I feel like everybody under the sun must know that I’ve written a book, but when I look beyond the coast of Oregon, only family and close friends do. I’ll try to change that with this blog, which I’ll try to update every Friday. This will be the only long post—most will be about a third this size.
The book, Crossings: McCullough’s Coastal Bridges, has been a joint venture with historian, researcher, and retired minister Dick Smith. Without his research, this book would not exist. He spent 2006 learning everything he could about the Siuslaw River Bridge, which included the back story of the building of the highway and the other coastal bridges as well as the story of Conde B. McCullough, Oregon’s greatest bridge builder. Dick did this for a discussion group. Then he ended up giving a dozen PowerPoint presentations around the Florence area.
In 2007, he asked me to put it into a book. I felt honored and couldn’t say no, but I was tempted to when I saw the piles of research materials. At that time, I was busy as a staff writer and editor at Oregon Coast and Northwest Travel magazines. Although, I didn’t have time to even organize the material, I was able to interview several old-timers and get their bridge stories. Finally in August 2009, I retired after 21 years at the magazines. And by the following January, I was ready to start on the book.
As I delved into it, I was struck by the convergence of the need for the coastal bridges just at the time that Conde B. McCullough reached the peak of his genius, and just when financial help was available from the federal government through Roosevelt’s New Deal. This convergence provided the perfect storm for bridge building on the Oregon Coast–––the 1934–1936 Oregon Coast Bridges Project that resulted in five fabulous bridges.
One of which is the Siuslaw River Bridge. This bridge in Florence, while not as large or as well known as some of McCullough’s other coastal bridges, is one of the best at showcasing his innovative design techniques and characteristic aesthetic details.
Finally, the timing for a book about the Siuslaw River Bridge couldn’t be better. 2010 marked the completion of the first major renovation since it was built. And 2011 marks its 75th birthday, as well as the birthdays of the other bridges of the Coast Bridges Project. How could I not write this book at this time!
So I devoted 2010 to writing and further research on the other bridges and on what has happened since 2006, the result is Crossings: McCullough’s Coastal Bridges. The book is divided into two major divisions, which I called Book 1 and Book 2. Since the subtitle is The right man at the right place at the right time!, the first division is titled Getting It Right! Unlike other books out there about McCullough or the bridges, this book gives equal coverage to the building of the highway, the story of McCullough, and the exciting path to funding before covering the building of each bridge in some detail. The bridges include the Yaquina Bay, the Alsea Bay, the Siuslaw River, the Umpqua River, and the Coos Bay (now known as the McCullough Memorial Bridge). The other coastal McCullough bridges are also covered in the book but in less detail.
The second major division of the book covers The Siuslaw River Bridge: The First 75 Years in three parts: the construction and dedication, the affect on the towns of Florence and Glenada and everything bridge related in the years since, and its renovations and future. This bridge was the perfect bridge to profile in detail because of how it represents McCullough’s technical and aesthetic genius. And we’re not the only ones who think so. In Bridges: A History of the World’s Most Famous and Important Spans by Judith Dupre, 50 of the world’s most important bridges from ancient times to the present are profiled. The Siuslaw River Bridge is included because it best represents Conde B. McCullough bridges. How about that!
Crossings includes a total of 120 photos (many full page), and 16 illustrations, several of which are architectural drawings. A glossary is included to help decipher bridge lingo as well as a chapter-by-chapter bibliography for those who want to know the sources of information. And for those who like to use indexes, we have a very thorough one.
This amazing story of McCullough’s coastal bridges is a rigorously researched book that is interwoven throughout with stories and anecdotes collected over the past 25 years that add a human dimension. More than a dozen old-timers were interviewed and of those only four are still alive. So Crossings is not just a historical tome but a repository of remarkable remembrances.
Crossings was out in time to celebrate the bridges birthdays, starting with the Siuslaw River Bridge this past weekend May 21-22. About 15,000 attended Florence’s Rhododendron Days celebration where the theme was “Spanning the Years,” celebrating the 75th birthday of the Siuslaw River Bridge. There was a parade, queen, many activities and events including the dedication of a special bridge room at the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum and a reception there to honor the 10 old-timers who had been at the bridge dedication 75 years ago and who also got to ride in a float in this year’s parade. It was a grand party all weekend. Happy birthday Siuslaw River Bridge on your first 75 years!
Bridge Presentations in June:
• June 11, 2 p.m.—Highway 101, Gold Beach Books, Gold Beach
• June 17, noon––City Club, Ocean Dunes Golf Course Clubhouse, Florence
• June 18, 1:30––Community Center, Centennial & Beachcomber Days celebrations, Waldport