Tag Archives: Georgia Bridges

Archibald Butt Memorial Bridge, 1914, Augusta: Georgia’s Only Titanic Memorial

The Major Archibald Willingham Butt Memorial Bridge [shortened to Butt Bridge, locally] is Georgia’s only monument to a victim of the sinking of RMS Titanic and is also one of the most unusual. In terms of sheer size it’s likely the largest such memorial in the nation. Four regal lions guard the corners of the bridge and bald eagles perch atop lighted globes on both sides. The pedestrian friendly structure is also a great place to view the historic Augusta Canal.

It is quite an ostentatious tribute and by nature a “living memorial”, carrying thousands of cars per day over the Augusta Canal at 15th Street. Nisbet Wingfield, the city engineer and commissioner of public works for the city of Augusta, was the engineer for the bridge; William Henry Deacy, who specialized in memorials, was the architect; and the W. W. Leland Company was responsible for the whimsical decorations. [The reinforced concrete bridge is 52.8′ at its largest span, has an overall length of 155.8′, and has a deck width of 55.8′. It is a T-beam, designed to look like an arch form]. By 1994, the future of the bridge was uncertain, but citizens rallied to save it, with the phrase “Save our Butt” a common refrain throughout Augusta. It took over 20 years for everything to fall into place, but in 2017 rehabilitation of the bridge was complete and the future of one of the city’s most unique monuments was insured.

Major Archibald Butt (26 September 1865-15 April 1912) was born to a once-prominent Augusta family who had fallen into poverty after the Civil War. While attending the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, Butt developed an interest in journalism, eventually editing the school newspaper. Before moving to Washington, D. C., Butt worked at the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Macon Telegraph. Upon arriving in the nation’s capital, he covered the government as a correspondent for a syndicate of newspapers in Nashville, Augusta, Atlanta, and Savannah. Through his skillful journalism, he made valuable connections with Washington’s high society and this ultimately landed him a job as the first secretary of the American Embassy in Mexico (1895-1897). Over the next few years Butt continued to write. He also served as a quartermaster in the Spanish-American War, noted for saving the lives of some 500 mules by turning down poor conditions in Hawaii and sailing on to the Philippines, where he remained until 1904. His logistical skills as a supply manager drew much praise, and he later served as Depot Quartermaster in Havana during America’s 1906 occupation of Cuba.

Bronze relief of Major Butt by Henry Price

In March 1908, he began serving as the military aide-de-camp to President Theodore Roosevelt, and retained that position with the incoming Taft administration. The military aides-de-camp of this time were essentially protocol chiefs and had close working relationships with presidents. Taft considered Major Butt a close friend, and the Taft family, as a result, were fond of visiting Augusta.

Butt never married and was the housemate and companion of the American painter and sculptor, Francis Davis Millet. Millet had been peripherally associated with the salon of John Singer Sargent and knew many of the finest artists in America during his lifetime. In 1912, Butt took leave from his White House job when animosities flared between Taft and Roosevelt, and he and Millet had been vacationing in Europe, highlighted by an audience with Pope Pius X, before embarking for home on the Titanic. It was said that both men helped women and children onto lifeboats before losing their lives, though this may be apocryphal. Taft was known to have been deeply saddened by Butt’s death.

Major Archibald Willingham Butt (detail of circa 1909 photograph) via Library of Congress. Public domain.

A fountain dedicated to the memory of Butt and Millet was placed in President’s Park at the White House in 1913. In April 1914, former-President Taft visited Augusta to pay tribute to his close friend, and spoke at the dedication of the Memorial Bridge.

Augusta Canal Industrial District, National Register of Historic Places + National Historic Landmark + Augusta Canal National Heritage Area

Chambers Street Bridge, 1912, Jasper

This wooden truss bridge was built in 1912 and rehabilitated in 2009. It serves as an overpass over the Georgia Northeastern Railroad line.

Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Overpass, 1938, Byromville

This steel stringer overpass has become a landmark because it retains the original Atlantic Coast Line signage. The line is presently owned by CSX.

Southern Railway Swing Bridge, Lumber City

Here’s a different view of one of my favorite places. Most folks just call it the Lumber City bridge, or the Lumber City trestle, but it’s an amazing survivor and no doubt a landmark for many travelers. It’s still in use.

Alapaha River, Berrien-Atkinson County Line

Near the forgotten community of Bannockburn, the Alapaha River marks the boundary between Berrien and Atkinson counties. The Georgia Highway 135 bridge that crosses here normally spans a smallish stream, but if you wonder why it’s so big, check out a Google Earth view of the river at high water. It fills up quickly. [Note the pilings of an old bridge or trestle in the sandbar]. At present (early autumn 2019) the river is low enough to ford and not even get your knees wet. The Alapaha is special to me because Lucy Lake (an Alapaha oxbow in northern Berrien County) was the first place my father took my brother and me river fishing. It had been a popular spot with locals for many years and he had fished there with his father and uncles many times as a young man himself. The river seemed so much bigger to me then.

The Alapaha is one of Georgia’s most beautiful black water rivers. Little known to people not near its banks, it rises in southern Dooly County and meanders southeastward toward its confluence with the Suwannee River near Jasper, Florida. During this course it collects the Wilacoochee, Alapahoochee, and Little Alapaha rivers. An intermittent river, it goes underground through parts of its course, especially in Hamilton County, Florida. A famous locale there, near Jennings, is the Dead River Sink.

The earliest known reference to the Alapaha was made by Hernando de Soto’s expedition. It noted a village near the Suwannee known as Yupaha, in the 16th century.

Cabretta Bridge & Blackbeard Creek, Sapelo Island

Like all roads on Sapelo, the road to Cabretta Beach is devoid of even a stop sign and it’s usually a rough ride.

One of the prettiest views on the island is Blackbeard Creek as seen from the wooden bridge, built by the Department of Natural Resources.

 

Blackbeard Creek separates Cabretta Beach from Blackbeard Island, which is visible in the distance from the bridge.

Construction of New US 280 Bridge, Lake Blackshear

A new bridge to complement the existing bridge on US Highway 280 over Lake Blackshear is presently under construction by the Scott Bridge Company of Opelika, Alabama. It’s slated for completion in 2019.

Georgia State Line Highway Marker, Fort Gaines

This granite marker on the Highway 37 bridge was likely placed in the 1920s or 1930s.

Smith-McGee Bridge, 1922, Hart County

Built as a privately-owned toll bridge spanning the Savannah River at the Georgia-South Carolina state line, the Smith-McGee Bridge was purchased by Georgia and South Carolina in 1926 and the toll removed. It’s a good example of the once-common camelback through truss design.

It was replaced with a new bridge in 1983. The eastern section of the bridge has been removed but it is open to pedestrians and is a popular spot for viewing the river.

Sidney Lanier Bridge, 2003, Brunswick

At 7779 feet, the Sidney Lanier Bridge has the longest span of any bridge in Georgia. Reaching a height of 480 feet, it’s a replacement for the 1956 vertical-lift bridge of the same name. On 7 November 1972 the African Neptune struck the earlier bridge, resulting in ten deaths. On 3 May 1987 that bridge was again struck, this time by the Polish freighter Ziemia Bialostocka. Like Savannah’s Talmadge Bridge, the new bridge’s cable-stayed construction is more stable and allows the necessary greater height for the booming container ship traffic of the Georgia coast.