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The Woods Memorial Bridge was built in 1959 and is one of only a hand full of swing-span bridges still in operation. Bob Sofaly/The Island News

Bridge a step closer to Register of Historic Places

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Nomination moves on to Keeper of the National Register in DC

By Mike McCombs

The Historic Beaufort Foundation (HBF) and the City of Beaufort announced that the Woods Memorial Bridge has been approved for listing on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Register Of Historic Places.

HBF Executive Director Cynthia Jenkins and Mayor Stephen Murray attended the meeting of the National Register Board at the S.C. State Historic Preservation Office on Friday in Columbia for the announcement, which culminates almost 2 ½ years of work.

“The bridge is an iconic Beaufort structure and part of the fabric of downtown Beaufort,” Murray told The Island News on Monday. “I feel it’s only appropriate that we added an additional veil of protection.

“The bridge signifies the economic expansion of downtown Beaufort to the sea islands,” Jenkins said. “The physical bridge itself is important because its scale relates to the centuries of history in downtown Beaufort. It is an honest, simple design to help people cross the Beaufort River, while at the same time encouraging boats to travel up and down the Intracoastal Waterway.”

The Beaufort landmark was built in 1959 and is one of only a hand full of swing-span bridges still in operation. Originally named the Lady’s Island Bridge, the bridge was renamed in 1971 to honor S.C. Highway Patrol Officer Richard V. Woods who was killed in the line of duty.

“As an icon, the Woods Memorial Bridge is part of downtown Beaufort’s image, with photos of it both day and night being instantly recognizable as part of Beaufort’s Lowcountry magic,” Jenkins said.

Since the Bridge was attached to Beaufort’s Landmark Historical District, Murray said, “we were surprised that it wasn’t already on the Register” when the topic came up several years ago.

Mayor Billy Keyserling had an interest in getting the Bridge on the Register as his time in office was coming to a close, and Murray shared that goal.

Worried those outside of Beaufort may make a decision to replace the Bridge, in 2020, the HBF and the City raised funds to hire consultant Kyle Campbell of Preservation South to prepare the National Register Nomination. After two years of work, that nomination was presented to the S.C. State Historic Preservation board.

The nomination will now be sent to the Keeper of the National Register in Washington D.C., for review before listing on the Register.

“Having the State Review Board approve our nomination is a big step forward,” Jenkins said, “but it still requires favorable review by the Keeper of the Register at the Department of the Interior.”

Jenkins and Murray talked about what a single span bridge that might replace the Woods Memorial Bridge might mean for downtown Beaufort.

According to both, to get to the required height – 65 feet – at the Beaufort River’s deepest point, where the swing span of the Woods Memorial Bridge is now, the base of a new single span bridge would begin its ascent roughly four blocks down on Carteret Street from the intersection with Bay Street, or approximately where Carteret Street Methodist Church sits.

And, as Jenkins points out, there are currently no structures in downtown Beaufort that are 65 feet tall.

“It’s hard to imagine what a structure like that would affect downtown Beaufort,” Jenkins said.

Explore Beaufort was the first to report this story.

Mike McCombs is the Editor of The Island News and can be reached at TheIslandNews@gmail.com.

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