Today in Transportation History – 1924: The Beautiful Tom Uglys Bridges Get Their Start

On Australia’s east coast, a foundation stone was laid for a new bridge that would be built across the Georges River in the vicinity of southern Sydney. The bridge, which had been long requested by area residents, was planned as a link between Sydney’s suburbs of Blakehurst and Sylvania.

Approximately 2,000 people were on hand for the Saturday afternoon ceremony on the Sylvania side of the river. “The number included a large proportion of motorists and was striking testimony of the interest the work has aroused,” reported that Monday’s edition of the Sydney Morning Herald. “In honour of the occasion the approaches on either side . . . were decorated with flags and bunting.”

While a band played “Advance Australia Fair” and the crowd cheered, Australia’s Works Minister Richard Thomas Ball laid the foundation stone. “Mr. Ball said it gave him the greatest pleasure to perform this ceremony because this bridge across George’s River meant opening up the very attractive territory adjacent, and also the whole of the South Coast,” noted the next day’s edition of the Sydney-based Sunday Times.

As an expression of thanks for his strong support for this bridge project, Ball was given a miniature golden replica of the foundation stone. This memento was not the only accolade that he received during the day’s festivities. “The Minister of Works (Mr. Ball) will go down to posterity as ‘Australia’s Bridge Builder,’” reported the next day’s edition of the Sydney-based Sun. Ball “was assured of this by speaker after speaker at Sylvania,” the article added.

The Georges River Bridge was completed and opened in 1929. At the time, the 1,637-foot structure was the longest bridge in Australia. In 1987, another bridge was built nearby. Both structures are collectively known as Tom Uglys Bridge (the name comes from a local geographical feature along the river that is called Tom Uglys Point), and jointly they constitute one of the Georges River’s three major road crossings.

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