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The Great Cooper River Bridge

Jason Annan and Pamela Gabriel

A comprehensive history of one of Charleston's most significant landmarks

On a hot summer day in 1929, the citizens of Charleston, South Carolina, participated in one of the largest celebrations in the city's history—the opening of the Cooper River Bridge. After years of quarrels, financial obstructions, and political dogfights, the great bridge was completed, and for the first time, Charleston had a direct link to the north. From the doldrums of the Depression to the growth of the 1990s, the Cooper River Bridge played a vital role in Charleston's transformation from an impoverished, isolated city to a vibrant and prosperous metropolis.

Now obsolete and no longer adequately serving the needs of the Charleston area, the "old" Cooper River Bridge, and the "new" Silas N. Pearman Bridge—the Cooper River Bridge's larger sister structure, erected in 1966—will be replaced. Funding, design, and construction are presently underway to replace the old structure with a single, modern bridge. The two original bridges have become true emblems of Charleston, much like the Eiffel Tower of Paris or the Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco. With their removal, Charleston will lose two of its most significant landmarks.

This vast change in the city's skyline is sure to evoke memories from Charlestonians and visitors who have developed a special relationship with the old bridge. In addition to these reminiscences, the Cooper River Bridge has its own story—one of ambitious men and their dreams of profit, and of a city's dreams of prosperity. Upon its completion, the Cooper River Bridge was a grand symbol of Charleston's vision for the future, and the bridge recalls many significant themes in the modern history of the city.

The Great Cooper River Bridge provides the complete history of this architectural icon, exploring how early twentieth-century Charleston helped shape the bridge, and how the bridge subsequently shaped the city. With more than eighty photographs, this illustrated volume documents a remarkable engineering feat and a distinctive structure before it becomes a memory.

Jason Annan was born and raised in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, near the Cooper River Bridge. He earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Duke University and a master's degree in engineering from Clemson University. He currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Pamela Gabriel earned a B.A. in art history from the College of Charleston and is currently working on two additional books about Charleston. She lives in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

"The Great Cooper River Bridge is a most interesting history of a most ambitious undertaking. The construction of the Cooper River Bridge changed the lowcountry of South Carolina forever. Its construction is a wonderful story of a progressive community's vision that became a reality. In a most readable way this book documents an important story in the history of SouthCarolina."—Joseph P. Riley, Jr., mayor, City of Charleston

"A classic story of infrastructure creation during the time of the Model A when there was no federal subsidy for transportation improvements. It is a fitting tribute to the rapidly disappearing continuous cantilever truss bridge and its construction."—Eric DeLony, chief, Historic American Engineering Record, National Park Service

"In this engaging and delightfully illustrated book, the authors have put the story of Charleston's Cooper River Bridge in a historical, cultural, social, and political context that reveals the intertwined relationships that exist between a great engineering structure and the geographical region that it serves."—Henry Petroski, author of Engineers of Dreams: Great Bridge Builders and the Spanning of America

"The Great Cooper River Bridge is obviously a labor of love. A pleasure to read, it is a remarkably enlightening chapter in lowcountry history that has been too-long overlooked. Few things have been as important to the twentieth century history of coastal South Carolina as the building of the bridge over Charleston harbor."—Robert Russell, Addlestone Professor of Architectural History, College of Charleston



book jacket for The Great Cooper River Bridge


7 x 10
166 pages
89 illustrations
ISBN 978-1-57003-470-1
hardcover, $24.95t


    Copyright ©2018 The University of South Carolina Press