The Debut of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland

July 30, 1952

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which connects the Eastern Shore of Maryland with the state’s Western Shore, was opened to traffic. At the time of its debut, this bridge — with the original span measuring 4.3 miles (6.9 kilometers) in length from shore to shore — was the world’s longest continuous steel structure entirely over water. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge also began its existence as the third longest bridge overall.

Thousands of people were on hand for the grand opening of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and those festivities included  airplanes flying overhead as a salute; the unveiling of a plaque in honor of those involved in the construction project; various marching bands; and songs performed by the Baltimore and Ohio Glee Club. There were also speeches given by a half-dozen dignitaries in attendance.  The Annapolis Capital newspaper reported, “The new bridge and the men who had a part in its construction were swamped with oratorical laurels in ceremonies at each approach to the span.”

This vintage postcard depicts only the 1952 span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Governor Theodore R. McKeldin, who assumed office the previous year as the highest-ranking official in the state, talked about the bridge being “arched in majestic strength across Maryland’s bay.” McKeldin’s predecessor William Preston Lane Jr., who strongly promoted the need for such a bridge and was governor when construction on it began in 1949, likewise attended the dedication ceremonies.

Lane was repeatedly hailed by other speakers that day as “the man who built the bridge.” (After his death 15 years later, the structure was officially named the Gov. William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge.) Both McKeldin and Lane rode together in the automobile that led the motorcade along the newly opened bridge, with the public being allowed to drive across starting at 6:00 that evening.

In 1973, another span was added to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to help accommodate its increasingly heavy traffic. The above photo, which was taken in 2008, features both spans.

Photo Credit: Joshua Davis (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en)

For more information on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chesapeake_Bay_Bridge

 

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