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Column: Bridge serves as link to more than Buckhead, Vinings
by Thornton Kennedy
Columnist
August 13, 2014 10:47 AM | 1942 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thornton Kennedy
Thornton Kennedy
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The one-lane steel bridge spanning the Chattahoochee River links more than Buckhead and Vinings. It replaced the ferry that was once the only way across the river in the area. It serves as a connection between a community and its history. It also links two people permanently to the area they love and to one another.

The bridge is near Hardy Pace’s original ferry, which the Vinings pioneer settler operated a few hundred feet upstream from the current bridge. The original road and ferry cut through the front of Lovett School campus.

In 1903, Fulton and Cobb counties replaced the antiquated ferry with a fixed bridge. The 280-foot truss bridge opened in 1904 to great fanfare. For more than six decades it served the needs of the commuting community, from the horse and buggy to the automobile’s complete takeover of suburban American life.

In 1972, Fulton County decided to replace the aging bridge. It was necessary. Cars had to wait in a line to use it because it was just one lane.

At least one Northsider felt strongly the bridge should be preserved. Her name was Hermi Alexander and she was, among other things, the wife of prominent Atlanta architect Cecil Alexander. Cecil died last summer having lived a full and influential life. He was responsible for the design of the Coca-Cola headquarters building on North Avenue and the Southern Bell building on West Peachtree Street, both in Midtown. His contributions to Atlanta civically were greater. He has been honored for his work in civil rights and for his community service.

Both he and his wife felt the bridge should remain in place as homage to generations of Atlantans who crossed it to go to and from Vinings. Cecil threw his substantial weight behind the preservation project. He knew the key to saving the bridge was simple: money. He convinced the county it would cost less to leave the bridge in place and construct the new bridge next to it. The bridge was saved.

Tragically, in 1983 the Alexanders were involved in a terrible car accident. The driver of the car that hit them was intoxicated. The crash claimed Hermi’s life and left Cecil in the hospital with numerous injuries. When Fulton County Commission Chairman Michael Lomax visited Cecil, he asked if there was anything he could do. Cecil made a single request — to rename the bridge in honor of Hermi.

Ever since, hand-painted wooden signs featuring carved flowers and the name “Hermi’s Bridge” have hung over both ends of the landmark.

This touching story is related in James Ottley’s “Atlanta History for Cocktail Parties II.”

The bridge was closed in 2006, having been deemed hazardous. But in 2010, with a fresh coat of baby blue paint, the bridge reopened and has served as a pedestrian walkway ever since. It gets its best workout when Lovett holds its walk-to-school days several times during the school year.

Hermi’s Bridge is an enduring testament to historic preservation, to history and to the love between Hermi and Cecil Alexander.

Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a former news editor of this paper and can be reached at thorntonkennedy@me.com.
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