Dauphin Island's first bridge, a 3 1/2 million dollar project opened July 1955.
Photo is close up of the center lift span, sometimes called the draw bridge section.
over the Intracoastal Waterway allowing commercial barge and recreational watercraft.
to pass through. The bridge divides the Mississippi Sound on the west side and
Mobile Bay on the east side.
Local promoters long recognized that opportunity on the island was limited by the lack
of a bridge. Plans were set during the late 1930s when the Depression-era Reconstruction
Finance Corporation reportedly agreed to spend $900,000 on a bridge. World War II
ended those plans, but after the war, local officials approached the Alabama Governor
Folsom Administration with a similar plan. Governor "Big Jim" Folsom balked at the
proposal, complaining that the tract the Gulf Properties Corporation offered to
donate for bridge construction was insufficient. The Mobile Press Register
quoted Folsom: "The Gulf people own all but 40 acres of the island and the section
which the city of Mobile will turn over to the state." Despite Folsom's rejection,
in 1949 the Mobile Chamber of Commerce persuaded the county to hold a referendum
authorizing a one-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax to fund a bridge. The Chamber's proposal
included a twenty-five-cent toll in addition to the gas tax. Many opposed the tax,
including labor's Central Trades Council, whose leaders claimed the project would
benefit only a few. In July 1949, voters defeated the proposal.
This defeat did not stop the Chamber, and in the early 1950s it offered a
bridge construction scheme very different from the use of a gas tax. The plan
proved momentous for the island's future. With Governor Folsom out of office,
local leaders approached his successor, Gordon Persons, with the new plan.
The Chamber would buy and subdivide the island into lots and then sell the lots
based on a pledge that a bridge would be built with the profits. At the time
the Chamber had an important contact with the governor, for one of the members
of the Chamber's bridge committee was also a member of the Alabama State
Bridge Commission. Persons and his highway director approved the bridge project,
but only on the condition that local sources come up with $2 million of the
bridge's cost. The state would cover the balance.
In June 1954 the Mobile County Board of Revenue issued $2 million in
revenue bonds for the bridge. The Chamber bought the entire bond issue with
loans secured by the subdivided land it planned to sell. Ultimately the state
added $1.3 million to the Chamber's contribution.
The Blount Brothers Construction Company and the Kansas City Bridge Company
got the contract to build the bridge and completed its construction in 1955.
The state highway department turned over the bridge to the Mobile County Bridge
Commission. A $1 toll was set to repay the debt from the revenue bonds.
The Gordon Persons Bridge opened July 2, 1955.
There was an exit from the bridge on both sides of the bridge, which went down
to a small shell island where people parked and camped. When crossing
top span coming to the island, one will notice the shallows on the
in a round type shape, that actually blends back into Little Dauphin Island,
and curves back to the bridge.