Interesting Things

By Ray L. Bellande

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1930 War Memorial Bridge

 

 

   The 1930 War Memorial Bridge, a two mile, two-lane span, was the first bridge to cross Biloxi Bay uniting Ocean Springs with Biloxi.  As early as 1925, James K. Lemon (1870-1929), Jackson County Beat Four Supervisor and other, community leaders in Ocean Springs were campaigning for this bridge with the prognostication that it would geometrically increase land values and double the population on the east side of Biloxi Bay.  This bridge was also the last link in the thirty-two miles of bridges on "The Old Spanish Trail" between New Orleans and Mobile.  More pragmatically, the span reduced the road mileage to Biloxi by seven miles.  When completed, the 1930 War Memorial Bridge was the second largest WW I Memorial in the Nation,exceeded in size only by The Soldier's Field, home of the NFL Chicago Bears, and situated on Lake Michigan.(The Jackson County Times, October 10, 1925, p. 5 and July 20, 1929, p. 2)

Dedication day

     This impressive structure was dedicated on June 3, 1930 and named The War Memorial Bridge to honor the men and women of Harrison and Jackson County, Mississippi who had served during WW I.  The scenario of the day was Army and Navy airplanes flying overhead; the fishing fleeting and Coast Guard cruising Biloxi Bay; parading by Confederate veterans here for their 40th Reunion and the Coast Guard Patrol, and American Legionnaires with music by the U.S. Marine Band.  Lois Murphy, daughter of Thomas M. Murphy, Commander of the American Legion Post at Ocean Springs and Jack Tardy, son of E.H. Tardy, American Legion adjutant of Biloxi, cut a silk ribbon officially opening the Biloxi Bay span.  The War Memorial Bridge was christened with a bottle of artesian water broken on the span's safety railing by Sara H. Lemon Anderson (1911).  She is the daughter of J.K. Lemon and Sarah George McIntosh Lemon (1884-1939).  The dedication ceremonies concluded with speeches by Dan W. Spurlock, national committeeman of the American Legion, and Rear Admiral Thomas P. Magruder (1867-1938).(The Daily Herald, June 3, 1930, p. 1)

Construction

     In July 1926, the Harrison County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution to request Federal assistance for a span across Biloxi Bay between Ocean Springs and Biloxi.  This resolution was presented to Mississippi State Highway Commission by a committee consisting of Biloxians-Louis Braun, E.C. Tonsmeire, and Sparks Vignes.  Other members were: E.J. Adams Sr., president of the Harrison County Board of Supervisors; Paul Evans, Supervisor Beat 1?;  and J.K. Lemon, Supervisor of Beat 4-Jackson County.  Walter Nixon, Supervisor Beat 1, believed that construction of this vital link could be commenced in the fall, if Federal financial support was obtained.(The Biloxi News, July 11, 1926, p. 1)

     A public meeting was held at Biloxi in late October 1927 concerning the location and navigational consequences of a bridge across Biloxi Bay.  Major Emerson of the War Department was opposed to a span adjacent to the L&N Railroad Bridge.  The meeting ended with the citizens of Biloxi and Ocean Springs making an with Major Emerson to meet soon and select an appropriate site for the Biloxi Bay Bridge.  In attendance from Ocean Springs were: J.K. Lemon, John P. Edwards, William S. VanCleave Sr. (1871-1938), William S. VanCleave Jr. (1899-1947), Stewart C. Spencer (1867-1959), Frederick E. Lee (1874-1932), Edwin A. Clark (1853-1936), Jack G. Little (1882-1937), John O'Keefe (1891-1985), Dr. Albert Babendreer (1867-1938), Edward P. Guice (1899-1971), Frank Joachim (1882-1970), Edward (sic) Berthaut (1870-1939), and Orin D. Davidson (1872-1938).(The Jackson Times, October 29, 1927, p. 3)

     In July 1928, the Fuller Construction Company of Memphis, Tennessee were awarded the contract for construction with their bid of $737, 051.  The State Highway department had estimated the span to cost $852,000, which was to be approximately 2.02 miles in length with approaches.  The reinforced concrete part of the new structure was 1.48 miles.(The Jackson County Times, July 14, 1928, p. 3)

     Preliminary work on the new Biloxi Bay Bridge commenced in July 1928.  The Fuller Construction Company drove test pilings for the structure.  Construction was delayed (The Jackson County, Times, August 4, 1928)

