Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Memorial bridge should not be Butt of jokes

Major Butt
Kids come by the busload to explore the historic Augusta Canal in Augusta, Georgia, and enjoy a good laugh when they do.
The waterway was constructed in 1845 by Augusta native Henry H. Cumming, who wanted to see the Southern city become “the Lowell of the South,” a hub of textile manufacturing. The canal was built as a source of power and transportation, drawing textile factories to the area that indeed encouraged the city’s growth.
Today, the canal is preserved for historic education and residents and visitors utilize the waterway for boating, hiking and biking.
Boat ride down the Augusta Canal
            But that’s not makes those children laugh when they take a boat ride down the canal. It’s the bridge locals call the “Butt Bridge.”
            Although not really a laughing matter, the Butt Memorial Bridge over the canal at 15th Street stands as a memorial to Major Archibald Willingham Butt, who went down with the RMS Titanic on the morning of April 15, 1912. Pres. William Howard Taft was a friend of the Augusta native and dedicated the 1914 bridge, the first structure created to memorialize the Titanic disaster.
            The Butt Bridge almost disappeared when 15th Street was rerouted for a new thoroughfare. Locals stopped planners from demolishing the bridge, raising money by hosting concerts called the Butt Jam in 1994 and 1995. The unofficial slogan of the time was “Save Our Butt.” Later, an act of Congress was passed, along with help by actors Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, stars of the blockbuster film “Titanic,” and the fate of the Butt was settled.
            It’s quite an impressive Butt, with lions on each end and majestic eagles stretching their wings on golden globes atop pillars sporting lights.

Cheré Dastugue Coen is an international travel writer and the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She also writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire, “A Cajun Dream” and “The Letter.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.


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