A Brief History
The striking architecture of the Bridge of Lions has been considered an important component of the fabric of the City; the bridge towers are prominent in every skyline rendering of St. Augustine.
The City of St. Augustine is the oldest continuous European settlement inNorth America. Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles first colonized the present area of the City of St. Augustine in 1565 under orders from King Phillip II of Spain. Located in the east central portion of St. Johns County, Florida, this region is rich in historic significance with colonial occupations by the French, British, and Spanish. Colonial rule finally ended when Spain sold Florida to the United States of America on July 10, 1821. The United States took possession of the territory and Spain relinquished control of Florida forever. In 1845, Florida became the twenty-seventh state admitted to the Union.
In the 1880's, the sleepy, old Spanish town began to bustle with the arrival of Henry M. Flagler, who developed the town as a major resort for the leisure traveler. It was during the Flagler era that the minds of St. Augustine residents turned to leisure. North Beach and Anastasia Island were explored and quickly became popular destinations. Flagler's vision began the "golden era" for St. Augustine.
Prior to the construction of what is known as the Bridge of Lions, an old wooden toll bridge built in 1895, served as the only access to Anastasia Island from downtown St. Augustine. After major renovations in 1904, the wood bridge accommodated an electric trolley line. Due to the increase in automobile traffic and a desire to remove an "eyesore", work began in 1925 to build a modern, high-quality bridge that would complement the City. The present Bridge of Lions opened to traffic in 1927 and connects the historic downtown business district with Anastasia Island. The bascule drawbridge opens to allow the passage of commercial and recreational boats. In 1982, the Bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The traffic environment changed significantly since the 1927 opening of the Bridge of Lions. Over the years, the corrosion of salt water and the burden of carrying millions of cars across its spans have substantially deteriorated the bridge. During the 1970's, over $2.2 million in substantial mechanical and structural repairs were made on the bridge temporarily improving its safety and reliability of operation as well as replacing or supplementing some of its deteriorated structural components, thereby altering its appearance. While the 70's were a time for bridge repair, the 80's became a period of focusing on landscape renovation of the park approaches.