Way Back Wednesday: Pitt Street Bridge

Way Back Wednesday

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD)- Tucked away on the waterfront of Mount Pleasant is Pitt Street Bridge, a spot with beautiful views of Charleston harbor and a rich history that spans centuries.

The first bridge at this spot connected the mainland to Sullivan’s Island was constructed in 1778 at the height of the American Revolution. This mile-long, 18-foot wide bridge, was designed by Charles Gadsden, who also designed the ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flag, and was meant to support the soldiers stationed at Fort Moultrie.

Gadsden’s Bridge, as it was known, survived the war but by 1800 only the supports remained, and what was left got swept away in the Great Gale of 1804.

Fast forward to the Civil War and a new temporary bridge was built to support the troops at Fort Moultrie, but this time it did not survive the war. For the remainder of the 1800s, the only way to get to and from Sullivan’s Island was by boat.

That all changed in 1875 when a group of businessmen called the Long Island Development Company purchased a barrier island just north of Sullivan’s for $50,000, equivalent to about $1.2 million today. The plan was to transform this desolate piece of land into a luxury resort called the Isle of Palms complete with amusement park rides, a seaside boardwalk, and a hotel.

But, the problem of how to get travelers to and from the island remained, so the Charleston & Seashore Railroad Company was established. The new travel services included a ferryboat system from Charleston to Mount Pleasant and a state-of-the-art trolley system from Mount Pleasant to Sullivan’s Island and the Isle of Palms. By 1898, the Cove Inlet Bridge trolley was the hottest ride in town.

The 1920s came and with it came the rising popularity of personal automobiles. The wooden bridge was widened to make room for cars and by 1927, the need for a trolley was obsolete, so the bridge was renamed the Pitt Street Bridge and was reserved exclusively for automobiles.

The history of Pitt Street Bridge does not end there, though. By the late 1930s, the Intercoastal Waterway was created and it was decided the bridge currently over Cove Inlet needed to be remodeled. So in 1945, the modern Ben Sawyer Bridge, a swing bridge that could open for passing boats and barges, was erected and the Pitt Street Bridge was dismantled.

Now, remnants of the old Pitt Street Bridge can still be seen, but its legacy lives on as a park for all Lowcountry residents to enjoy.

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