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Mathews Bridge Turns 60

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

Decades before a certain span in Alaska won the dubious honor, a bridge project in Jacksonville was  tagged a "bridge to nowhere."

The Mathews Bridge, which opened to traffic in the spring of 1953, was initially derided by skeptics, who said no one would use it.

Before the bridge was built, the Arlington neighborhood was accessible to many only by ferry.

But the completion of the Mathews caused Arlington to boom, population patterns in the city to shift, and even helped pave the way for the city and county government's eventual consolidation.

And tolls from the bridge financed other road and bridge construction for years to come.

This weekend a major celebration is planned to mark the 60th anniversary of the Matthews Bridge at the historic Norman Studios.

Says Ann Burt of Old Arlington, Inc., "We are hoping people who have a connection to the history come out and join us!"

Here's a little Mathews trivia:

  • The Mathews Bridge is named after John E. Mathews, the former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice who helped acquire the bridge's funding.
  • It was initially silver but was painted a maroon color in the 1980s. There are conflicting accounts as to why the shade was chosen - calls to First Coast Connect told us it was the garnet of the FSU Seminoles, others say it was for the former USFL team the Jacksonville Bulls.
  • Jacksonville's own Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit fame name-checks the Mathews Bridge in his song My Generation.

To learn more about Saturday's 60th anniversary celebration, visit the Norman Studios site.

Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting.