If people have been to downtown Albemarle recently, there’s a good chance they’ve seen a fairly large and colorful structure just outside the Stanly County History Center.
The object is a bomb filled with sand, a remnant of the 1927 demolition of the old Swift Island Ferry Bridge, which was destroyed to make way for the creation of Tillery Lake. In what has come to be known as the “Battle of the Swift Island Bridge,” the US military attempted in several ways to destroy the bridge, including overloading it with weight, bombing it, and firing squads on it. artillery.
The bomb was discovered in November 1991, according to Kent Harkey, president of the Stanly County Historical Society, when Carolina Power and Light lowered the water level to perform maintenance on the Tillery Dam. Upon inspection by the Fort Bragg 18th Regular Detachment team, the bomb was found to be safe and was returned to Stanly County.
The bomb, which weighs around 200 pounds, was eventually placed on the lawn of historic Snuggs House on North Third Street, where it resided for many decades.
About three years ago, the Historical Society received a partial grant from the Albemarle Downtown Development Corporation for public art. The Historical Society started design plans with local artist Roger Martin focused on the Swift Island bombshell, so it was moved from the courtyard of Snuggs House to Martin’s studio.
The design involves a laser cut aluminum facsimile of the Swift Island Bridge with the actual bomb, the American flag painted on it.
“Roger felt that the Swift Island Bridge was a perfect complement to the bomb since Stanly County was formed from Montgomery County,” Harkey said.
“We came up with a concept of how to take this bomb and put other parts in it to create an interesting installation,” especially one that would grab people’s attention, he said.
Martin, who works at McKenzie Creative, came up with the initial concept and worked on the project on and off for almost a year and a half, along with several of his colleagues, including Keith Whitley (who designed and painted the flag), Logan Childress (who worked on the color formulations) and Ty Robitaille (who worked on the digital design and managed the fabrication of the bridge).
“It was a lot of fun,” Martin said of the project.
The bomb dedication will take place on July 29 at 6:45 p.m. in front of the Stanly County History Center, followed by an education program at 7:00 p.m. at the Fellowship Center at Central United Methodist Church. Historian Lewis Bramlett will present the program on the 1927 Great American Bridge Test and the story surrounding the demolition of the bridge.
The aim is “to attract people and interest them in the historical part of the bomb, the bridge and the history in between… but also to create a photo op that will draw people to the city center” , said Martin.
The event is free and open to the public, but the Historical Society encourages people to register in advance. Those interested can call the Stanly County History Center at 704-986-3777 to register. They should include their name, phone number and their party number. People can also go online at http://historicstanly.org/ and select the Event Registration tab.