Progress Doesn't Mean Burning Bridges

The Merrill P. Barber Bridge has undergone several iterations to reach its current elegant state.

Crossing from one beautiful place to another. That’s what it means to drive over the Merrill P. Barber Bridge. Similarly, when you consider its evolution from a simple, wooden drawbridge created for a fledgling Vero, to the concrete-and-steel structure serving today’s Vero Beach, you may find a kind of beauty both on the “then” and the “now” sides of the bridge’s rich history. 

Merrill Philip Barber was just three years old in 1913 when his family moved to Vero from Missouri. Although Barber, who once described Vero in its early days as “alligator swamps and prairies,” was clearly struck by its starkness and desolation at the time, the area was already growing. Canals were being surveyed and dredged; roads were being built; Vero’s first movie theater, the Strand, had opened in 1917; and its first power plant was built in 1918. The town’s first newspaper, the Vero Press, was born a year later, the same year in which Vero was chartered as a town. 

But to attract more residents and tourists, Vero needed a bridge spanning the Indian River, connecting the barrier island to the mainland. So the original Indian River Bridge, built primarily of palm logs and pine, with a 145-foot steel center span that swung sideways to allow Indian River boat traffic, opened on Labor Day of 1920. In keeping with tradition and necessity, a bridge tender managed the river traffic, opening and closing the span. When the bridge was destroyed by a hurricane in 1926, one year after Vero officially became Vero Beach, a special legislative act enabled its replacement to be constructed in its place almost immediately. 

Categories: Features