1922: The Longest Suspension Bridge in Brazil (and South America) Starts Being Built

November 14, 1922

Construction began on a record-setting suspension bridge in Florianópolis, the capital city of the state of Santa Catarina in southern Brazil. It was built to serve as the first fixed connection between the mainland part of Florianópolis and the city’s island of Santa Catarina.

The bridge was designed by the American firm of Robinson & Steinman. The firm had been formed only a year or two earlier when renowned civil engineers David B. Steinman and Holton D. Robinson agreed to work together on various bridge construction projects. The project in Florianópolis was one of their first joint efforts, and it helped establish their partnership as a highly productive and formidable one that would last until Robinson’s death in 1945. The bridge in Florianópolis was built by the Pennsylvania-based American Bridge Company, which had been founded in 1900. All of the materials used for constructing the bridge were shipped from the United States.

Hercílio Luz

The leading proponent for the creation of this bridge was Hercílio Luz, the governor of the state of Santa Catarina. Luz saw the construction of a bridge as a preferred all-weather travel option for the 40,000 residents of Florianópolis; at the time, these individuals and others had to rely on ferries to cross between the mainland part of the city and the island of Santa Catarina. Luz also saw the bridge as an important way to better integrate the island with the mainland and in the process stave off a movement at the time to designate the municipality of Lages – seen by many as a more cohesive location than Florianópolis — as the new state capital.

Unfortunately, Luz did not live to see the completion of the bridge that he had staunchly championed. It was still under construction when he died in 1924. The original name for the structure was the Independence Bridge. When the bridge was officially opened in 1926, however, it was instead named after Luz as a posthumous tribute.

Measuring 2,689 feet (819.5 meters) in length, the Hercílio Luz Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in Brazil. It is also one of the longest suspension bridges in all of South America. It was closed in 1982 due to safety concerns. (By that time, two other structures – the Colombo Sales Bridge and Pedro Ivo Bridge – were also in place to link Santa Catarina Island with the mainland.) The Hercílio Luz Bridge was reopened in 1988, but only to pedestrian traffic, bicycles, motorcycles, and horse-drawn vehicles. The bridge was shut down altogether again three years later, and it remains closed to the public. It is still, however, a popular landmark for those living in and visiting Florianópolis.

For more information on the Hercílio Luz Bridge, please check out https://structurae.net/en/structures/hercilio-luz-bridge.

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