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First High Bridge


First High Bridge

Side view of High Bridge of 1877. Lots of I-bars in this bridge.

Louis Edward Nollau High Bridge Photographic Collection, 1910-1911 University of Kentucky


View this photo at kdl.kyvl.org

BH Photo #162303


The longest (1125 feet) and highest (275 feet) cantilever bridge in the world when built in 1877. It was the highest bridge of any type in North America until 1888 when Young's High Bridge was built to 283 feet a few miles away. A new bridge was built around this bridge in 1910-11 which was 308 feet tall, surpassing Young's High Bridge. The 1877 bridge continued in use during construction of the new bridge around it and was only dissembled sometime after the 1911 bridge was in use. The Cincinnati Southern Railway was and still is owned by the city of Cincinnati. Contract cost for bridge was $390,000. Final cost of the bridge was $404,856.58. Cincinnati Southern Railway built and owns the bridge. Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific (CNTP) leased and continues to lease the line from Cincinnati Southern though CNTP is owned by Norfolk Southern (formally Southern).


Lost Deck truss bridge over Kentucky River on Cincinnati Southern Railway at High Bridge
High Bridge, Jessamine County, Kentucky, and Mercer County, Kentucky
Built 1876-77, new superstructure built in 1910-11, original substructure demolished in 1913
- Baltimore Bridge Co. of Baltimore, Maryland
- Charles Shaler Smith of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- L.F.G. Bouscaren
- Cincinnati Southern Railway (CNTP)
Whipple deck truss
Length of largest span: 525.0 ft.
Total length: 1,125.0 ft.
Also called
Cincinnati Southern Railway High Bridge
Kentucky High Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+37.81711, -84.71998   (decimal degrees)
37°49'02" N, 84°43'12" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
16/700688/4187972 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Inventory number
BH 44851 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • February 17, 2022: New photo from Paul Plassman
  • September 17, 2021: New photo from Tony Dillon
  • January 22, 2017: Updated by Ed Hollowell: Attempt to clarify the ownership, lease holder and operator of this property.
  • January 10, 2017: New photos from Dave King
  • April 25, 2012: New photos from Jacob P. Bernard
  • March 25, 2012: Updated by Ed Hollowell: Better defined ownership of the bridge and relationship of Cincinnati Southern Railway and Southern Railway.
  • April 13, 2010: Updated by Ed Hollowell: Added Information on builders, cost and truss lenght and type.
  • April 12, 2010: Added by Ed Hollowell

Related Bridges 



First High Bridge
Posted September 8, 2018, by Ed Hollowell (erhollowell [at] aol [dot] com)

Yes! The wire to start the cables had been delivered as the (Un)Civil War began. The towers outlived this bridge and the bases of them are still intact. They were lowered when the railway was double tracked.

First High Bridge
Posted September 8, 2018, by Anonymous

High Bridge was first planned as a suspension bridge by Mr. John Roebling who later designed the famous Brooklyn Bridge in New York city. The huge stone towers were built in 1851 to hold cables to support the bridge. Work on this bridge was abandoned during the Civil War. Construction of the cantilever design bridge was resumed by the Cincinnati Southern Railway and the bridge was opened in 1877. It is the first cantilever bridge built on the American continent. The large twin towers were torn down in 1929. Below is a photo of Mr. John Roebling.