They don't make bridges like this anymore, but the Butt Memorial Bridge is showing its age.
“It's got its issues, the decking is going to have to be replaced, this is what the engineer told me last time. The surface, it's been overlaid so many times there's no curb there anymore,” says Augusta Traffic Engineer Steve Cassell.
But, what is there is Augusta history…a bridge where eagles soar and lions roar, a lavishly ornate bridge, filled with sculptures and markers. That's how things were built back then.
“Its part of the city beautify movement that occurred in the early part of the 1900's, where utilitarian things were made to look particularly attractive,” said Tom Robertson, the design engineer on the bridge project.
The Butt Bridge was dedicated in April of 1914 as a memorial to Archibald Butt, an Augustan and aide to President William Taft. Butt was on board the Titanic and died when it sunk in April of 1912.
The Butt Bridge was so attractive it appeared on postcards back in the day, and now that the bridge is in line for a million dollar makeover, these postcards are being studied because on the Butt Bridge it may be in with the new, but it will not be out with the old. The plan is to recreate the bridge like was.
“Basically, go back in time and see what we can do with it. It's a great bridge, President Taft sat on that bridge and did a dedication. We really have to show it the respect it deserves,” says Cassell.
“Nearly 100 years ago, Augusta showed its pride by creating this ornate bridge in honor of Major Butt. Now, the city is going to keep it intact for the public to enjoy for the next century.
“I think this is one of the neatest things that we can bring back to life…with the eagles back on top. Yeah,” says Augusta Commissioner Joe Jackson.
“Perhaps, you wouldn't do it this way today, but since the citizens of Augusta did see fit to do that back in the past, we ought to try and save that for the future,” says Robertson.
Funds for the makeover…$1.6 million from the new Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST) Tax will pay for the bridge renovations.
Next April will be the 1009th anniversary of the bridge dedication. Cassell says the bridge work will not be completed by that date but the hope is to break ground by then.
Some facts about Butt Memorial Bridge:
It's dedicated to Augusta native, Major Archibald Butt, a victim in the sinking of the Titanic.
The bridge was erected in 1914 and dedicated by President William Howard Taft, a personal friend of Butt's. It was the first memorial erected to remember the Titanic disaster and it stands today as the only memorial in Georgia dedicated to the disaster.
Another bridge being erected to get farther along the Augusta Canal, is also causing a wave.
Thursday, work crews installed the first of two “steadfast” bridges as part of the Augusta Canal Authority's new River Levee Trail. The bike and pedestrian trail starts on the canal near Aqueduct Park. The $1.2 million project should be open to the public by July.