History of the Mackinac Bridge
The history of the Mackinac Bridge can be traced to the late 1800’s. With the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 and Scotland’s Firth of Forth Bridge in 1890, the seed was planted for a bridge to span the Straits of Mackinac and connect Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas.
Many ideas were floated to connect the two peninsulas, including a series of causeways and bridges starting at Cheboygan in the Lower Peninsula and hopping from island to island, including Mackinac Island, and finally ending in the Upper Peninsula! Yikes, those of us who love Mackinac Island are glad that didn’t fly!
History of the Mackinac Bridge must include the ferry service that began in 1923. It was a huge success. Traffic continued to build yearly causing talk of a bridge to begin in earnest about 1928. However, plans were put on the back-burner during World War II.
In late 1953, bonds worth $99,800,000 were purchased by investors. Additionally, an Act was passed stating that the operation and maintenance of the bridge would be paid for out of gasoline and license plate taxes. And so, the construction began.
The Bridge was designed by a brilliant engineer, Dr. David B. Steinman. He not only designed the bridge but he also supervised construction. It took three years to actually construct and it opened on November 1, 1957. The official ceremonies for the beginning of construction were held at St. Ignace and Mackinaw City on May 7 and 8, 1954.
Governor Gerhard Mennen Williams (nicknamed “Soapy”) served as Michigan’s forty-first governor for twelve years and was instrumental in bringing the construction of the Mackinac Bridge to fruition. He began the tradition of the annual Mackinac Bridge Walk on Labor Day in 1958.
This is a photo of a personal Christmas card sent to Mr. & Mrs. James P. Dunnigan from Dr. & Mrs. David B. Steinman in 1957.
The inscription on the card read as follows:
Reach the heights of airy space.
Hear the rivet-hammers ringing,
Joining steel in strength and grace.
This artwork of the Mackinac Bridge is a Mezzotint by Reynold Weidenaar entitled “Bridge Builders”.
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