Bridge museum on North Carolina coast offers a look into the past

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SUNSET BEACH, N.C. -- Crossing the Intracoastal Waterway from the mainland to Sunset Beach is made effortlessly by a modern high-rise bridge. But this wasn't always the case as a one-lane draw bridge was once the island's only access.

"These boards are incredibly thick, not smooth, and so when cars would go over them they wold go cathunk, cathunk, cathunk," said Ann Bokelman, with The Old Bridge Preservation Society​. "We'd say listen to that, that's the heart of Sunset Beach."

After the new bridge opened an effort was made to save the old bridge, giving the heartbeat of Sunset a transplant.

The old bridge now sits in the shadow of it's successor and turned into a museum.

"We are a little museum with a lot of stories," she said.

The stories start with Mannon Gore. In 1955 he bought the island, which was called Bald Beach, for $55,000.

Gore built and ran the original bridge.

"The first bridge was a WWII surplus barge and he managed the bridge from his house right on the water," Bokelman said. "He operated it for three years, mind you there were not that many people going over it, but he would either listen for the cars to honk or at night they would flash their lights and sometimes he'd go out in his bathrobe to operate it."

The state took over operation in 1963 and though they replaced the bridge the kept Gore's original design.

Today the bridge tender's house is frozen in time. Everything left the way it was on its last day of operation. A bridge to the past, transporting memories to the future.

"We are thrilled we are able to save it," Bokelman said.

For information on the bridge museum, click here.

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