October 27, 1948
In southwestern Michigan’s city of St. Joseph, the Blossomland Bridge was dedicated in a series of evening ceremonies. This drawbridge was built to carry U.S. Route 31 (US 31) across the St. Joseph River (That segment of US 31 is now part of Michigan Highway 63.) There had been a longtime need in the area for such a bridge that could adequately accommodate both motor vehicle traffic traveling over it and the vessels sailing on the river below to get to and from Lake Michigan. The use of “Blossomland” as the bridge’s name may have originated with the reputation of that region of Michigan as a major producer of fruits.
Construction on the Blossomland Bridge had been postponed due to World War II, but then began shortly thereafter. At the time of its completion, the 713-foot (217-meter)-long, seven-span structure was the longest bridge built by the Michigan State Highway Department (the present-day Michigan Department of Transportation).
The bridge was also viewed as a major source of state pride and, in a headline appearing in the Benton Harbor-based News Palladium, it was characterized as a “Modern Marvel of Engineering.” The type of design used for that bridge was the Scherzer rolling lift. This design, which was patented by and named for engineer William Donald Scherzer, entails raising and lowering the bridge span via a track that resembles a rocking chair base. The News Palladium described how the bridge had been constructed to function “with clocklike precision.”
A large and enthusiastic crowd was on hand for the opening of the Blossomland Bridge. The St. Joseph-based Herald-Press reported, “The throng, which police officers on duty estimated numbered between 15 and 20 thousand, arrived at the bridge hours before the parade and ceremonies got underway.”
The ceremonies featured a ribbon-cutting as well as fireworks. The guests of honor at these festivities included St. Joseph Mayor Waldo V. Tiscornia and Michigan State Highway Department Commissioner Charles Ziegler. At the dinner later that night at St. Joseph’s Whitcomb Hotel, Ziegler was further honored with a huge cake topped by a replica of the new bridge.
The Blossomland Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999 as a now-rare example of the Scherzer rolling-lift method and also as something that had been designed by the nationally prominent Chicago engineering firm Hazelet and Erdal.
For more information on the Blossomland Bridge, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blossomland_Bridge
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