1866: The Initial Unveiling of a “Great Suspension Bridge” Between Ohio and Kentucky

December 1, 1866

A suspension bridge spanning the Ohio River between Cincinnati, Ohio, and Covington, Kentucky, was opened to the public when people were first allowed to walk across the new structure. The next day’s edition of the Cincinnati-based Commercial Gazette reported, “The new bridge was thronged throughout the day, fully 20,000 having crossed between sunrise and sunset.”

A month after pedestrians were first able to cross the bridge, it was officially opened to vehicular traffic. Anyone driving a horse and buggy had to pay 15 cents to use the bridge, while those crossing with a carriage and three horses were charged 25 cents; the toll for pedestrians to walk across was a penny.

Measuring 1,057 feet (322 meters) in length, this structure was the world’s longest suspension bridge at the time of its debut. “The great suspension bridge,” as it was frequently termed in newspaper reports early on, had been designed and built by the renowned civil engineer John A. Roebling. By the time he undertook this project, Roebling’s already considerable legacy included building the suspension bridge Allegheny Aqueduct in Pittsburgh as part of the Pennsylvania Canal. After completing the bridge between Cincinnati and Covington, Roebling — before his death in 1869 at the age of 63 — prepared the original design for New York’s world-famous Brooklyn Bridge.   

The Covington-Cincinnati Bridge, or Ohio River Bridge as it has also been called throughout the decades, remains heavily used today and is the busiest of Cincinnati’s four non-freeway bridges. The bridge has earned additional fame through its big-screen appearances, including a scene in the 1988 movie Rain Man

The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, and designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1983. It was also in 1983 that the structure was formally renamed the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge. (The above photo of the bridge was taken in 1907.)

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge (originally known as the Covington-Cincinnati Bridge), please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_A._Roebling_Suspension_Bridge

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