History of the Wetumpka Coosa River bridges

The Bibb Graves Bridge over the Coosa River in Wetumpka - Photo by Melissa Parker
The Bibb Graves Bridge over the Coosa River in Wetumpka - Photo by Melissa Parker

Wetumpka – When you think of Wetumpka landmarks, the bridge over the Coosa River immediately comes to mind as the one that is used more often to depict the city. Even film director Tim Burton noticed its extraordinary theatrical appeal as he filmed Ewan McGregor and Matthew McCrory walking over the structure to head for the circus in the movie “Big Fish.”

But, this bridge used to cross the incredibly scenic Coosa River will only be celebrating its 78th birthday this year. The first bridge built here dates all the way back to 1830. The second one was a toll bridge in 1834 that was washed away in a flood ten years later; the third was erected in 1844 and was a dark and spooky covered bridge.

The next bridge was built after the third one washed away in the “Great Flood of 1866,” and an iron bridge replaced it in 1887. By 1927, the iron bridge was in need of extensive and costly maintenance and the County Commission at that time thought it would be more cost effective to build a new connector rather than repair the old one, so this iron bridge was simply replaced in 1931.

The new structure was named the Bibb Graves Memorial Bridge after the state’s fortieth and forty-second governor. The estimated cost of the bridge was $177,400 to which the state and the county shared equally, while the county paid $88,700.

Gov. Graves first wanted the bridge to be constructed of steel like the one before it, but soon realized that concrete would be more efficient. The bridge is one of only two known bridges in the United States that is suspended by reinforced concrete arches.

David Bibb Graves served Alabama from 1927 until 1931 and from 1935 until 1939, being the first one to serve two four-year terms in the state. He was a Democratic politician and a descendant of the state governor, William Wyatt Bibb. His wife, Dixie Bibb Graves, served as the state’s first female senator (1937-1938), appointed by her husband to fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of Hugo L. Black.

Article by Melissa Parker

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