Group Title: Historic St. Augustine: Bridge of Lions
Title: Statement of Historical Significance Bridge of Lions
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 Material Information
Title: Statement of Historical Significance Bridge of Lions
Series Title: Historic St. Augustine: Bridge of Lions
Physical Description: Research notes
Language: English
Physical Location:
Box: 8
Divider: Bridge of Lions
Folder: Bridge of Lions
Subject: Saint Augustine (Fla.)
Bridge of Lions (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida -- Saint Johns -- Saint Augustine
Coordinates: 29.892796 x -81.310269
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00095512
Volume ID: VID00005
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

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The Bridge of Lions is one of the most recognized

landmarks in the city of St. Augustine. Its graceful arches

and tile-roofed towers reflect the influence of the town's

Spanish architectural heritage seen in the Castillo de San

Marcos and the Catholic Cathedral, as well as in more recent

buildings such as the Flagler hotels and the Atlantic Bank

building. The bridge, with the two large lion statues flanking

its approach, is a noted point of interest for tourists and

forms a grand entrance to Anastasia Island.

The effect is the result of liberal and enlightened

thinking by community leaders during the height of the Florida

land boom of the 1920's. The "million dollar bridge" was by

far the largest undertaking ever attempted by the local government

in modern times. It was planned as a monumental ornamental

structure which would enhance the beauty of the bayfront and

at the same time perform a utilitarian function needed to

bring the city its share of boomtine prosperity. It was

intended to open up the development of Anastasia Island so

that St. Augustine would enjoy the seaside resort status of

cities such as Daytona Beach and Miami. These grand hopes

were extinguished--or rather delayed--by the crash of the land

boom and the subsequent Great Depression, but the bridge remains--

as its builders intended--as a monument to the "good taste,

daring optimism and faith of the people of this progressive


At least as far back as the arrival of the early

tourists in the 1820's small boats had been chartered for

excursions to Anastasia Island, but the first regularly

scheduled transportation to the island came in about 1885

when the St. Augustine and South Beach Railway began running a ferry

from a dock at King Street to a landing on the island near

the present-day eastern end of the Bridge of Lions. The

ferry brought passengers to a small railroad running across

the mud flats of the northern island to the lighthouse and beach.

In 1895 the railway company built a flat wooden bridge

with a swing span from the foot of King Street to a point

just south of the present bridge. After major renovation in

1904 the bridge passed into the hands of the St. Johns Light
and Power Company, which ran an electric trolly line across

the bridge and down the island.

Prompted by the increase in automobile traffic and
desirous of removing what was considered an eyesore from the

center of the bayfront, the county voted in 1917 to build a

new bridge from South Street to the island. No firm results

came from this decision, nor from another government study

done in 1919.

Public interest in a new bridge to replace the decaying

wooden bridge continued, and in 1923 a study committee was

formed, headed by a strong bridge advocate, H. N. Rodenbaugh,

Vice President and General Manager of the Florida East Coast

Railroad. City Manager Eugene Masters was another major

supporter of efforts to build a new bridge. In the winter

of 1923-1924 a radically different bridge concept emerged.

Prior thinking had focused on an inexpensive bridge not much

different from the existing structure, but the new proposal

was for a permanent, high-quality bridge which would complement

rather than detract from the city's attractiveness. The

bridge would provide a modern access to thebeaches, while

harmonizing with the historic and architectural ambience of

the oldest city in America.

There was some controversy over the bridge. Some

favored a cheaper structure, some wanted it located at Bridge

or South Streetp away from the center of town, and some

questioned the type of construction to be used. However,

the city accepted the proposal done at the city's recuest

by J. E. Greiner Company of Baltimore for a concrete pier

and steel arch bridge located at the plaza. The public endorsed

the idea by voting overwhelmingly for a bond issue to construct

the bridge.

The design was produced by Greiner Company, and its

construction was supervised by its engineer William Willoughby.

P. T. Cox Company of New York City was the contractor. Work

was begun July 20, 1925, but construction was slowed for

the remainder of the year by a freight embargo imposed by the

Florida East Coast Railroad which was at the time over-

burdened with traffic resulting from the Florida land boom.

In 1926 plans for the bridge had to be altered and the cost

raised from $611,00 to 5911,000 when the Davis Shores development

was permitted to dredge fill from the bay bottom, thus making

it necessary to deenen the bridge's foundations.

Davis Shores was the first major development to be

built on the island as a result of the new bridge. Tampa

millionaire D. P. Davis planned a grand resort and residential

community at the eastern terminus of the bridge. Davis's

promotional advertising emphasized the easy access to the

development from town by either foot or auto across the bridge,

and the community's five major boulevards radiated out from

the foot of the bridge.

The two lion statues which give the bridge its name

were donated by Dr. Andrew Anderson, a wealthy native of the

town and associate of Henry Flagler. The lions are of Carrera

marble and were modeled by F. Romanelli on statues in the

Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence.

The bridge was opened for traffic February 26, 1927,

and was officially dedicated during the Ponce de Leon Celebration

on April 7.

While the Bridge of Lions did promote development of

Anastasia Island, progress was slow due to the depression.

Advertised as the "million dollar bridge," the structure

has over the years been highlighted as a point of interest

among the town's sights. It stands today as the most prominent

structure from the 1920's boom in St. Augustine, and it

links together the other two reminders of that epoch: Davis

Shores and the Mediterranean architecture of the First

National Bank Building (now Atlantic Bank). The American

Society of Civil Engineers recognized the Bridge of Lions

in its 1976 publication Civil Engineering Landmarks, State

of Florida as one of the most important projects of the 1920's.

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