Georges Bridges

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Georges Bridges (born George Bridges March 31, 1899 in Chattanooga, Tennessee; died February 1976 in Birmingham) was a sculptor and educator.

After returning from service in World War I, Bridges met Eleanor Massey, the 19-year-old daughter of Richard Massey, at a debutante party in Birmingham. They were engaged within a week, despite the strong objections of her father. They were married at her family house in front of friends while the family remained upstairs, then honeymooned at a camp on the Warrior River. They studied together at the Cincinnati Academy of Fine Arts until their first daughter, Mary Eleanor, called "London", was born. In 1921 they designed and built a large pink stucco house on Edgewood Boulevard where Georges devoted himself to sculpting, soon winning prizes and commissions. They stabled horses to ride through Shades Valley and around Edgewood Lake and summered at Lake George.

Soon the couple moved to Paris and circulated in the expatriate community there, which included Tallulah Bankhead, Norman Bel Geddes, Bud Fisher, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Because of Georges' strong resemblance to the actor Douglas Fairbanks, the two often played pranks on others. They later lived in Greece, Turkey, Morocco and Mallorca, where Eleanor founded an art colony.

In 1928 the Bridgeses returned to Birmingham on a freighter, via Cuba. They had not intended to stay, but, when the Great Depression came, they took in several children who had been abandoned at mining towns in the district. Over the next decade as many as eighteen children lived with them in dormitories added on to the house. After a visit by a truant officer, Mrs Bridges packed the children up to move to Taxco, Mexico, where she ran a winter art colony. The subsequent winter found them in California. No formal adoption papers were filed and most of the children returned to their families when the economy recovered. Later the Bridgeses used the bunkrooms to house recovering alcoholics under a local doctor's care.

In the early 1940s, Bridges led a Birmingham Civic Art Movement, teaching unskilled and unemployed men how to carve stone benches for Hillman Hospital and sundials and water fountains for public parks. He hoped to enlist the support of a "Committee of 100" which could provide the means to fulfill his dreams of completing a monumental figure of the Roman goddess Diana for the space between the Jefferson County Courthouse and Birmingham Public Library and erecting a public art museum built entirely of stone.

The Bridges' parlor was a landmark in the progressive social and cultural scene. They hosted themed discussions each Sunday evening. The Little Theatre had its beginnings in those salons. Years later they launched the Valley Civic Theatre with a performance of Oscar Wilde's "Salome" in the front yard. He and Eleanor provided free art classes to students from Homewood City Schools and Parker High School. In the 1960s, aspiring sculptor Elizabeth MacQueen studied with Bridges. For a while, Bridges used the former Green Springs Baptist Church building on Green Springs Highway as a studio.

Bridges was stricken with illness in 1975 and died the following February. His works include the Brother Bryan statue (1934) at Five Points South, a sculpture of W. D. Hargrove at Union Bethel Independent Methodist Church in Mason City, a plaque honoring George Clayton at Clayton Park in ACIPCO (1952), the Jimmy Morgan statue (1961) at the Birmingham Zoo, and the Thomas Jefferson statue (1977) outside the Jefferson County Courthouse in Linn Park, .

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