ABBEVILLE BRIDGE CIRCA 1925
Canvas Size: 16″ x 20″
COST: $900 framed (part of a set of 2 historical Abbeville scenes, which may be sold as a set or separately)
The Abbeville Bridge of 1896 was the first bridge to allow not only horse-drawn vehicles but also the first motorized vehicles passage over the Vermilion River. Despite its narrow appearance, it provided two-lane traffic. According to Paul Bergeron, “The bridge was built on a turntable and the aperture for the crank was in the floor about in the middle of the steel span, a few feet in front of the car that we see crossing the bridge. When open, the span was parallel to the bayou. The procedure was extremely slow and was adequate for the horse & buggy and farm wagon days, but in the later years it caused long delays in road traffic with dozens of cars and trucks stuck in line. There was a heavy increase in boat traffic–the oil industry used tugs and barges to move equipment, sugar cane was barged in for processing at the sugar refinery located on the pumping plant road, and no doubt other commercial activities caused the bridge to be open. As I remember, the boat traffic had the right of way and they were allowed to pass as soon as they gave the signal. Those who came by the road were sometimes late for school, church services, work or whatever. You can see how narrow the bridge was. The car appears to be a Model A Ford, which was not much wider than a buggy. As the oil industry began to flourish in the area, the trucking industry followed, so when two of those monster trucks met at the bridge, no doubt one waited on the other.” [paraphrased]
The bridge had major renovations in 1925, around the time that the picture was taken from which this painting was done. In October 1921, the president of the Police Jury put a notice in the newspaper stating that individuals crossing this bridge were doing so at their own risk and that the Police Jury would not be responsible or accountable for any accidents. Despite this warning, the renovations, which must have been extensive, were not completed until October 1922. Due to unusually heavy loads crossing over the bridge, the repairs did not last long. In 1925, work was once more begun and traffic had to detour over the bridge at Perry for several weeks. [We can only imagine how difficult it was for people to be able to see the other side of the river, but had to travel many miles to get there and then back again.]
In 1938, the decrepit, worn-out bridge was mercifully replaced by the bridge we use today. Compounding the abuse being made on our bridge was increased traffic in 1936. Why the increase? On October 14, 1936, a truck loaded with oilfield equipment plunged over the side of the bridge at Perry, destroying it beyond repair. Hence, traffic using that bridge now had to use our bridge. This time, people from Perry had to make the long round trip. Concern for the 600 children who crossed over the bridge daily in school buses and fearing the inability to ship some of the crops of sugar, cotton, rice and other farm products if the bridge collapsed, the bridge we have today was constructed and opened for traffic in November, 1938. That new bridge was dedicated to those in the parish who had died in the World War.
The two-story building on the right (today known as Blacks), was a general merchandise store owned by Solomon Wise and known as Eli Wise & Co. in 1893. Between 1922 and 1927, Wise’s building housed Frederick Bros. Inc., another general merchandise business. Family members recall that carriages and buggies were assembled and kept on the second floor of the building and customers would go upstairs to purchase them. They were brought down by a freight elevator. In August 1927, it became The Big Store owned by O. A. Landry, a nickname that the store had had since 1909. The Big Store was later known as Landry’s. The building was attacked by fire, on May 25, 1920. Today Solomon Wise’s building, though considerably altered, adds grace and solidity to the scene. It now serves as Black’s Restaurant.
The bridge keeper’s wooden shack, built in the 1880’s, can be seen at the far end of the bridge on the left.
The building on the extreme left of the painting (in front of the church) was that of the municipal power plant. Constructed in 1906, its capacity to supply Abbeville’s need for electricity was soon inadequate. In 1923, a new light plant was constructed and citizens were urged to prepare for the 110 voltage the plant would provide. Today, it is part of the Steen Syrup Mill facility.
The church in this painting is the sixth to stand on this site. (1) The first church was the renovation of the LeBlanc home into a chapel by Father Megret. (2) In 1848, Fr. Megret was in the process of having another built which was served by Fr. Francais. (3) The next church was constructed by Father Foltier in 1855 and that church was destroyed by the Last Island Hurricane. (4) A fourth church was constructed and it is assumed that it lasted until 1884. (5) Fr. Mehault had church number 5 built, which, along with the rectory, was destroyed by fire. A temporary wooden church was built near the corner of Main and Vermilion Streets and served the Catholics from 1907 until the church in this painting was built (6). Interestingly, the name of the church in this painting from 1911 until 1918 was St. Anne’s. Today it is known as St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church and graces our fair city.
Historical Accounting by Ken Dupuy: [paraphrased]
A note from the artist: In the late 1980’s, I came to Abbeville for the first time and was amazed at beauty of the town. I began painting scenes of Abbeville as they existed at that time. Several paintings were put into print and some were painted as “originals only” for private collectors. In the spring of 2003, I saw various old photos of Abbeville and suddenly I just had to paint “Historical” Abbeville. I fell in love with the history and charm of those earlier times. I have been blessed with help from many people to accomplish this project. Ken Dupuy, historian, has provided historical facts and obtained many of the pictures from which these scenes were painted. I am grateful to him for the untiring help he has given me on this project, to those who donated their photos for my use, and to the many people who provided their “stories”. I hope you enjoy this painting as much as I have enjoyed creating this series.