Ever Wonder Why There Are Pistols On The Bridge In Lake Charles?
When bridge designers from back in the day put ornate decorations on bridges like trumpets, flowers, or pine cones they did so, I imagine, because they wanted travelers to enjoy the scenery. Louisiana bridge designers like N.E. Lant crafted fine iron works of art along the rails of bridges to pay homage to the regions for which they built. A perfect example is the World War II Memorial Bridge that sits between Lake Charles and Westlake, LA.
Back in the day, the old bridge was known as The Pistol Bridge or Lafitte's Crossing. Today, we just call it the I-10 Bridge or the Calcasieu River Bridge. Engineered in 1948, N.E. Lant designed the bridge with the intent of honoring the notorious French pirate Jean Lafitte. In the 1800s Lafitte ran his piracy from Barataria Bay, LA. west of New Orleans, now the site of the Jean Lafitte National Park and Reserve. The pirate spent a lot of time in SWLA buccaneering, selling slaves and various contraband, pillaging and possibly burying a little treasure along the way too.
At any rate, Lant chose crossed flintlock derringer pistols, indicative of those that pirates like Lafitte would've armed themselves with. An engineering marvel in its day, he also reportedly wanted to name it "Lafitte Bridge" after the privateer. Unfortunately enough for Lant, that idea never came to fruition and his proposal was never adopted. However, when the bridge opened in 1951 the crossed pistols turned out to be a big hit.
A Few Fun Facts About The I-10 Bridge
-There are approximately 5,286 sets of crossed pistols on the bridge railing. Originally the railing had about 10,572 derringer crossed pistols that were part of the railing that ran alongside a pedestrian walkway. The walkway was eliminated when the bridge was incorporated into I-10 in the 60s as part of the new interstate safety code.
-The I-10 Bridge is a cantilevered truss bridge with a clearance of 135 feet above the Calcasieu River.
-The derringer pistols were also famously used during duels in the 18th and 19th centuries.
-To this day DOTD continues to replace pistols that are damaged
-50 to 60 new pistols were made during repairs to the bridge over the years due to damage from accidents, weather, and natural decay.
-1948 The Calcasieu River Bridge, was opened to support 4 lanes of traffic on Highway 190. Before that traffic crossed on a lift bridge at the foot of Shell Beach Drive. Before that bridge, to get to Westlake you had to take a ferry.