Gervais Street bridge lights return - - Columbia, South Carolina

Gervais Street bridge lights return

(Columbia) April 3, 2006 - The party's over and the lights are on.

On Monday, the Gervais Street Bridge was closed for a Bridge Relighting Ceremony. After the fireworks display, the bridge lights came back on to stay.

Some have asked about the length of the bridge project. Organizers say delays to the five-year-old repair project were unexpected.

As the repairs were underway, workers discovered that the brass lighting fixtures contained the original wiring. "As I understand it, the repair process was a series of trial and error," said Brian T. Duncan, chairman of the Re-light the Bridge Committee. "The main concern was removing and repairing the original wiring. Workers discovered the conduit and the wires rusted together making them impossible to remove."

Duncan says the original bridge lights were comparable to Christmas tree lights. "When one light went out," he said, "they all went out."

The light fixtures date back to 1927, and the bridge itself also has a long history, according to the Relight the Bridge Committee.

"Friday's Ferry" service, named after a German settler Martin Fridig who changed his last name to Friday, provided free passage to ministers, Indians and public servants. Colonial rules required two men to attend to the ferry at all times. Other passengers had to pay a fee of one shilling and three pence (about 75 cents in 2000 US dollars).

In 1791, the ferry was replaced by a toll bridge. A subsequent wooden bridge was completed about 1827.

"Civil War buffs will be interested to know," Senator Jake Knotts said, "that particular wooden bridge was burned in February 1865 by Confederate soldiers to delay Sherman's Union army."

During that time, the Gervais Street bridge site was also the original site of "Thomas’s Battery" which overlooked the Congaree River Bridge.

"It is also believed that Sherman's Union soldiers first caught a glimpse of Columbia from this site and fired upon the capital city," Knotts said.

In 1870, a steel bridge with wooden flooring was built which used most of the remaining piers. It was privately owned until 1912 and purchased by Richland and Lexington Counties. That bridge was dismantled when the current bridge was built.

Updated 10:35pm by Chantelle Janelle

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