The Roebling Bridge, Between Cincinnati and Covington

One of the most important bridges in the history of architecture and engineering spans the Ohio River in between Cincinnati, Ohio and Covington, Kentucky. Opened in 1866, years before the revolutionary Eads Bridge in St. Louis, it served as the important prototypical step for the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.

Construction faced the same challenges: a wide river with dangerous obstacles and of course entrenched business interests that would lose out if a bridge was successfully built.

Like many places I saw on my travels, summer brings construction and rehabilitation projects, so there was some scaffolding and fencing in my photos.

The suspension bridge, which John Roebling helped to pioneer, featured massive masonry piers which were sunk deep down into the bedrock.

Future suspension bridges would make greater use of structural steel to lighten the appearance and massing of the towers. Take the George Washington Bridge between Manhattan and New Jersey; it was originally planned to be clad in a stone veneer, but the steel skeleton structure was considered to be so elegant that it was left as is.

The invention of steel wire allowed John Roebling to construction the long cables that were bound together like the fibers in human muscle.

They are then anchored in these massive hunks of masonry at the anchorages on either side of the river.

Like Washington Roebling’s Brooklyn Bridge, there are trusses added later for stability and strength.

What really struck me was on the Covington, Kentucky shore where there has been real redevelopment in what had been an economically depressed area. There is real street life, though it is perhaps a bit like a suburban office park on the south side of the river.

And we have luxury condos! But seriously, I was impressed to see people commuting across the river as part of their everyday life to Cincinnati. St. Louis could learn something…

New houses emulate the traditional vernacular styles of buildings in Covington.

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