STATE E-IT OF HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE
BRIDGE OF LIONS
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 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.