January 6, 1922
Construction began on a suspension bridge that would cross the Delaware River and serve as a link between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Camden, New Jersey. As part of the festivities marking the start of work on this structure (originally known as the Delaware River Bridge), a salute of 17 guns was fired from the U.S. Navy ship USS Olympia (CL-15). “A moment later,” reported the next day’s edition of Massachusetts-based Holyoke Daily Transcript, “a naval aviator circled over Camden, dropped one end of a ribbon and then crossed to [Philadelphia] and dropped the other end, symbolizing the ‘new and closer union of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, which comes into being with the commencement of work on the great bridge.’”
The first day of construction on this bridge was also commemorated by public officials who gathered together on the Philadelphia side of the river. These officials were William Cameron Sproul (1870-1928), governor of Pennsylvania; Edward I. Edwards (1863-1931), governor of New Jersey; J. Hampton Moore (1864-1950), mayor of Philadelphia; and Charles H. Ellis, Jr. (1862-1940), mayor of Camden. They each took turns striking a silver-plated pick into the planking of a pier there. This pier was subsequently torn down altogether to help make way for the approach to the bridge on that bank of the Delaware River.
The chief engineer overseeing construction of the Delaware River Bridge was Ralph Modjeski (1861-1940). Leon Moisseiff (1872-1943) served as the design engineer for this project, and Montgomery B. Case (1882-1953) was its construction engineer. Paul Phillippe Cret (1876-1945) was the project’s supervising architect.
The Delaware River Bridge was officially opened to traffic on July 1, 1926. This debut took place three days ahead of the originally planned opening of the bridge on what was the nation’s sesquicentennial, specifically the 150th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. At the time of inauguration of the Delaware River Bridge, its 1,750-foot (533-meter) span was the longest in the world for a suspension bridge. This record remained intact until the opening of the Ambassador Bridge between Michigan and Ontario in 1929.
In 1955, the Delaware River Bridge was renamed in honor of renowned polymath and longtime Philadelphia resident Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790). The Benjamin Franklin Bridge, which is owned and operated by the Delaware River Port Authority, is one of four primary vehicular bridges between Philadelphia and the southern region of New Jersey. The bridge carries Interstate 676 and U.S. Route 30 and also two tracks of the rapid transit route known as the PATCO (Port Authority Transit Corporation) Speedline. In addition, there are pedestrian walkways on both sides of the bridge. In 2003, the Benjamin Franklin Bridge was added to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.
(The above photo of the bridge was taken in 2010.)
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Phillips Freeman – Debo Morium (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Debeo_Morium); licensed under the 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 Benjamin Franklin Bridge (originally called the Delaware River Bridge), please check out https://structurae.net/en/structures/benjamin-franklin-bridge