orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

Local News

August 12, 2012

Bridging east Orange to Louisiana

ORANGE —  

Original Sabine River crossings into Orange had been at Ballew’s Ferry about 15 miles north of Orange and a long ferry ride from about where West Bluff is today and Nibblet’s Bluff. 

When population grew in Lake Charles and Orange, the increase in traffic demanded a more direct route between the two cities. A highway was constructed across the marsh directly across the river from Orange.

The bed for the highway was made from materials dredged out of the marsh, piled up and let settle for a period of time until it became firm enough to build on. The finished highway was 18 feet wide. Along the sides of the highway were two ditches left from the dredging of the materials. They are still there today. The highway across the marsh was about six miles long. About two miles from the river was a one mile expanse that was not dredged and built into a road bed. It is like a narrow lake. The crossing was by means of a timbered beam bridge with an asphalt road bed. It was known as the “Mile Bridge.”

A steel bridge across the Sabine River that connected the highway to Green Avenue in Orange was opened in 1927. This bridge replaced the ferry that had crossed the river from the foot of Elm Street and connected with the highway.

After the bridge opened and gave better access to the highway there was naturally an increase in traffic. The road between Orange and Westlake, just west of Lake Charles, became known as the “Silver Strip.” There were things available on the Silver Strip that were not available in Texas, namely gambling.

There were plans being made and some basic construction of nightclubs to take advantage of what would become “easy Texas money” while the bridge at Orange was under construction. By the early 1930s there would be what amounted to as an unofficial town in the area “Across the River.”

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