Tag Archives: torry island

The Intertwined History of Stuart and Belle Glade, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Bridges across the St Lucie River, ca. 1920. (Photo archives Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Bridges across the St Lucie River, ca. 1920. The swing span (metal span) of the auto bridge was moved to Torry Island, Lake Okeechobee in 1938. (Photo archives Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Location of Torry Island, Belle Glade, Lake Okeechobee where the St Lucie Bridge was moved to ca. 1940.
Location of Torry Island, Belle Glade, Lake Okeechobee where the St Lucie Bridge was moved to in 1938..

Few people realize that a little piece of Stuart history sits on Torry Island near the City of Belle Glade. Belle Glade of course sits south the man-made southern shore of Lake Okeechobee….I didn’t know about the bridge connection either, until I visited my mother last week.

When I got to her house, she handed me what appeared to be a gold leaf yearbook, but when I looked closer it read: “Florida Trails to Turnpikes 1914-1964, Florida State Road Department.” Page 216 was marked:

“The old original bridge across the St Lucie River had been built by E.P. Maule in 1917 with a twelve-foot-wide roadway swing span across the navigation channel. We moved that swing span of barges down the St Lucie Canal and down Lake Okeechobee to Torry Island. Should you cross from the mainland over the canal onto Torry Island today, you would cross on the old swing span of th abridge that originally went across the St Lucie River.”

“Wow that’s cool mom. Like you always say, we’re all connected.”

“Your father and I visited not too long ago. The Corbin family has been manning the bridge for generations. It’s a fascinating story that you should know about.”

A short history is explained here:

“The story of the bridge’s origins flow smoothly from Corbin… The 1928 hurricane that ravaged the Glades set in motion the chain of events that would bring the bridge to Belle Glade. The storm destroyed the original dike that surrounded the lake. To build the replacement dike, the federal government spooned out a canal, separating Torry Island from Belle Glade, and used the dirt for the dike. The new canal, called the Okeechobee Waterway, needed a bridge. In 1938, state contractors built the Point Chosen Bridge, replacing a pontoon bridge with a swing bridge that was built in 1916 and relocated from the St. Lucie River near Stuart. The bridge consisted of the movable portion and wooden trestles on each end.” Associated Press article, 2009.

The Corbin family has manned the swing span for many generations. Photo of a photo shared by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
The Corbin family has manned the swing span for many generations. Photo of a photo shared by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

“Very interesting. Do you have any pictures of your and dad’s field trip ?”

My mother disappeared and was back within minutes:

....
….Torry Island, Belle Glade, Lake Okeechobee.
.....
…..the bridge at Torry Island
...
…plaque
....
….Bridge at Torry Island with swing span
I took this of your dad with Lake Okeechobee behind him but it was not taken at Torry Island. The Lake just blended with the sky." Sandra Thurlow
I took this of your dad with Lake Okeechobee behind him but it was not taken at Torry Island. The Lake just blended with the sky.” Sandra Thurlow

“Thanks mom”…..as I read more about it, I learned that the bridge’s name, “Point Chosen Bridge,” was chosen because there used to be town named ¬†“Chosen” located there. Chosen was one of the original towns along the shores of Lake Okeechobee. It was destroyed in the 1928 hurricane. So the bridge swing span from Stuart was chosen to rest at Chosen. Wow. An intertwined history ¬†indeed….

Chosen:(http://www.pbchistoryonline.org/page/chosen)
Ghost Town (http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/fl/chosen.html)

Florida Trails to Turnpikes, 1964.
Florida Trails to Turnpikes, 1964.
Transcription via Sandra Thurlow from Florida Trails and Turnpikes 1964 about the St Lucie swing span being moved to Torry Island.
Transcription via Sandra Thurlow from Florida Trails and Turnpikes 1964 about the St Lucie swing span being moved to Torry Island.
Article, undated via Sandra Thurlow.
Article, undated via Sandra Thurlow.

Associated Press article on the Point Chosen Bridge at Torry Island and the Corbin family who has worked the bridge since 1938 : (http://www.tbo.com/lifestyle/states-oldest-swing-drawbridge-spans-history-72863)

City of Belle Glade (http://www.bellegladegov.com)

Belle Glade: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belle_Glade,_Florida)

Historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow:(https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/08/06/the-contributions-of-the-history-lady-sandra-henderson-thurlow-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)