There's been a lot of talk about a new Ohio River bridge but tonight we're taking a close look at an old one. Since it opened in 1867, the Roebling Suspension Bridge has been a reliable, if not quiet, way to cross the Ohio River.
As Local 12 News reporter Joe Webb shows us -- it's an historic landmark that is So Cincinnati.
When form and function meet to solve a problem you end up with something special. The Suspension Bridge gets you there with a style and grace engineers only dreamed of until John Roebling came to town. " At the time it was completed it was the longest span in the world. It's 1,057 feet between the towers."
To get a sense of that scale, we climbed the south tower for a unique perspective on the bridge. The keystone on that tower was set in 1865. Construction had started in September 1856 but was interrupted by financial troubles and a Civil War.
Roebling and his financiers persevered. 145 years ago when the Covington-Cincinnati bridge was finished, it not only connected two cities and two states it connected the north and south which had been at war just three years earlier. It was a post-war symbol of unity.
Harper's Weekly featured the new bridge with a full-page engraving in February 1868. In it, you can see the graceful lines of Roebling's original design. "John Roebling was probably a genius but he wasn't perfect. There was a need in the 1890's to do some work."
Horses and buggies had been joined on the bridge by streetcars. Steel was added for support..including the second set of steel cables you can see above Roebling's original wrought iron cables. It hasn't changed much since.
In 1953 the State of Kentucky bought the bridge and replaced the deck. It made it lighter and stronger....and gave the bridge a voice. It's a familiar drone to commuters that changes in pitch depending on your speed and tread. A new set of tires changes your tune. It's a little thing but a Cincinnati thing. "When I went across it all I remember was the humming noise and my Mom saying, we're getting ready to cross the singing bridge! And she'd be humming and I really didn't think that was singing but it's one of those early memories."
The Roebling Bridge has made its share of memories. It lends its name to coffee shops, houses and high rises. While the river has kept on moving and riverfront stadiums have come and gone, the foreground of the skyline stood fast. with some TLC, more memories will be made. "There's no reason why it can't continue for quite a few years."
And maybe 145 years from now someone will do a story about the bridge that is So Cincinnati.
The Suspension Bridge had the longest span until John Roebling's son completed the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883. The designs are so similar many consider the bridge in Cincinnati as a prototype of the Brooklyn Bridge.
The bridge was originally painted brown and has been a variety of colors over the years. In 2010 it was repainted "Roebling Blue."