     By July 1929, with about 200 men employed and earning approximately $5000 weekly, Fuller Construction Company   was progressing at two spans of seventy-two feet each day.  Completion of the Biloxi Bay span was anticipated by Christmas 1929.  Eight hundred seventy-five concrete pilings, which were two-feet square and varied in length from thirty five to seventy-five long, were built in Biloxi.  When utilized,  eight pilings were placed on a barge and towed to the construction site to be driven at least two months before they could be used for supports.  Twenty thousand cubic yards of concrete and 2,000 tons of steel barged from Pittsburg via New Orleans were used in the bridge's construction.  The road bed was twenty feet wide with a four-foot sidewalk for pedestrian traffic.  The span's draw was built of structural steel with a length of 283 feet, while its navigational channel was 120 feet wide and the bridge was protected from boat collision damage by fenders.(The Jackson County Times, July 20, 1929, p. 2 and The Daily Herald, June 2, 1930, p. 2)

1943 accident

     On August 31, 1943, a car traveling southwest to Biloxi, failed to properly stop with the draw open and plunged through the safety guard arm into Biloxi Bay.  Clayton Edgar Starnes (1885-1943), the son of E.C. Starnes and Jane Holley, and William Curtis Rogers (1926-1943), both residents of Ocean Springs, drowned in this tragedy.  Mr. Starnes from Alabama was  employed as a mess attendant at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Biloxi.  His wife, Claudie W. Starnes, moved to Meridian after the accident.  Two others survived the plunge and were rescued from the water.(The Daily HeraldAugust 31, 1943, p. 1)

Fishing bridge

     After the 1962 Biloxi Bay Bridge was opened, the draw of the 1930 War Memorial Bridge was removed and the old span became a fishing pier for residents of Harrison and Jackson Counties.  The structure was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina on the morning of August 29, 2005.  At its City Council meeting in early December 2005, the Board of Aldermen and Mayor of Ocean Springs voted in unison to draft a later requesting Jackson County officials to permit FEMA to remove the derelict span and fund the construction of a surrogate structure to serve as a community, fishing pier.(The Sun Herald,

Bridgeport Marina

          Jackson County Board of Supervisors to consider leasing old bridge to Loris Bridges' company called Bridgeport Marina.(The Ocean Springs Record, November 7, 1985, p. 2)

Weill Heirs Inc.

            In February 1993, David A. Wheeler, as Guardian Ad Litem of Jeanette D. Weill, conveyed the Weill property to Weill Heirs, Inc.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 1012, p. 209)

Loris C. Bridges

In October 1994, Loris Cayce Bridges acquired a lease from Weill Heirs, Inc.. Jolene W. Aultman, president and Donna Weill, secretary.  The old Allman’s Restaurant building was utilized as the office for Bridgeport Marina, a project thought still viable by Mrs. Bridges.  Again Mrs. Bridges failed to attract investors and her proposed marina project was never commenced.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 1051, p. 628) 

Grand Marina

            In the summer of 2004, investors again are speculating that a marina can be situated on the former 19th Century home site of the Reverend Joseph B. Walker.  Grand Marina, a project consisting of 120-unit condo, restaurant, and marina to accommodate 400 vessels, is now in the offing.  The old Allman’s Restaurant building was also demolished in the summer of 2004, in the anticipation of new construction.(The Bay Press, October 22, 2004, p. 10)

 

REFERENCES:

The Biloxi News, "Ask Federal aid to build bridge", July 11, 1926.

The Daily Herald, "Complete Bay bridge January 1", February, 1929.

The Daily Herald, "Biloxi-Ocean Springs Span Took 18 Months To Construct", June 2, 1930.

The Daily Herald, "New Bay Span Is Dedicated", June 3, 1930.

The Daily Herald"Two Drown When Car Goes Through Open Drawbridge", August 31, 1943.

The Jackson County Times, "Local and Personal", October 10, 1925.

The Jackson County Times, "Bridge Location Disapproved by U.S. War Department", October 29, 1927.

The Jackson County Times, "Memphis Firm Gets Big Bridge Contract", July 14, 1928.

The Jackson County Times, "Local and Personal", August 4, 1928.

The Jackson County Times, "Construction On Bay Bridge", July 20, 1929.

The Ocean Springs News, "Opened bridge 36 years ago [photos]", November 4, 1965, p. 1.

The Ocean Springs Record, "County to consider leasing bridge", November 7, 1985.

The Ocean Springs Record, "Bridges, Harris jostle for rights to old bridge", June 10, 1993, p. 3.

The Ocean Springs Record, "Investor bridges marina holdup", December 21, 1995, p. 1.

The Ocean Springs Record, "Fishing bridge latest Katrina victim", December 8, 2005, p. A1.

The Sun Herald, "Ocean Springs-City Council to ask FEMA for new bridge", December 8, 2005, p. A10.