Cooper River Bridge
Grace Memorial Bridge is on the left and the Pearman Bridge is on the right
|Crosses||Cooper River and Town Creek|
|Official name||John P. Grace Memorial Bridge|
|Design||Cantilever truss with suspended center span|
|Total length||2.7 miles|
|Width||20 feet (Two 10-foot lanes)|
|Longest span||1,050 feet|
|Load limit||5 tons|
|Clearance below||155 feet|
|Construction start||February 7, 1928|
|Opened||August 8, 1929|
|Closed||July 16, 2005|
|Toll||$0.50 per vehicle and driver and $0.15 for each additional passenger (until 1945)|
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.
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. The group formed the Cooper River Bridge, Inc. on June 7, 1926, with Ashmead F. Pringle as the first president. 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."
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 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.
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".