The Old Stone Bridge, affectionately remembered by many, collapsed into the flooded Elk River on the morning of February 2nd, 1969. This iconic bridge had withstood the test of time for 108 years, silently witnessing a rich tapestry of history. Constructed in 1862 at the outset of the Civil War, the bridge cost $40,000. Adjusted for inflation, this amount would be well over $1.2 million in today's currency. With its six distinctive elliptical arches and a 450-foot span made from limestone rock, it was not just a local marvel but an international one. It was one of only two bridges of its kind in the U.S. and one of merely six worldwide. By April of the same year, Union forces had occupied Fayetteville, regularly using the bridge as they moved between the courthouse square, which served as a shelter for both men and horses. By November 1863, Union General William T. Sherman's Army passed through Fayetteville. The stone bridge played a crucial role, offering safe passage over the Elk River. During their journey from Memphis to Chattanooga, Sherman had given the order to demolish the bridge. Still, the directive was never carried out, with some speculating that its beauty saved it from destruction. Although the bridge withstood the Civil War, by 1895 concerns arose regarding its structural integrity. By 1928, it could no longer bear the weight of the burgeoning traffic. Yet, for the ensuing 41 years, it remained a favorite locale for photographers, teens, and tourists.
In 1969, reports surfaced that the city of Fayetteville had plans to establish a 14-acre park surrounding the Old Stone Bridge. Tragically, just two days after securing federal approval, the bridge crumbled in the wee hours of February 2nd, 1969. The accumulated dirt and sediment over the years, combined with the force of heavy rainfall and flooding, likely led to its downfall.
For those journeying through Fayetteville, a stop at Stone Bridge Park is essential. Located at the town's center, the park boasts a miniature bridge constructed from remnants of the original stone bridge. This tribute serves as a poignant reminder of the town's storied past. Indeed, many Fayetteville residents remember exactly where they were when the Old Stone Bridge collapsed.
For those old enough to recall, where were you on that day in 1969?