The draw span of the Cedar Lake bridge looks a bit forlorn as it sits stripped of its approaches in the middle of the Tchoutacabouffa River in this 1970 photo.
Today, Biloxi’s Cedar Lake Road, which leads to Interstate 10, is a busy thoroughfare, but when the bridge opened in 1909, it was just a country road paved with dirt and shells in Harrison County.
There were few automobiles to be seen along the Mississippi Coast when the bridge plans were drawn in 1907. The narrow one-way span was designed for horse-drawn carriages, horse or oxen-drawn wagons and pedestrians, many herding live stock across. But with the advance of automobile travel, the bridge proved to be problematic almost from the start.
The unspoken rule required that automobiles approaching the bridge from opposite directions would yield to the one that first started across. But the late Henry E. Redmond, bridge tender for 40 years, told stories of his having to break up arguments between drivers who met in the middle and refused to back off. The mishaps, accidents, and repairs to the bridge were reported to by The Daily Herald over the years.
Deemed to be unsafe in 1939, the bridge underwent a $109,543 “rehabilitation” in 1940, but in 1949, 50 feet of the bridge was torn away by a heavily laden truck trailer that went through the side and plunged into the river.
The Harrison County Board of Supervisors considered building a new bridge, but it would take another 20 years and a monster hurricane to make that happen.
By 1969, the tattered old bridge visibly shook as cars drove slowly across one at a time.
Then, with the Aug. 17, 1969, rampage of Hurricane Camille, everything changed. The storm’s devastating winds and the raging river currents ripped away everything but the bridge’s draw, as pictured above.
In the aftermath, there was no question of rebuilding. It took about two years to build a new concrete bridge that today spans the Tchoutacabouffa River at the same site as the old one.
Murella H. Powell, a local historian, writes the weekly Flashback column. Do you have a local photograph to submit to Flashback? It can be of any subject or event in the Coast’s distant or recent past. Please send a description with your name, address and daytime phone number to Flashback, the Sun Herald, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535; or call 896-2424; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.