One of Cincinnati’s oldest landmarks was built between 1855 and 1865. However, it was a banking scare, not the Civil War, that nearly scuttled the project. In fact, fear of the war coming to Cincinnati and a need for solid transportation between Cincinnati and Kentucky after the war, which ever side Kentucky ended up on, forced its completion.
That would be the Roebling Suspension Bridge between downtown Cincinnati and Covington.
At 1057 feet long, it was the longest bridge in the world until another Roebling-designed bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge, was completed in the 1870’s.
[More My Town Monday posts with Travis.]
The bridge is one of Cincinnati’s iconic symbols. In one scene in Rain Man, shot in the lobby of Dixie Terminal (where I once worked), the bridge is visible in the background as Tom Cruise talks to Dustin Hoffman. You can’t see the bridge from there now as the Underground Railroad Museum was built in the sightline.
The bridge spans the Ohio River between the vacant lot soon to be known as The Banks (the parking desert where Great American Ballpark, Paul Brown Stadium, and the Underground Railroad Museum are situated) and the bars and restaraunts of Roebling’s Point in Covington, Kentucky. Two pedestrian decks allow people to walk from Great American Ballpark and the museum center to the restaraunts in Kentucky.
Periodically, the Commonwealth of Kentucky closes the bridge for maintenance, but most of the original structure remains. A second set of cables was added to support the current deck. While Kentucky had to lower the weight limit to 11 tons, the towers themselves were designed to carry much heavier loads, possibly anticipating eventual railroad or powered vehicle use. Remember, steam was the main source of mechanical power until the end of the nineteenth centurty, and steam-powered anything is far heavier than most gas/diesel-powered vehicles.
The bridge has earned the nickname “The Singing Bridge” for the sounds it makes as vehicles roll across. The sound comes from the vibration of the bridge’s cabling, the rumble of tires on the bridge’s steel grate deck, and the clang of the deck as cars and trucks hit the joints between sections. A few years ago, a University of Cincinnati student recorded several hours of bridge sounds and built a suite of music around it.
If you look at the towers, you can see the early ideas Roebling had for the Brooklyn Bridge, which I’ve also walked across. Yes, I walked to Brooklyn for a beer.