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Johnny Vardeman: Longstreet Bridges name was unofficial until recently
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And all this time you thought the first bridge over the Chattahoochee River arm of Lake Lanier on U.S. 129 north of Gainesville was always named Longstreet Bridge.

It has been called that ever since it was constructed when Lake Lanier was filling in the mid-1950s. And the previous bridge over the Chattahoochee near that same spot also was called Longstreet Bridge in honor of Confederate Gen. James Longstreet, who made his home in Gainesville after the Civil War, died here and is buried in Alta Vista Cemetery.

However, the current bridge was officially named only last year. When the Georgia Department of Transportation replaces it, the new bridge also will officially be named the Longstreet Bridge. Thank former state Rep. Carl Rogers and the Longstreet Society for getting that done.

Richard Pilcher of the Longstreet Society discovered in state DOT records the bridge didn’t officially carry the general’s name. However, in 1935, the General James Longstreet Chapter of United Daughters of the Confederacy erected a stone monument designating it as Longstreet Bridge. That marker has remained with the present bridge over Lake Lanier.

Rogers was in his final session of the Georgia legislature last year as the deadline for legislation was approaching. When Pilcher contacted him about the bridge name, Rogers told him he better hurry to get something to him within about 30 minutes, which he did. Rogers got a resolution through the transportation committees of both houses, and the resolution naming Longstreet Bridge passed. It was the last piece of legislation Rogers handled before he left office.

The problem was the state has changed its rules concerning names of buildings, roads, bridges, etc. You can understand that as it seems so many intersections, overpasses, even short stretches of roadway are named for some dignitary or non-dignitary. To get something named nowadays, you have to jump through a bunch of hoops and have the intended naming advertised in advance, supposedly so people could object if they so desired.

One of those rules changes involves monuments or markers at or on bridges. The DOT frowns on those, though the Longstreet monument has survived through two bridges. In fact, the marker has deteriorated. It originally was in the shape of the mathematical pi sign and Greek letter, but the cross bar disappeared.

The UDC hopes the monument will be restored and mark the new bridge when it is constructed years from now. In the meantime, it is stored with the DOT.

When the issue of the Longstreet Bridge naming arose, it set Rogers, Pilcher and others to wondering if other bridges around are officially named. The Jerry Jackson Bridge over Lake Lanier on Ga. 53, Gainesville-Dawsonville Highway, is because of Jackson’s years of service in the legislature, and the bridge was so named after he retired.

But how about Thompson, Brown’s, Bolding and Clark’s bridges, as well as many more over Lake Lanier or streams around the state?

Thompson Bridge was named for the brothers, Ovid and Guilford, who built the first bridge over the Chattahoochee River north of Gainesville. Bolding was named for the William R. Bolding family who built the first bridge over the Chestatee River at the Forsyth-Hall counties line, and Clark’s for Elizabeth Clark, who engineered and managed the building of a toll bridge over the Chattahoochee River at what is now the site of the Lake Lanier Olympic Park rowing, canoe and kayak venue.

The Bolding family also operated Bolding Mill near the bridge. Hall County bought the bridge in 1898, making it toll-free. The Boldings previously charged a toll for those wanting to cross the bridge over the Chestatee River.

The first Brown’s Bridge was built by Minor Winn Brown over the Chattahoochee on what is now Ga. 369, Brown’s Bridge Road.

• • 

While there was considerable opposition to the United States getting into World War I, President Woodrow Wilson and Congress finally got involved with the hope it would end all wars.

When the war wound down in 1918, victory by the Allies inspired an outbreak of patriotism. Hall Countians began raising money to build a Memorial Building to honor its sons who fought in the war.

A fine building was proposed, but fund-raising apparently fell short, and the campaign fizzled out before anything was constructed.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times.

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