The Story of the Old Bridge
In 1955 a man named Mannon Gore began the story of Sunset Beach. A farmer by background and birth, Gore served in the Coast Guard during WWII. There he saw and served on dredges, which gave him a good understanding of how they worked and were constructed. His son Ed often spoke of how his dad was a "natural engineer". Although he lacked the formal education, he had an innate understanding of how machines were engineered. Ed Gore said of his father, "If he saw how something worked, he could build one."
Mannon Gore bought the island of Bald Beach from the Brooks family for $55,000 in 1955. Originally a grant from the king, the land had been in their family since the 1700's. Gore loved watching sunsets from the beach and renamed his island Sunset Beach. Not too long after this purchase, he bought 500 acres of land along the Intracoastal Waterway from International Paper. This property was the beginning of the mainland of Sunset Beach.
In what is now the Sunset Beach Town Park, Gore constructed a workshop and there he built a dredge called the Little Dawn. He used this dredge to build a causeway on both the island and the mainland. Next, in 1958 he built the first bridge connecting the island and mainland.
This original bridge was a WWII surplus self propelled barge. It swung open, lining up parallel to the shore, for boats on the Intracoastal Waterway and remained in the open position until someone wanted to go across in a car. The Gore home was close to the bridge, where the parking lot for the boat ramp is now. Signalled by a honking horn, or flashing headlights after dark, Gore would come out of his house and operate the bridge. Stories tell us that, depending on the hour and not wanting to keep people waiting, he would sometimes be clad in his bathrobe.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation took over operation of the bridge in 1961 and built their own bridge, using the basic design and principles of Gore's bridge. They used floating pontoons instead of the self propelled barge, thus the name pontoon swing bridge. Over the years there were numerous repairs needed, especially when barnacles and other sea concretions attached themselves to the bridge.
In 1984 the state replaced most of the 1961 bridge, including the pontoons. This bridge remained in place until January 2011. The new Mannon C. Gore Bridge opened on November 11, 2010 after two and a half years of construction. Once the new bridge opened, the old bridge operated only to assist in the removal of construction debris including the temporary causeway on the island.
The old bridge's final opening was in January 2011 after which it was detached from its hinge point and moved by a small tug boat to a temporary landing west of the new bridge. From that point, it was moved in segments to its current home amidst the beautiful live oaks.