January 26, 1962
The George Mason Memorial Bridge in Washington, D.C., made its debut in the midst of rainy weather. Washington Post reporter Paul Schuette noted that this newest structure to cross the Potomac River and connect the nation’s capital with Arlington, Virginia, “was dedicated under umbrellas” on that Friday afternoon. Schuette also stated, “More than 100 District and Federal officials and their guests stood in a slow drizzle at the foot of 14th st. sw. as a soggy red and white ribbon was snipped to open the 7-million-dollar bridge.”
The featured speaker for the dedication was U.S. Representative Joel T. Broyhill of Virginia. This Republican lawmaker, deferring to the less-than-ideal weather, limited his remarks to less than 10 minutes. He used that time to highlight George Mason, the 18th century statesman and Virginia native for whom the bridge was named. The festivities that afternoon also involved having Washington resident William B. Mason Jr., one of George Mason’s descendants, unveil a metal plaque created to honor the famous Founding Father.
Those cutting the “soggy red and white ribbon” for the 2,265-foot (690.4-meter)-long bridge included Broyhill; Mason; Walter N. Tobriner, District Commissioners president; and Frederick J. Clarke, District engineer commissioner. Isabel Foulkrod Sherrerd, representing the board of regents for George Mason’s historic mansion Gunston Hall in Fairfax County, Virginia, also helped cut the ribbon.
A less auspicious milestone that same day was the first traffic accident to take place on the George Mason Memorial Bridge. This occurred when, even before the formal opening of the bridge, the car in which Clarke was a passenger inadvertently backed into the car carrying Federal Highway Administrator (and one-time AASHO president) Rex M. Whitton. Nobody was injured during this mishap, but a metal headlight frame on Whitton’s car was damaged.
The George Mason Memorial Bridge remains part of what is collectively and widely known as the 14th Street Bridges. These bridges, all located in that vicinity, continue to serve as pivotal links between Washington and Arlington. In the above photo taken in 1962, the George Mason Memorial Bridge is the bridge furthest to the left.
Photo Credit: Federal Highway Administration
For more information on the George Mason Memorial Bridge, please check out https://structurae.net/en/structures/george-mason-memorial-bridge
Additional information on the 14th Street Bridges crossing the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., is available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/14th_Street_bridges