“The Culmination of Dreams”: The First of Two Dedication Ceremonies is Held for a Bridge across the Hudson River

February 2, 1957

A dedication ceremony was held for a still-incomplete bridge crossing the Hudson River in southeastern New York. This bridge, which is about 96 miles (154.5 kilometers) north of New York City, serves as a link between the city of Kingston in Ulster County and the hamlet of Rhinecliff (part of the town of Rhinebeck) in Dutchess County. Notwithstanding its unfinished status as of February 2, 1957, the structure was widely hailed at the time as a key transportation achievement for that region of the Empire State.

That evening’s edition of the Kingston Daily Freeman reported, “The snow-covered span, its back arched gracefully over the Hudson, finally became a reality – the culmination of dreams, plain sweat, and 13 years of planning.” This newspaper also noted, “Two communities — Kingston and Rhinebeck — separated for centuries by a meager three miles [4.8 kilometers] – were at last joined in a common bond of steel and concrete, opening a new avenue for transportation between eastern New York and the New England states.”

While plans to build a crossing at that section of the Hudson River were first formally developed in 1944, it wasn’t until a decade later that actual construction on the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge began. The bridge was designed by world-renowned civil engineer David B. Steinman.

Approximately 500 people turned out on that first Saturday in February for the first dedication of the bridge. W. Averell Harriman, governor of New York, officiated at the noontime ceremony. The ribbon-cutting duties, however, were handled by 13-year-old Nancy Heppner. She was the daughter of Ernest M. Heppner, a member of the New York State Bridge Authority (NYSBA). The Kingston Daily Freeman reported, “Her 13 years of age had a significant association with the opening since plans for the span were begun exactly that many years ago.”

Just over three months later, another dedication ceremony was held for the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge. The bridge was still not fully built, though. The Poughkeepsie Journal stated, “Although the bridge has been opened since February, much work remains done on the permanent toll booths, administration building and shop, all on the western approach to the span.” The newspaper added, “However, all concrete curbing and emergency walks on the bridge itself are now in place.”

Only about 200 people showed up for that second dedication, which took place amid drizzly weather. Harriman was again one of the public officials on hand for the festivities. This time around, it was Ruth Heppner – wife of NYSBA member Ernest M. Heppner and mother of Nancy Heppner – who played an active role during the ceremony. She had the honor of unveiling a commemorative plaque for the bridge on the structure’s plaza.

In 2000, the name of George Clinton was added to the name of the 1,476-foot (2,375.3-kilometer) bridge. Clinton, who served as both first governor of New York and the fourth U.S. vice president, was a longtime resident of that part of the state.

Along with carrying both motor vehicles and bicyclists, the George Clinton Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge accommodates pedestrians. This was first made possible in 2019, when a four-foot (1.2-meter) pedestrian path was installed across the structure as a portion of the Empire State Trail between Manhattan and the state’s border with Canada.

Photo Credit: Daniel Case (licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 Unported license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)

For more information on the George Clinton Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, please check out https://structurae.net/en/structures/kingston-rhinecliff-bridge and www.nysba.state.ny.us/bridgepages/KRB/KRBpage/NYSWeb_krb_page_NoLogo.htm

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