April 18, 2024

Hankering for History

Hanker: To have a strong, often restless desire, in this case for–you guessed it–history!

Building Bridges: Most Amazing Structures from the 19th Century

3 min read

The Brooklyn Bridge, New York

Since the beginning, man has been crossing and moving past insurmountable obstacles. From basic ideas to advanced technology, we have seen the work of masters pass through the ages. The earliest bridge was a fallen log across a stream, but bridges have progressed to stone and even intricate metal work done by novices and masters alike. By the 19th century, bridge construction greatly changed with the advent of steel. Steel allowed for greater structural support and for longer bridges. Three kinds of bridges are suspension, arched and covered. Take a look at these famous bridges, since it doesn’t take someone with a masters degree in civil engineering to see how far we’ve come.

Suspension Bridges

The Brooklyn Bridge – New York
This bridge was opened in 1883, and remains one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. It has become both a national and local landmark. The bridge is 1,595.5 feet long and has connected the great city of New York for decades. Because of its importance, Chester A. Arthur, United States President at the time, officiated at the opening.

The Brooklyn Bridge, New York

The Tower Bridge – London
This bridge got its name by being close to the Tower of London. Originally, it was the only crossing the Thames River to the East End commercial part of town, but became a feat of engineering when it was constructed to move when large ships went past. The bridge opened in 1894, built as a combined suspension and bascule bridge.

Arch Bridges

The Petit Pont Bridge – Paris
Paris has many bridges, but this is one of the most beautiful. This bridge was opened in 1853 on the site of one of the city’s first bridges, and crosses the River Seine, connecting the Ile de la Cité with the Left Bank. It is a single span arch and an iconic figure in Parisian art and film.

The Blue Bridge – Amsterdam
The name for this bridge, opened in 1883, comes from a previous blue wooden bridge at the site. This three-span arch bridge is one of Amsterdam’s most ornate bridges and a landmark every tourist sees.

The Blue Bridge, Amsterdam

Covered Bridges

The Humpback Bridge – Covington, Virginia
The middle of this bridge is built four feet higher than either end. This design is unique and was not duplicated anywhere else. It has no middle supports, and was built with bolts and without nails. It opened in 1857 to a curious public.

The Humpback Bridge – Covington, Virginia

The Harpersfield Bridge – Harpersfield, Ohio
This bridge, opened in 1868, is the first to use iron rods in its framework. It is a double span truss bridge, spanning the Grand River in Ashtabula County.

Bridges range from very simple, flat structures, to very elaborate pieces of art. They can be traditional or experimental. In all cases, they have a function: to cross over or above. The 19th Century saw great advancements in bridge building. The arch bridge is the oldest style, the suspension bridge a new innovation, and the covered bridge designed to protect the bridge’s surface. All styles are architectural gems.