Cow Bayou Swing Bridge historical marker to be unveiled Saturday
The Cow Bayou Swing Bridge in Bridge City will be recognized by the Orange County Historical Commission on Saturday. The unveiling of the historical marker on Texas-87 is scheduled for 2 p.m. The public is invited to attend the ceremony.
The Cow Bayou Swing Bridge is one of only two of it’s kind remaining in Texas. Completed in 1940, the bridge was the last major project along the “Hug-the-Coast-Highway,”on the then new Texas-87. Construction began in 1939 upon completion of the Rainbow Bridge–then known as the Port Arthur-Orange bridge.
Following the dedication of the swing bridge in 1941 the town of Prairie View became known as Bridge City. The new span over Cow Bayou brought about the consolidation of the Prairie View and Winfree school districts to become Bridge City I.S.D. Near it, community, commerce and industry flourished to become the City of Bridge City in 1970.
Plans for the removal and demolition of the rare World War II era swing bridge was averted in 2007 by a citizens committee, the Bridge City Citizens for Historic Preservation. The group, co-chaired by Mark Dunn and Beverly Perry of Bridge City, campaigned to spare the bridge with the help of the Historic Bridge Foundation and the Texas Historical Commission. Ultimately, the Cow Bayou Swing Bridge would become listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010, one of just six such properties in Orange County.
“The bridge has been a constant in Bridge City,” said Beverly Perry. “It’s a part of the city’s history and that’s why Mark Dunn, myself and others were so enthused to save it. We would have lived through losing the bridge, but we would have been without some of our intricate history and there’s only one other bridge in the state like it.”
Upon the success of the campaign the Bridge City Citizens for Historic Preservation disbanded.
Although the swing bridge played a central role in the development and growth of the Bridge City area it’s listing to the National Register is attributed to it’s distinctive design and construction. An engineering marvel of in it’s day, the center pivot swing bridge was built with an electric motor that operates the swing span. Large watercraft on Cow Bayou were frequent for over 30 years. The operation of the Cow Bayou Swing Bridge was a regular occurrence and considered a routine part of life in early Bridge City.
“I was so adamant to save the bridge,” Perry said. “At the time, it wasn’t necessarily a popular project to be on. Everybody was saying that we needed a new bridge, but there was nothing wrong with our old bridge. It hadn’t been used in so long, but that was fixed by the state with very little difficulty and very little expense than what would have incurred had a new bridge to be built.”
The National Park Service officially named the Cow Bayou Bridge to the NRHP on May 10, 2010, joining the Rainbow Bridge, which was listed in 1996 as a Jefferson County designation.
The Cow Bayou Bridge has already undergone two phases of historic preservation and will undergo her third and final phase soon.
The third and final round will begin in the spring of 2013 and involves the rehabilitation of the swing bridge structure, pedestrian walkway, embankments, boat fender system, bridge control house (restoring it to the original 1940s look), repairs on the electrical and mechanical components, replacement of the swing span concrete deck and the installation of traffic safety systems.