The History Behind the Arthur Ravenel Bridge

The History Behind the Arthur Ravenel Bridge

mount pleasant pier

Who is Arthur Ravenel, Jr.? He is a retired U.S. Congressman who ran for the South Carolina Senate with a goal to solve the funding problem they had with the replacement of the old and dangerous, previous bridge called the John P. Grace Memorial Bridge.

Chances are if you have visited Charleston, you have seen the beautiful architecture of the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge at some point, with its two diamond-shaped towers on the horizon. Perhaps you have either driven, walked, or bicycled over it (in the special pedestrian walkway) and admired the beautiful view of the Cooper River as you crossed from Charleston to Mount Pleasant on this great cable-stayed bridge. By the way, the aircraft carrier that you will see as you travel across the bridge is the U.S.S. Yorktown, docked at Patriot’s Point in Mount Pleasant.

Briefly, the original bridge that was used to access Mt. Pleasant from Charleston was called the John P. Grace Memorial Bridge, and was built in 1929. From all accounts, by today’s standards, this bridge was frankly…scary to cross! Originally, it was deemed “the first roller-coaster bridge” stating that the “steep approaches, stupendous height, extremely narrow width, and sharp curve at the dip conspire to excite and alarm the motorist.”

By the 1960s the Grace Memorial Bridge became insufficient, having been built for the Ford Model A’s.  A new bridge was constructed beside it named for the South Carolina Highway Commissioner at that time, Silas N. Pearman Bridge, and opened in 1966. This bridge carried northbound traffic only and the older, Grace Memorial Bridge carried the southbound traffic into Charleston. By 1979, both of these bridges had become obsolete. They could no longer accommodate larger and more modern land vehicles, as well as larger shipping vessels that traveled beneath it.

Today, the Arthur Ravenel Bridge is the means of transportation between Mount Pleasant and downtown Charleston. The bridge’s structure is built to withstand an earthquake (such as the quake of 1886) without a total failure of up to 7.4 on the Richter scale. The design is able to withstand wind gusts of 300 mph, more than that of Hurricane Hugo that was so disastrous for Charleston in 1989. It is also built to withstand a shipping accident.

charleston harbor tours

Image above taken aboard our Blues & BBQ Cruise on Charleston harbor! Click here to check out the details for this cruise (check back for dates if none are available).

ravenel bridge

ravenel bridge

charleston harbor tours

The Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge is the center of the Cooper River Bridge Run, an annual 10-kilometer, one-way running event, usually taking place on the first weekend of April. The event starts in Mt. Pleasant, brings the runners over the Ravenel, and ends in downtown Charleston. This is one of the biggest fundraising functions in the Charleston area, drawing in thousands of amateurs and professionals alike!

The view of the beautiful Ravenel Bridge is just as awesome from below, by boat in the harbor, as it is by car or foot, from above! So hop aboard one of our harbor tours for some fantastic views of the bridge! Click here to learn more about our harbor cruises and click here to learn about our sailing tours.

Share this:

Post A Comment