Photo taken by Jonathan Maxwell
BH Photo #108291
The Roebling Suspension Bridge
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Anticipated reopening May 1.
The bridge has been closed due to an accident on Tuesday night. Apparently a vehicle lost control hitting one of the vertical posts. The radio report said the bridge should be closed until further notice and repairs can be made.
The various Ohio River comments perhaps ought to be clarified. Kentucky DOT has maintained the bridge because the Ohio River west of the north extension of the Mason Dixon Line had been claimed by Virginia. When Congress created new states such as Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky the border claims of Virginia were retained by Kentucky. When the Corps of Engineers converted the Ohio River into a slackwater canal, they raised the water level in the pool stage, thereby submerging the boundary. The north side span of this bridge crosses over that boundary, but the rest of the bridge, including both towers, is in Kentucky.
Bridge was recently closed due to a 12 inch piece of sandstone falling from north tower. The bridge has been reopened. The damage was superficial.
The state border was set at the rivers north bank long ago. Since it was set the river has wandered. The border stays where it was before the river moved. Some places the the river moved south and in those places both banks of the river are Kentucky, such as at Evansville. Other places the river moved north and in those places the border is in the river. Cincinnati is one of these places where part of the river is in Ohio.
Actually, the Roebling Suspension Bridge does fall within the boundaries of Hamilton County, Ohio--albeit very partially. It is true that MOST of the Ohio River is within Kentucky, but not ALL. The northernmost 10% or so of the river is indeed part of Ohio; any map on the internet like Google, Mapquest, etc. will illustrate this.
You have listed this bridge in Hamilton County Ohio but it is actually in Kenton County, Kentucky except for a portion of the north approach. Most people don't realize that the Ohio River is not in Ohio. Another thing you ought to correct or modify is the name of the builder. In 1894 the owners of the bridge (it was then a private toll bridge) made a contract with William Hildenbrand to replace and upgrade the bridge. His plan was to retain the original towers and cables, remove the old Roebling deck from end to end, replace it with a new, wider, metal deck, and add new steel cables to carry the weight of the heavier deck. He achieved this without stopping traffic! The main portion of Hildenbrand's work was completed in September 1898. The best reference source for a description of this incredible rebuild is:
Gastright, Joseph F. "Wilhelm Hildenbrand & Reconstruction of the Roebling Bridge" Northern Kentucky Heritage, Vol VIII Number 1 Pages 1-15 Fall/Winter 2000.
Don, you point to an interesting thing about suspension bridges. Suspension bridges for some reason have a history of overbuilt towers and under-built cables and trusses. The Waco Suspension Bridge is Texas is usually cited as an 1870 bridge although all the trusses and cables are 1914: http://www.historicbridges.org/texas/waco/index.php
I comment on that page that the bridge is in reality best thought of as an 1914 bridge. One could make a similar argument for Roebling Bridge.
The bridge in the photo was designed and built by William Hildenbrand 1895-1899. Although the crossing currently is named for John A Roebling, he was the designer and builder of the original structure which was deficient for several reasons. It was removed by Hildenbrand without interrupting travel - a spectacular effort! In the rebuild the original wrought iron wire cables and the original stone towers were allowed to remain in place and these were used to raise the new bridge structures into place. New steel cables were added in 1897 (in the middle of the project) to support the added weight of the metal trusswork.
The best reference source is:
"Wilhelm Hildenbrand and the 1895 Reconstruction of the Roebling Suspension Bridge" by Dr. Joseph F. Gastright in Northern Kentucky Heritage, Vol VII No 1 pages 1-14
It's being repainted at the moment.
According to "The Kentucky River" by William B. Ellis on page 91 the original wrought iron cables of this bridge were replaced by new steel cables in 1896.
Is the metal truss structure, within the suspension bridge a retrofit, added later than the original construction of the bridge??
They've just recently lowered the weight limit from 22 tons, to 11 tons, citing structural concerns for very heavy trucks.
I thought this was a cool photo from the top of the Carew Tower in Cincinnati.
I walked across this bridge as a child in the early 60's with my Aunt Jean. It was still a toll bridge then. IIRC .05 for pedestrians.
Years later when attending UC and working as an auto mechanic in downtown Cincinnati I'd gladly ride my motorcycle to KY Motors in Covington for repair parts late at night after the all the other parts houses closed for the chance to ride this bridge. The steel deck made the bike dance like a dervish. After you were used to it it wasn't dangerous it was fun!