When my Lake Charles retail partner, MB Rich Jewelry, asked if I would design and produce a piece of jewelry to commemorate the Calcasieu River Bridge with cross pistols, I was excited about the idea of adding another piece of Louisiana history to my portfolio. This project prompted me to conduct further research into the development of the bridge, some very intriguing facts surrounding the influence of the cross pistol symbolism and the legendary Jean Lafitte himself.
This necklace will be available exclusively at MB Rich Jewelry for $110.00, which means this item is not available for purchase at my Magazine Street store nor my website. To purchase, please contact MB Rich Jewelry directly or order online on their website by clicking here.
Lafitte's Cross Pistols
In the early 1940s, when N.E. Lant was beginning to plan the design of the bridge, he enjoyed the idea of naming it the “Lafitte Bridge” after learning the Old Spanish Trail was originally called the “Lafitte Cutoff.” Local legends like Jean Lafitte inspired the cross pistol design as a symbol to commemorate the rich pirate history of Lake Charles. Despite the fact that in 1951 the Louisiana State Legislature decided to name the bridge the Louisiana World War II Memorial Bridge, most people refer to it as the Calcasieu River Bridge.
There are 5,286 pairs of cast-iron pistols along the hand-rails of the bridge. Construction began in 1949 and was completed in 1952, before the implementation of the Interstate Highway System. Pedestrian use ceased once the bridge became integrated with the highway in the early 1960s.
According to a new campaign, known as the Build Our Bridge Across the Calcasieu, “When the current I-10 Calcasieu River bridge opened for traffic in 1952, it was designed for a traffic load of 37,000 per day and a 50-year life span. Today, the average daily crossings are over 90,000. Safety and structural concerns regarding the bridge are well-documented. Replacing this bridge has been a topic of concern and debate for decades, but the funding has never been designated. The I-10 Bridge Task Force was formed to pursue any and all funding options to make a new bridge a reality sooner, rather than later.”
MB Rich Jewelry and Cristy Cali decided to partner and collaborate on producing jewelry designs to not only commemorate the history of this important landmark, but also raise awareness around the safety concerns and monetary funds. The I-10 bridge has been listed by the National Bridge Inventory as Structurally Deficient with a rating of 3 and a Sufficiency Rating of 9.9 out of 100. In March 2017, a report indicated that the sufficiency rating has dropped to 6.6 out of 100. Cristy will donate a portion of the sales from this line of jewelry to the Build Our Bridge non-profit organization to participate and contribute towards the construction a newer and safer bridge.
Like most of my designs, my hope is to stimulate and encourage conversations. If you decide to become the proud owner of this nostalgic design, please help educate others, not only about the history behind the bridge and the influence of Jean Lafitte, but also around the safety concerns we face today.
Jean Lafitte, however you perceive him, was a man who lived his life with action and made waves wherever he went. It is not our obligation to judge others, but rather acknowledge and appreciate the great contributions people in history make. Lafitte's battles with the law were legendary. When Louisiana Governor William Claiborne offered a reward for his capture, Lafitte offered an ever larger reward for the governor. Sometimes people who do "bad" things are not inherently evil in nature, they simply stimulate our growth and contribute to the world differently.
Click here to watch my official announcement video on Instagram! You can see for yourself what the necklace looks like more clearly, plus I offer additional images and video stories of this necklace to show the details.
For those that are not aware, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, "Because Barataria Bay was an important approach to New Orleans, the British during the War of 1812 offered Laffite $30,000 and a captaincy in the Royal Navy for his allegiance. Laffite pretended to cooperate, then warned Louisiana officials of New Orleans’s peril. Instead of believing him, Gov. W.C.C. Claiborne summoned the U.S. Army and Navy to wipe out the colony. Some of Laffite’s ships were captured, but his business was not destroyed. Still protesting his loyalty to the United States, Laffite next offered aid to the hard-pressed forces of Gen. Andrew Jackson in defense of New Orleans if he and his men could be granted a full pardon. Jackson accepted, and in the Battle of New Orleans (December 1814–January 1815) the Baratarians, as Laffite and his men came to be known, fought with distinction. Jackson personally commended Laffite as “one of the ablest men” of the battle, and Pres. James Madison issued a public proclamation of pardon for the group."
If you are interested in learning more about Jean Lafitte, I highly recommend this book that my own father gifted me several years ago - Lyle Saxon's Lafitte the Pirate. Lyle Saxon chronicles Lafitte's colorul life and examines some puzzling questions about the famous rogue. Where was he born? Did he really participate in the French Revolution? What was his part in the plot to rescue Napoleon? And where is his treasure hidden?
Separating fact from legend, Saxon paints an entertaining and realistic portrait of a truly remarkable figure in American history.