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Johnny Vardeman: Cobb Street bridge history part of the past for Lula area
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The Cobb Street bridge over railroad tracks in Lula will be saved after all. It was threatened to be demolished because of its deteriorating condition and has been closed since last fall.

But both for historical and convenience reasons, repairs will be made. It’s important because the bridge connects a residential section to Lula’s main drag of businesses.

The wooden bridge is historic because it’s an aging landmark, more than 70 years old.

Other bridges have been important to the Lula area’s history.

Belton Bridge on Belton Bridge Road, naturally, once was a covered structure over the Chattahoochee River that connected Lula area residents with the Clermont area. There used to be a town of Belton until it merged with Lula in the mid-1950s.

The Belton covered bridge, at the time considered the last such structure in Hall County, burned April 11, 1966, apparently a fire set by vandals. The original bridge probably was built just after the Civil War. It had been one lane, and bells on both ends would be rung when a traveler wanted to cross. A woman who lived by the bridge would collect a toll, about a nickel or a dime.

Belton Bridge disappeared another time, too, when a flood washed it downstream. But it was intact enough that it could be retrieved, taken apart and put together again.

Residents went without a crossing of the river for 12 years after the covered bridge burned. Those who lived near the bridge site would have to drive 14 miles to another crossing to get to the other side.

Finally in August 1978, Hall County rented a 200-foot Bailey bridge, a kind of temporary, portable bridge the British developed during World War II and named after its inventor, Donald Bailey. It cost the county $40 a month.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers put the thing together with 146 workers in five days. There was great cause for celebration for Lula area residents. The Times described the official opening of the Belton Bridge Aug. 14, 1978: “As three platoons of troops stood at rigid attention on one side of the politicians, a squad of ladies stood just as rigidly behind a row of tables piled high with homemade cakes, cookies, ice cream and soft drinks.”

The Bailey bridge has long since been replaced by a permanent structure over what is now a narrow neck of Lake Lanier near where the Chattahoochee first flows into it.

Another covered bridge in the history of the Lula area is officially called the Lula-Blind Susie Bridge located off Antioch Road in Banks County. Lula straddles the Hall-Banks counties line.

It’s considered the smallest of 15 covered bridges remaining in the state. It isn’t used much because it’s on private property, and it wouldn’t be there today if not for Banks County history buffs and volunteers.

A plaque on the side of the bridge reads, “Blind Susie-Lula Bridge. Restored 1976 by Bridge Builder Harry Holland. Sam Rogers and Clint Tate, landowners. Milton Patterson, Banks County Commission; Bonnie Johnson, Chamber of Commerce; Andrew Walker, Bill Jackson, Banks County Historical Society.” The bridge once was on the main road between Lula and Gillsville. It was known as the Hyder Bridge for the family that built it in 1915.

The “Blind Susie” name comes from a woman who lived nearby and sold moonshine, illegally made whisky. The legend is she sat rocking in a chair on her porch, and when a customer came up, she would produce a jar of “white lightning” from beneath her skirt.

Actually, according to some historians, Blind Susie lived by another bridge over Beaver Dam Creek several miles away.

The Lula covered bridge is over a stream that leads to Oak Grove Creek. It is 34 feet long. It actually was used until 1969 when a concrete bridge at another location was built. In 1975, volunteers took the wooden bridge apart and reassembled it on its original foundations.

In the most recent restoration, besides those listed on the plaque, Future Business Leaders of America at Banks County High School worked on the project, which won them a national award.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times.