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Bridging the Cape Fear River, December 1929

CFM 1980.023.0001
Gift of Claud Efird

Description: This commemorative ribbon marks the opening of the first bridge across the Cape Fear River, linking New Hanover County and Brunswick County. Before 1929, travelers had to take a ferry across the river. The Ribbon is 1.62 inches wide and 5.95 inches long. There are two in the collection. One is red, the other is white.

History: In 1980, Claud Efird (1934-) donated two commemorative ribbons from the Twin Bridge’s dedication ceremony to the Museum. Four ribbons were cut during the ceremony, one at each end of each bridge. North Carolina’s Governor, O. Max Gardner (1882-1947) was the guest of honor at the dedications. His wife, Faye Webb Gardner (1885-1969), cut the ribbons on the bridges. It is not clear how local department store, Efird’s Department Store, acquired the ribbons to make souvenirs of the event.

Efird’s Department Store opened in Wilmington in 1921. The store was a part of a southern chain, and was run by longtime manager Claud Efird, Sr. Efird’s was located at the corner of Front and Grace streets. The building that housed the store still stands. Efird’s closed its doors in the mid 1970s.

On December 10, 1929, a new day dawned in Wilmington. Residents of the region had long taken ferries to cross the Cape Fear River into Brunswick County. That all changed when the Twin Bridges opened with great fanfare in 1929. The event was the occasion of a “splendid celebration” in the city: there was music, fireworks, decorations and receptions. Since alcohol was officially barred during Prohibition, two local women broke champagne bottles filled with river water over the bridges to christen them.

The Wilmington Morning Star claimed that the town hosted “the largest delegation of distinguished leaders in public life in Wilmington than on any occasion since the visit of President Taft in 1909” and claimed that the bridges were “Wilmington’s major achievement of the century.”

The Twin Bridges were built by Vincenns Bridge Company. The bridges spanned the Northeast Branch and the Northwest Branches of the Cape Fear, taking people across the River at the Northern end of town near where the Isabel Stelling Holmes Bridge is today. When the bridges first opened, travelers paid a toll, which went to offset the costs of the bridges. When the bonds were paid off, the toll booths were removed.

814 Market Street • Wilmington, NC 28401 • Phone 910-798-4370 • Fax 910-798-4382