The Arthur Ravenel Bridge opened during a week-long celebration in July 2005. This eight-lane, cable-stayed bridge with two diamond-shaped towers allows clearance for modern ocean freighters to access the port of Charleston.
Its predecessors, the historic Grace Bridge and the Pearman Bridge, were a beloved part of the Charleston skyline for almost 80 years. Over time, however, they became obsolete and unsafe for travelers.
Charleston politician Arthur Ravenel spearheaded the campaign for a new bridge to be constructed over the Cooper River, replacing the old bridge. The new bridge provides more than traffic relief to residents – it also has a bike and pedestrian lane, and the world-famous Cooper River Bridge Run is held here every year.
Grace and Pearman Bridges – A Brief History
The Grace Memorial Bridge was known fondly (and also somewhat fearfully) by locals as the “Old Bridge.” Its two narrow lanes (10 feet each with no curbs or median) opened for traffic on August 8, 1929, as a toll bridge costing 50 cents per trip. This toll was used to pay for the bridge’s $6 million price tag; it was owned and operated by a private company named Cooper River Bridge, Inc. The president of this company, Charleston native John P. Grace, later served as its namesake.
Prior to 1929, people needing to travel between Charleston and Mount Pleasant did so by private boat or ferry. The bridge actually crosses two bodies of water – the Cooper River and Town Creek. In all, its length measures 2.71 miles; it is 15 feet higher than the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. At the time of its construction, it was the largest bridge of its kind in the world.
27 years later, in 1946, the state of South Carolina purchased the bridge and eliminated its toll. As it happened, a 10,000-ton freighter named “Nicaragua Victory” rammed into the bridge that same year. It ripped out a 240-foot section, causing Elmer Lawson and his family to fall into the water below.
Another bridge was built in 1966 alongside the Grace Bridge, and it was named for then-highway Director Silas N. Pearman. Most people, of course, knew it simply as the “New Bridge.”
Reflections on the Ravenel Bridge
Contributor Jon Snyder shares about capturing his photo, “I drove 1.5 hours from Myrtle Beach to get a shot of the full moon setting over the Arthur Ravenel Bridge in Charleston, SC. I had it all planned out! The moon was supposed to set about 35-45 minutes before sunrise. I just knew there would be some great color with the partly cloudy forecast. What I did NOT plan for was fog! The low-lying fog was so thick, I could not see the bridge from my planned spot. I was pretty upset. I had arrived early (as you always should) and needed to head to a nearby store to grab a snack. I took a wrong turn and ended up going over the bridge. To my surprise, the fog cleared as I ascended the bridge. I ended up Shooting ON the bridge, and my moon shots were no where near my expectation. But when the moon set…Heaven opened up behind me with predawn color blazing the sky! The low-lying fog made it feel as if the bridge was floating in the clouds! After a few snaps…I got this masterpiece that I’m sure will be one of my best shots this year!”
Linda Brown says of her photo below, “I particularly liked this shot of the Ravenel Bridge taken from Waterfront Park because of the streams of water shooting out of the boat as it passed under the bridge.”
Matthew Pautz shares of his photo: “This is a photo of the Arthur Ravenel Bridge as seen from the Cooper River Room 30 minutes after sunset. This was taken during a wedding at that location, and the silhouette of such a large and beautiful bridge against the natural sunset is very interesting to me.”
Building the Ravenel Bridge
More Pictures of the Ravenel Bridge