and the 50-cent toll was removed. Unfortunately the same year a freighter rammed the bridge ripping down a 240-foot (73 m) section of it. Widening occurred in 1959 for a breakdown lane. Construction on the parallel Silas N. Pearman Bridge - intended to alleviate load limits on the Grace bridge - was completed in 1966. In 1979, a 3rd lane was added to the Grace bridge at the Charleston approach. By 1979, the bridge became functionally obsolete and there were many plans to replace the bridge, but not enough money.


The John P. Grace Memorial Bridge (left) and the new Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge (right) in May 2005. The Silas N. Pearman Bridge can be seen on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge's side.

In 1995 the Grace bridge scored only a 4 out of 100 (4%), or an F, in safety. Arthur Ravenel Jr. ran for SC Senate as a way to solve the problem. He planned for an eight-lane bridge to replace the Grace/Pearman spans of US 17. Construction started in 2001 and the new bridge opened in July 2005, at which point the Grace Bridge closed to traffic.


After a "Burn The Bridges" run and a parade of 1929-era cars over the empty deck, demolition of the Grace Bridge began in August 2005. There had been a movement to try to sell the bridge or to place it on the National Register of Historic Places so that, after removal, it could be reassembled elsewhere, but most of the steel and concrete was either recycled or dropped into the ocean to start artificial fishing reefs. The demolition of the Grace Bridge took approximately 2 years and required closing the shipping lane for half a day as the main span was cut from the cantilever sections and lowered onto a barge below. The shipping lane was closed from 8 am until 4 pm for the lowering of the Grace section. The contractor had 2 1/2 years to remove the 2 bridges and roads. Frank Starmer and Sparky Witte documented the progress over that time in a book titled "End of an Era".

See also


  1. ^ Hardesty & Hanover timeline, 1887-1938 Archived May 12, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved April 26, 2007
  2. ^ "Another Cooper Bridge Project Being Promoted". Evening Post. Charleston, South Carolina. June 4, 1926. p. 1.
  3. ^ "Cooper River Bridge, Inc. Is Organized". News and Courier. Charleston, South Carolina. June 8, 1926. p. 1.
  4. ^ "Charter is Granted To Bridge Company". Evening Post. Charleston, South Carolina. June 8, 1926. p. 1.
  5. ^ "50,000 Persons Cross Cooper as Bridge Is Opened". Charleston News & Courier. August 9, 1929. pp. A1. Retrieved 2013.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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