Monday, June 18, 2012

Florida History: Snow-Reed Bridge in Fort Lauderdale - oldest operating in Florida

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By Jane Feehan

A Broward Cultural Heritage Landmark, the Snow-Reed Bridge over the north fork of New River in Fort Lauderdale is the oldest operating metal truss swing bridge in the state of Florida.

The bridge, built in 1924-1925 by Ohio-based Champion Bridge Co., replaced the single lane, hand-cranked version constructed in 1916 and in use until 1924. The span connected what was then considered the “western” Fort Lauderdale neighborhoods of Sailboat Bend and Riverside Park and was named for Mayors R.G. Snow (1924) and Will J. Reed (1925).  Both presided over some of the city’s growth of the booming 1920s.

The Snow-Reed Bridge, with a span of nearly 150 feet, was rehabbed in 1980. Frank White, a south Florida resident with deep roots in the area, served as project engineer. White said the superstructure of the bridge was disconnected, set afloat on barges and secured one block east. The center pier was totally replaced as was machinery and electrical components. There wasn’t enough money in the budget to replace the ring and pinion gears - part of the main drive mechanisms.

“These components were in very poor condition,” recalled White.  “To have them manufactured would have cost $65,000 plus labor to install.” He discussed the issue with his father, O.E. White, Jr., a retired Florida Department Of Transportation project engineer and Ft. Lauderdale native who had an idea. He suggested his son speak to Chief Langford who worked for Powell Brothers, a local bridge contractor that had replaced many of the old swing bridges in Ft. Lauderdale.  “The old chief took me out into his bone yard,” said White. “He located an old ring and pinion gear in perfect condition and gave it to Ft. Lauderdale.  For some reason and to my knowledge the city did not use those parts at that time.”

White has fond memories of the Snow-Reed bridge rehab project.  “I had some wonderful conversations with the old bridge tender and heard some great stories. My favorite was the time a sail boat got hung up on a sand bar west of the bridge. The old tender and the captain secured a line to the end of the bridge and the tender hand cranked the bridge and pulled the boat to deeper water.” 
Snow-Reed is a piece of Fort Lauderdale history that revives memories of early Florida living and presents a majestic sight as it gently swings open and closes for boat traffic. This picturesque bridge lies three or four blocks south of Broward Boulevard off Palm or 11th Avenue. There is another swing bridge in South Florida - the Point Chosen Turnstile Bridge in Belle Glade. Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved. Jane Feehan.

For more on Fort Lauderdale in the 1920s, see the hurricane that brought the 1920s roar to a whisper:

Tags: South Florida swing bridges, South Florida bridges, swing bridge in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Lauderdale history, Sailboat Bend, Riverside Park, Broward Cultural Heritage landmark,film industry researcher 

Fort Lauderdale, Playground of the Stars ...

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