The Blue Bridge: An Owensboro Legend

*Post written by James Wethington, senior library assistant for the University Archives and Special Collections.

Glover Cary Bridge in Owensboro, Kentucky

Glover Cary Bridge (also known as the Blue Bridge) in Owensboro, Kentucky, 1941. Source: UASC, Thomas Mueller collection, MSS 247-1476.

Scattered along the Ohio River, bridges have connected the Tri-State region together and for travelers of the Midwest. They maybe concrete and steel but they are more than that. They are symbols of history and help connect local communities together. For example, the New Harmony Toll Bridge was iconic to the town of New Harmony, Indiana and Crossville, Illinois, as I previously wrote back in December 2017. One bridge that has stood over the mighty Ohio River for eighty years has been the Glover H. Cary Bridge, locally known as the Blue Bridge in Owensboro, Kentucky.

Before the bridge was opened in 1954, talks about building it started back in August 1937 in Congress. There were three reasons for a bridge were to improve the interstate commerce, improve the postal service, and provide for military and other purposes. Congress created the Owensboro Bridge Commission (OBC) oversee the construction, maintenance, and operation of the bridge near the city of Owensboro. Both Indiana and Kentucky would have to work together on the bridge project because it would be shared between the two states.

Postcard of the Owensboro Bridge.

Postcard of the Owensboro Bridge, circa 1970. Source: UASC, Evansville Postcard collection, RH 033-316.

The bridge was built and completed in June 1940. The construction cost $2,500,000 and the OBC determined a toll would be used to offset the cost. It proved to be a good decision because by September 1940, approximately 7,000 motorists used the bridge a week. It was designed as a cantilever bridge having four spans and over 2,640 feet long (or a half mile long). By 1941, the Owensboro Bridge was entered a national wide contest to see which bridge would be named as the most beautiful American bridge by the American Institute of Steel. It was runner-up to Susquehanna River Bridge in Maryland.

By 1952, the governors of Indiana and Kentucky started discussions whether tolls should continue. This discussion would last for a couple of years and would be successful in 1954. Indiana governor, George Craig, and Kentucky Governor, Lawrence Wetherby, met in French Lick to the toll and agreed the toll wasn’t needed. The tolls were eliminated on August 18, 1954; however, Indiana and Kentucky would share the maintenance cost for the bridge. Fun fact: Dr. Dan M. Griffith, a physician in Owensboro was the first and last individual to pay the toll. Over the years, the Owensboro Bridge hasn’t had to undergo massive construction or issues; however, the bridge was been repaved and painted to retain its blue color.

Owensboro Bridge between Owensboro, Kentucky and Indiana.

The Blue Bridge on the Ohio River, n.d. Source: UASC, Schlamp-Meyer Family collection, MSS 157-1940.

The photographs in this blog are from various collections at the University Archives and Special Collections (UASC) at the David L. Rice Library at the University of Southern Indiana. There are over 44,000 photographs, videos, audio files, and documents available for research. If you need assistance, please contact UASC at archives.rice@usi.edu or (812) 228-5048.

References Consulted

Act Creating the Owensboro Bridge Commission, H. R. 7767, 75th Cong., 1st Sess. (1937). Retrieved from the Library of Congress (Chapter 629), April 22, 2020, from http://www.loc.gov/law/help/statutes-at-large/75th-congress.php

Fees to end August 18: Plan celebration. (1954, July 29). Evansville Courier. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3bvnQgO

Glenn, B. (2018, September 18). Today in history: Owensboro bridge becomes toll free. Owensboro Times. Retrieved from https://www.owensborotimes.com/news/2018/08/today-in-history-owensboro-bridge/

A new route to Owensboro, Ky. Points, and the south via Owensboro bridge. (1940, September 29). Evansville Courier. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2zlg8aL

7000 a week use Owensboro span. (1940, September 29). Sunday Courier and Press. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2XTRBUr

States to share costs span at Owensboro. (1954, July 31). Evansville Press. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3auNUai

Toll-free Owensboro bridge probably by 1957. (1952, February 23). Evansville Courier. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3cNR3nt

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