I just received a kind word from Bridgeton City Administrator Thomas Haun that Bridgeton Mayor Conrad Bowers is willing to meet with me to discuss Carrollton’s history. In my excitement, I have already begun preparing questions though the interview will not likely take place until March. I am interested in hearing more about his tenure as the city leader during the Lambert Expansion Project.
If you did not already know, Bridgeton is in the finishing stages of relocating City Hall (Government Center as many are now called) down Natural Bridge into their newly constructed building. The new building has a new, modern design, but I will miss the mid-century style reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright building that was formerly City Hall. The new building now stands atop where Hot Shots Bar and Grill and (I believe) an old Phillips 66 used to be. It’s almost too metaphorically eerie that Lambert’s last buyout was ground zero for the initial airport expansion resistance.
Bridgeton’s official website concludes its informational section with the city motto: Bridgeton is Forever. The motto was developed when I was a kid during the first indications that Lambert International Airport was considering expanding into Bridgeton city limits. The current City Hall has a landing strip in its backyard. City leaders are the last to pack their things and move on in a different place, as so many of Bridgeton’s residents were forced to do for seemingly endless years. An outsider would believe that the town’s motto has simply become empty words spoken too long ago. I am not inclined to believe that the soul of Bridgeton Forever has left. Even with a major percentage of the township sold to the City of St. Louis and Lambert Airfield, you have to give the city credit for being on the side of the residents along the way, fighting the expansion project along the way, to be the very last ones to relocate. I do think there is good reason Mr. Bowers has remained in charge for decades. How many other civic leaders could possibly remain in office during the entire length of time half of their city had been declared eminent domain and gobbled up to an outsider? I can’t think of any other elected official that could outlast such a perfect storm of bad scenarios and still remain the captain. To say they, and all of city hall failed, would be wrong. They may have lost the battle, but by fighting valiantly, they didn’t fail as leaders. The part of Bridgeton that remains have loyal, long-time residents, commercial and industrial businesses and economic-minded goals for future growth. It is fair to say that the battered captain and crew finally deserve a grand new ship, a new Government Center that will hopefully sail in calmer yet prosperous seas. Bridgeton is indeed Forever as long as people continue to believe in Bridgeton.