John P. Grace Memorial Bridge

Cooper River bridges

1929–2005

When opened on August 8, 1929, the Cooper River Bridge was the longest span of its type in the world—2.7 miles long and 20 feet wide.

In 1927 a group of Charleston businessmen, led by Harry F. Barkerding and Charles R. Allen, formed Cooper River Bridge, Inc., to promote the construction of a span connecting Charleston and Mount Pleasant. Financing for the project was found in Chicago through the Federal Securities Corporation. Initially, the bridge was to cost no more than $3 million; however, by the time the contracts were signed, the figure had grown to $5.7 million. Tolls were to be charged to pay for the enterprise. Ground was broken at the foot of Lee and America Streets on February 7, 1928. Waddell and Hardesty of New York City designed the bridge, and the Foundation Company of New York City performed the construction. The steel used weighed more than 26,562,000 pounds, and the concrete exceeded 52,757 tons.

When opened on August 8, 1929, the Cooper River Bridge was the longest span of its type in the world–2.7 miles long and 20 feet wide. In 1943 it was officially named the John P. Grace Memorial Bridge in honor of the former mayor of Charleston who had fought to have the bridge built. Tolls failed to cover costs, however, and Charleston County purchased the bridge in 1941 for $4,400,000. In 1945 the county sold the bridge to the state for $4,150,000. On February 24, 1946, a boat, Nicaragua Victory, crashed into the span, causing extensive damage and killing five people. Tolls were removed in June 1946, allowing vehicles to cross free of charge. By the early 1960s the two-lane roadway was totally inadequate for the growing population. A new three-lane bridge, the Silas N. Pearman, opened in 1966. Thirty years later area leaders began planning for a new, eight-lane, single-span bridge. Ground breaking for this new bridge took place in 2002, and it opened in 2005.

Annan, Jason, and Pamela Gabriel. The Great Cooper River Bridge. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2002.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Cooper River bridges
  • Coverage 1929–2005
  • Author
  • Keywords Charleston and Mount Pleasant, Federal Securities Corporation, Waddell and Hardesty, John P. Grace Memorial Bridge
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date December 2, 2022
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update July 21, 2022
Go to Top