Happy Fourth of July 2013

Wabasha Bridge over the Mississippi River Photo taken in Sept. 2010

Fourth of July- the time to celebrate the birth of America. It started with the Declaration of Independence on this day in 1776; 11 years later came the Constitution creating the Republic to which it still stands today. Many historic landmarks still stand today, constructed by many architects and engineers wanting to leave their mark for future Americans to see.

Irene Hixson Bridge, located over I-94 west of Loring Park in Minneapolis, built by Siah Armajani in 1988. Photo taken in 2009.

This applies to bridges as well, for many engineers, whether it was John Roebling, Lawrence Johnson and Gustav Lindenthal, who immigrated from Germany, Ralph Mojeski,  who originated from Poland,  Salvador Calatrava, who was a Spaniard or even Siah Armajani, who gave up his Iranian citizenship to live the American Dream, left their marks on their bridge design and construction for  people to see today. Most of them have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places; some will eventually be listed in the near future because of their design and the example of how these people came to the States to allow for their creativity and fantasy to run wild. Many engineers used Erector sets to draft their dream bridges before building them. Others improvised and built bridges that made people wonder in awe. In any case, many of today’s bridge builders have used the examples of bridges built in the US as a source of inspiration, despite attempts by politicians and agencies alike to have a plain bridge built in the shortest time possible at the cheapest cost- a logic that has caused many in the bridge, preservation and engineering communities to scratch their heads and question their logic. Bridges are meant to carry traffic and goods from point A to point B, yet when they are rendered obsolete, they are meant to be used as a historic marker, recognizing the tire and toil put in by engineers and bridge builders when it was built in the first place, and to be given new life for those engaging in recreational activities, such as biking, walking, jogging, etc.

The Smithfield Street Bridge in Pittsburgh, the best example of a piece of work built by Gustav Lindenthal built in 1883. Photo taken in August 2010


So that’s why we are here to celebrate the Fourth- in style. Many bridges are part of the festivities including fireworks, dances and boat rides, like the bridge over the Mississippi River in Wabasha, Minnesota, for example. Other bridges are the focus of private venues, for fishing, grilling or just being alone to watch the sunset, a prerequisite to the fireworks that go off on the eve of dusk.  In either case, when you cross a bridge this evening, built by an engineering great, think about the hard work put into building the structure and how it became part of America’s infrastructural history, which seems to be mutating at high speeds, from the first primitive crossings, to the ones built of iron and steel, to the ones that are becoming fancier to see. We must take pride in our work and consider that it is not necessary to have such a plain ugly bridge, but to have one that is a work of art, both past and present, for generations of the future to see as they cross it.

Janesville Bridge over the Cedar River at the Bremer/ Black Hawk County border in Iowa. Photo taken in September 2010

The Chronicle’s questions for the Forum (for you to post either in the Comment section of this article or on the facebook page):

1.       Which bridge do you know is the site of the Fourth of July Celebrations or can be seen during the fireworks display?

2.       Which bridge is your favorite place to visit and do during the summer?

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles and its sister column the Flensburg Files would like to wish everyone a happy but safe Fourth of July weekend, no matter where you go and what you plan on doing for the weekend.

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One Response to Happy Fourth of July 2013

  1. David says:

    The huge NYC fireworks displays typically use the Brooklyn Bridge as a focal point.

    On the caption comment about Gustav Lindenthal… Despite pontist’s affinity for Lindenthal’s Smithfield Street Bridge, he is probably much better known for the Queensboro Bridge.

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