Students working to uncover 1950s Simpson Bay bridge

Unearthing the far and near elements of St. Maarten history continues to be the focus of the project of archaeologist Dr. Jay Haviser and his team of twenty high school students who form St. Maarten Archaeological Centre Simarc. The team’s latest project is uncovering the 1950s Simpson Bay bridge structure.

The old bridge being dug out of sand and silt and mapped by the team was the second bridge to be built to link Simpson Bay and Cole Bay in olden times. The bridge was built to replace a wooden bridge circa 1933. Haviser told The Daily Herald that before the bridge existed residents had been ferried across the Simpson Bay Channel by a boat operated by the Halley sisters.

The boat service and later the bridge became necessary after the land was separated in 1819 by a massive hurricane.  

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The 1950 bridge was a stone and cement structure with iron handrails. Under the bridge were two arches and a large opening for water flow. The water flow opening was already beginning to be filled with sand by 1955. The bridge location was opened in 1970 and the sand was used to fill this gap and to create Snoopy Island where Isle de Sol is located.

The students’ goal is reveal the 1950 Simpson Bay bridge that is still standing in the sand dunes between Atrium and Topper’s. "Only a few people even know the bridge structure still exists. We want to measure the bridge dimensions and make artefact collections from the fill sand under the bridge, sealed there from the 1950s. Being more than 50 years old, this site can qualify as an historical-archaeological monument," Haviser said.

Simarc also hopes that one day the site will become a small heritage park with the bridge as the focus. The park could include a children’s playground. A proposal is being worked on by the centre.

The 20 Simarc students are dedicating their weekends this month to the bridge project.