Iconic bridge at SMWC to be torn down

SAINT MARY-OF-THE-WOODS, Ind. (WTHI) – Over the years, historic Terre Haute and Vigo County has had to let go of a lot of history.  The Terre Haute House comes to mind.  A bridge may not be as big or grand as a hotel.  But to many people, especially alums of St. Mary-of-the-Woods College, the LeFer Bridge on campus means just as much.

That bridge is coming down later this year.

It’s another beautiful, picture-perfect day on the St. Mary of the Woods College campus.  A photographer has no shortage of places to shoot pictures.  By this winter, that list will lose a site beloved by photographers and locals alike, the LeFer Bridge, the same bridge that visitors first see when they arrive on campus, is set for demolition this fall.

“It’s iconic, as far as photography goes,” said photographer LaRyssa Orman.  “So many people want to be photographed on that bridge.  It will be very sad to see it go.”

Orman has taken countless photographs at this bridge… prom and senior pictures, engagement photos, and of course, wedding pictures.

“It’s kinda tradition,” said Orman.  “If you’re going to have a wedding at St. Mary’s, you’re going to go out there and do pictures on that bridge.”

This bridge is unique.  Built in 1922, the first thing you may notice about it is that it’s covered in grass.  It’s also weathered nicely over the years, which is why it “photographs” so well.

A sign shows us the beginning of the end for LeFer Bridge.  It’s starting to show its age.  It’s in various stages of disrepair.

“I think the way it was built originally isn’t the way people would build the bridge today, and it’s just not something that we want to try and undertake to restore it in a way it was made,” said Janet Clark, a vice-president at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College.

A new bridge will be built over LeFer Lake as part of a major restoration and education project.  A lot is planned to help draw students back to this area.

Still, photographers like LaRyssa, as well as newlyweds and high school seniors, no longer have the opportunity to snap pictures like this here.  And it’s a tragedy of a different sort because they simply don’t make bridges like this anymore, especially ones that have a connection to Woodsies and everyday folks alike.

“You can probably walk into half of the houses in this area and find photos of that bridge, and someone’s senior pictures or wedding pictures or engagement pictures, and it just won’t be the same without that bridge there,” said LaRyssa.

Countless photographs will forever capture memories made here, for those photographs and memories will soon be all that we have of LeFer Bridge.

Woods ecology students will conduct a study of the ecosystem at LeFer Lake.  They will do a before and after comparison of what’s found here.  The college and county are also teaming up to repair the dam that feeds into the lake.

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