Cow Bayou Bridge honored in Bridge City
From a town once called Prairie View, the bridges of Bridge City gave it it’s name. The place is blessed with them. Two of it’s namesake bridges are on the National Register of Historic Places securing their mark on the historic landscape of Texas. One of them, the Cow Bayou Swing Bridge, has reached a new milestone in Bridge City history.
A commemorative ribbon cutting will be held in recognition of the 70th Anniversary of the 1941 dedication of the swing bridge. The ceremony will kick-off the inaugural Bridge City Heritage Festival on Saturday, Oct. 1. The ribbon cutting will take place at the Cow Bayou Swing Bridge at 9 a.m. Gates open for the festival on the Community Center grounds at 10 a.m.
The Bridge City Heritage Festival is being hosted by the Historical Museum of Bridge City, a nonprofit charitable organization formed in 2009 to help preserve local history and enhance tourism. Proceeds raised from the festival will go toward the future waterfront park on Cow Bayou in Bridge City.
The heritage festival will feature carnival rides, entertainment headlined by Britt Godwin, arts and crafts, food and an arcade of games and contests. A children’s area will include games, a coin toss, duck pond, ring toss, milk bottle baseball throw, Plinko and a cow patty throw. On the Community Center grounds a beer garden will be sectioned off with dancing under the pavilion. The festival will spill over to the Knights of Columbus Hall where there will be an antique and classic car show and judging.
“The festival will be a mix of family fun, entertainment and a celebration of our area’s heritage,” said Paige Williams, chairwoman for the event. “It’s for a good cause. The waterfront park on Cow Bayou will benefit Bridge City in so many ways.”
Within the Community Center festival goers will find a silent auction, retailer demonstrations and a slide show of early Bridge City photographs and memorabilia. Entries are still being accepted for a children’s photogenic contest.
The Cow Bayou Swing Bridge is one of only two remaining center pivot swing bridges of it’s kind remaining in Texas. It was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. The Rainbow Bridge was listed to the N.R. in 1996.
An estimated 3,000 people attended the 1941 dedication. The ribbon was cut by Miriam David, the daughter Julis H. David Sr. the president of the Orange Chamber of Commerce. The Bengal Guards of Orange and the Red Hussars of Port Arthur, musical marching bands from the two high schools, marched towards the Cow Bayou Bridge from opposite directions and met in the center of the span for the ribbon cutting.
The Rainbow Bridge (originally the Port Arthur-Orange Bridge) was completed in 1938. The following year construction began on the ‘Cow Bayou Bridge’, a swing bridge with an electric motor. Both bridges where marvels of American technology in the years leading into World War II, as they are today. The swing bridge at Cow Bayou was the final link in “Hug-The-Coast Highway” between Corpus Christ and Orange– the then new Texas-87.
The swing bridge over Cow Bayou brought about the consolidation of the Prairie View and Winfree school districts to become Bridge City I.S.D. The bridge was a routine part of life in early Bridge City. Near it, community, commerce and industry flourished to become the City of Bridge City in 1970.
The waterfront park on Cow Bayou will become used for numerous recreational and educational activities. It would include a large gazebo, playgrounds, a broad boardwalk along the bulkhead, period style lighting throughout the park and along the bayou, covered picnic tables, walking trails, floral gardens and concessions. Boat docks and access to the park from the water is also included.
The park will become the home of the new Gisela and Tony Houseman Nature and Heritage Center. The over 4,000 square foot facility will house the vast Tony and Gisela Houseman collection of art, photography, artifacts and wildlife trophies from around the world. The facility is intended to provide the children of Southeast Texas an opportunity to learn about conservation, wildlife and it’s natural habitat. An area of the new visitor’s center will be a museum for Bridge City history.
Total cost for the entire project, including development, is still to be determined. The initial goal of the nonprofit is to raise $250,000 to complete the purchase of the land. The City of Bridge City will be the eventual property owner and maintain the park.
For more information about the Bridge City Heritage Festival contact Paige Williams at 409-670-3192 or e-mail the organization, firstname.lastname@example.org. The Historical Museum of Bridge City also has a Facebook page. To enter a child or teenager in the photogenic contest contact Tracey Broussard at 409-344-2341.