By Diana Simmons and Tom Massfeller
I stand at the corner of Granada Boulevard and South Beach Street, ready to walk over the high clearance concrete bridge. There is a nice pedestrian lane and a bike lane ahead of me. This bridge opened in 1983 when The Florida State Department of Transportation widened Florida State Road 40 (Granada Boulevard). This bridge is part of the Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail, designated such in 2007. But once upon a time, three other bridges spanned these beautiful waters.
The first bridge, a wooden one, was built in 1887 creating a path across the water and providing transit to the Hotel Ormond on the east side, opening on January 1, 1888. Joseph D Price was given the honor of being the first to cross it. He and John Anderson were the dreamers who built the Hotel Ormond, following the ideas of Henry M. Flagler who was bringing his East Coast Railroad south and building extravagant hotels where wealthy northerners would spend their winters. The bridge was a toll bridge. I would have had to pay a nickel to cross it. The draw section was only one lane wide. Traffic headed west had the right-of-way, since those travelers were possibly rushing to catch a train at the depot on the mainland side.
Henry Flagler bought the Hotel Ormond in 1890 and expanded it to 300 rooms. Anderson and Price continued to manage the facility. In 1905 Flagler built a second bridge next to the first as a railroad spur so that his trains could carry hotel guests directly to the resort, often in their own railroad cars. Later, Flagler redesigned the bridge for hotel guests to drive their fancy cars across.
The third bridge, a concrete and steel drawbridge, opened on March 2, 1954, replacing the wooden structures. The bridge was named in honor of Standard Oil billionaire John D. Rockefeller who spent winters in Ormond from 1914 until his death in 1937.
Note how far out the sand went, on both the east and west sides, making the channel narrow. On modern bridges the channel is wider, allowing better flow of the river.
Now I stand at the top of this bridge, built in 1983, and survey the beautiful waters, with sail and power boats beneath and beautiful waterfront homes on the banks. The Hotel Ormond is no longer in sight, its vestige of the Cupola remaining in Fortunato Park. The Casements lies hidden under beautiful oak trees with the new Rockefeller Gardens next to the water. The MacDonald House stands proudly on the thoroughfare, hoping to house a museum of Ormond history, a history which is rich and should not be forgotten. The Ormond Memorial Art Museum and Gardens is just down the street, a tribute to all veterans who have fought for this nation’s freedom. So much to remember as I begin my descent east to John Anderson Drive. Four bridges over the water of our community, each with its own story.