Friday, November 5, 2010

Roebling's Last Gleaming

It's by far one of the most recognizable, if not the quintessential, architectural symbols of the Queen City. And while there were many others well before me who braved the fence spikes and potential plunge to the chilly Ohio River below, I doubt I'll be the last to ever personally take in a breathtaking, postcard-esque view where your eyes are swept up by the curving lines of the cables towards the city skyline - like its some island in the distance.

Today the Roebling Bridge will re-open after seven months of being closed to automobile traffic. While closed for repairs and re-painting, the "necklace" of lights spanning the cables went dark. They'll stay dark until the Covington-Cincinnati Suspension Bridge Committee raises enough funds to purchase and install a new set of lights.

Even years prior to the bridge's scheduled closing, the lights had only worked on one side of the cables and even those were only half working (as seen above).

The bridge, named for it's creator John A. Roebling, was a predecessor to the Brooklyn Bridge, also designed by Roebling. At the time of it's completion in 1867, it was the longest of its kind in the world. It, along with the iconic Brooklyn Bridge in NYC, initially met opposition from local groups. Both bridges obviously prevailed and have become icons in their respective cities. While travelers passing through our fair city don't travel over it via highways, the bridge serves local automobile and pedestrian traffic and can be seen from vantage points all over the city. The bridge has been seen on countless postcards, movies, television shows, sports broadcasts and Skyline Chili commercials.

- 1988's Rain Man starring Tom Cruise featured a memorable scene where the characters cross over the bridge into the city.

- 1993's Airborne provided the romantic backdrop for a scene in this corny, yet awesome, 90's teen movie.

While initially the bridge provided traffic directly into the cores of Covington and Cincinnati for streetcars, horses and automobiles; it became separated from the center city with the construction of Ft. Washington Way and the awkward connectors to Riverfront Stadium.

- The bridge as it was connected to the parking garage of Riverfront Stadium (1999 photograph by Jake Mecklenborg of Cincinnati Transit).

These days though, the bridge will get new life as the centerpiece of "The Banks" project and the new Riverfront Park.

- Rendering of how the bridge will appear from the Riverfront Park/Banks project. Rendering from Cincinnati Parks.

In 2001 the bridge authorities claimed the blue color would not be returning. Instead, they supposedly had planned to paint the bridge tan. The image below appeared in the The Cincinnati Enquirer, showing what a tan Roebling might have looked like:

I had been frustrated, I had been angry. Many times I had found myself standing at the shoreline, looking up at the iconic bridge. Even times when I had just been passing through the city, I'd stop there to think. One night I finally mustered enough arm strength and fortitude to climb, leaving the past and angry thoughts on the shoreline behind and below me. At the top of Roebling's creation, I experienced freedom.

Looking towards Cincinnati in 1865:

Looking towards Cincinnati some time after 1865:


  1. I fell in love with Roebling the very first moment I laid eyes on it and I'm happy its finally getting the home it deserves with the new River Front Park.
    When I think of Cincinnati I think of Fountain Square and Roebling.

  2. Its not open for public climb is it?

  3. The way the new Cincinnati Riverfront Park places the Roebling Suspension Bridge as its center piece is spectacular. It's a vast improvement and immensely more fitting for bridge of such landmark status.

  4. I'm really glad the bridge remained blue. What were they thinking with the tan?