Save Our Bridge
St. Augustine, Florida
Award Type: Honor Award
Built in 1927, St. Augustine’s iconic Bridge of Lions—with its tile-roofed towers, decorative lampposts, ornate metalwork and large marble lions—was in sorry shape as she entered her seventh decade. One of the most photographed and architecturally distinctive elements of the St. Augustine skyline, the bridge had been declared deficient and obsolete and was threatened with replacement by the Florida Department of Transportation. That’s when a tenacious group of local citizens mounted a massive lobbying campaign to preserve the quarter-mile span, which connects downtown St. Augustine to Anastasia Island.
The group—with backgrounds in history, architecture, education and preservation and headed by local artist Theresa Segal—called itself “Save Our Bridge.” Mobilizing immediately, Save Our Bridge circulated petitions, engaged in a postcard and letter writing campaign, rallied citizens to speak out at public hearings and, most importantly, proved that declarations about the bridge’s deficiencies were based on bogus data.
In 1999, the National Trust for Historic Preservation added the Bridge of Lions to its America’s 11 Most Endangered Places list. In 2003, after years of grassroots activism, highway officials chose rehabilitation over demolition. In February of 2010, after the biggest construction project in St. Augustine’s history, the restored Bridge of Lions reopened.
“As St. Augustine prepares to celebrate its 450th anniversary in 2015, the restored and reopened Bridge of Lions is, once again, a shining symbol of one of America’s most vibrant, historic cities,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “The Save Our Bridge group refused to stand by and watch another piece of its city’s heritage be carted off to a landfill, and for that, they have our thanks and admiration.”