This week in print: Building the Cooper River Bridge

  • Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Silas Pearman Bridge and Grace Memorial Bridge, seen in the background, were still in operation as the Arthur Ravenel Bridge was under construction. STAFF PHOTO/FILE SULLY WITTE


We hope that everyone enjoyed our 50th anniversary special section in last week's paper. We've gotten a great response from it and the section serves as a nice complement to our “This week in print” series found each week on page 2A.

But our celebration is not over. We'll still be churning out the archives of East Cooper and the history of the Moultrie News until the year is over.

Thank you to our loyal readers and advertisers for supporting the Moultrie News.

Cooper River Bridge

Author Jim Hayes, of the book “James and Related Sea Islands,” was often a contributor to the Moultrie News in the late '70s. He offered readers a glimpse of how officials considered a bridge project over the harbor way back in 1913:

“A project for a bridge over the Cooper River was turned down by Charleston County Council on Jan. 14, 1913. James Sotille, who then owned the Isle of Palms, presented the idea. It was considered unfeasible if not impossible back then.

“Bills were about that time introduced to the U.S. Senate and the U.S. Congress. Due to the pessimism of city council, these bills got tabled in Washington and forgotten.

“In May 1926, the Cooper River Bridge Company was formed. They received their charter from the state that very September. The big money men behind this toll bridge idea at the time were Charles R. Allen and Harry F. Barkerding.

“Mr. Samuel McGowen, the State Highway Commissioner at that time, was asking for bids from any group or government daring enough to try this project.

“There are some arguing as to whether the new Highway Commission could override city council on such a matter.

“Original plans were for a low bridge not to exceed two million dollars. Then came the question of stopping up commercial and Navy boats in Charleston Harbor.

“A tunnel from Calhoun Street to Castle Pinckney, then a bridge to Hog Island (Patriots Point), then 3,000 feet of causeway into Mount Pleasant was considered.

“After much arguing and compromising, the cost of the original bridge had tripled. They were told they had to go farther up the river and across by way of Drum Island. The main span had to exceed 150 feet above mean high water (135 feet high over the secondary span in town creek). The main span had to be 1,000 feet wide (piers) and the secondary must be 600 feet wide. The bridge had to be 20 feet wide and 14,300 feet long.

“On May 28, 1928, work began and it was completed in early 1930. At the time, it was one the greatest feats on earth.”

Build it and they will come

By 1980, there were two bridges connecting Charleston and Mount Pleasant and the Charleston County Planning Commission announced on Feb. 13 of that year that East Cooper, since 1970, had seen a population growth of more than 1,000. That raised the population from 18,440 to 28,353. The increase represented over 25 percent of Charleston County's growth.

At the time, the Snee Farm townhouses were selling for $54,000 to $85,000. The prefabricated sea cabins on the Isle of Palms cost in excess of $50,000.

Ring, ring

Increased growth in the Mount Pleasant area prompted Southern Bell Telephone Company to add an 881 prefix to new telephone hook-ups.

“Each central office has a certain allotment of numbers on a number prefix,” Paul Bessent, public relations manager of Southern Bell told the Moultrie News, March 19, 1980.

“We just reached the full capacity for the 884 prefix,” he said.

The new 881 prefix would be given to 10,000 new hook-ups.

For more updates from the desk of the Moultrie News editor, Sully Witte, please follow Sully's Scoop on Twitter @SullysScoop and like Sully's Scoop Facebook page.  

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