Unbuilding the Grace and Pearman Bridges

For Sparky and myself, curiosity drives passion which in turn fuels our life's engine. Our passion was capturing the story of both unbuilding the Grace (1929 - 2007) and Pearman (1966 - 2007) Bridges and discovering the unbuilders. It takes a lot of passion to track a project from July 2005 until April 2007 - rain, shine, hurricanes or moving to Singapore. We discovered the joy of discovery learning. Ken Canty opened the front door for us - then Steve Testa, Ponch Billingsley and Mickey Rogers opened many side doors. Below are the highlights of what we discovered, who we met and what we learned.

And a reminder from T.S. Eliot (East Coker from the Four Quartets)

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.

February 4, 2006: The night team: Rich, Jackie, Lewis and Scotty

In today's mail I received several copies of the December 2005 issues of the trade journal: Concrete Openings In it is an article: Changing the Face of Charleston and the work done by Concrete Cutting and Breaking in Michigan. I met Rich, one of their team last fall when he was cutting roadway segments on the Pearman bridge and several of these photos found their way into the journal. I knew Rich would be working tonight because his wife, Kami, sent me email a week ago telling me that Rich was coming down for some more work. So off I went in search of the night team.

I miss Richie Bagan and his smile tonight. He is back in Boston due to a death in his family - so these night photos are for Richie and his family.

Video segments Tonight's story

First a surprise. A number of the PBC team moved to a new project in Pensacola. Marvin Tallent was one of my professors of building-ology and here is a night photo of a pile driving rig getting ready for work in Pensacola

Driving over the Ravenel Bridge to the worksite

What a difference a year makes. Driving was impossible a year ago - here are a couple of photos from a year ago: The gap between the two halves of the main span - tough to jump over this. Below, you can see the Pearman and Grace in the background. These photos reflect Marvin's opening up channels for me to closely watch the building processes.

and the west approach gap as seen from my bicycle on the Pearman Bridge

Back to today: Meanwhile, the Coleman Recycling Center at the base of the Grace Bridge on the Mt. Pleasant side. It should be obvious that it is night and also not raining.

This is a view of the worksite. The Ravenel bridge on the left and one of the night lights that illuminates the worksite on the right.

Rich had just finished cutting his grid so Jack, Scotty and Rich took a quick break (don't tell Steve) and looked at the magazine and our local star.

Last August, I learned some night photo skills from Stephen SetteDucati - and here are some of the results. The new Ravenel Bridge in the background, Jackie's grapple in the foreground and Grace's skeleton - removed by Pio's team today.

I really enjoy watching Jackie and his surgical approach to roadway removal - here, picking up a slab


and placing it on the roadway

Turning around to get the next one

taking a bite of road

chewing on it a bit


and rotating with an interesting blur

and placing it on top of the first one

Then returning for the next section

Thinking a bit

a nice view of jaws

taking the next bite

rotates again

Now, turn on your curious eyes. Lewis flys in with his cub

and quicker than you can blink - he is gone - only the trace of his headlights

Lewis comes back for some more. Jackie is positioning them and the blur is Lewis in his cub preparing pushing them down to Scott.

Again - no Lewis - just headlights

and Jack's jaws

Rich moves his saw back to make a center cut along the axis of the roadway

Then like Lewis - Rich is just a blur

WHen he gets to the shoulder, there is an angle iron cap - so its July 4th on the Grace Bridge

Cutting more deeply into the shoulder - only a few pieces of rebar to cut through

Then Rich is a blur again

and now making transverse cuts

a little deeper and here, is cutting through some rebar

and more July 4th .

I have spliced together the photos of Rich and his concrete cutting machine into a short mpeg video (10 Mb). Enjoy and good night

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

C. Frank Starmer