Covered, suspension, cantilever, truss: no matter your preferred bridge style, there’s something for you to behold on America’s roads and byways. These structures stand not only as exceptional feats of modern engineering, but also as landmarks and designators of place. Each one is a significant reminder of its city’s history and stands as a testament to the ability of American’s to build stunning structures to transverse rivers and oceans.
The Brooklyn Bridge — While there’s so much to love about America’s quaint, covered bridges, nothing quite compares to its steel and stone behemoths. The Brooklyn Bridge may be one of the most famous bridges in the world, but it also has a rich, storied history. Constructed over a 14-year period culminating in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was the world’s first steel-wire suspension bridge. It boasts a distinctive Neo-Gothic style with two iconic towers made of limestone, granite, and cement. Designer and Builder John A. Roebling lent his name to a bridge of remarkably similar style, the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge in Cincinnati.
The Golden Gate Bridge — No list of historical bridges would be quite complete without the great Golden Gate. The San Francisco landmark holds the designation of the most photographed bridge in the world, and it’s not hard to see why. Constructed in 1937, the Golden Gate was once the tallest and longest suspension bridge in the world, spanning 4,200 feet long and 746 feet high. It’s still the tallest bridge in the United States. Consulting Architect Irving Morrow chose the bridge’s distinctive red color — or international orange, its official hue — in order to complement its natural surroundings and enhance the bridge’s visibility in notorious Bay Area fog.
The Mackinac Bridge — Michigan is home to many historic bridges, most notably the Mackinac Bridge. The 5-mile bridge connects the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan as one of the world’s longest suspension bridges. The first cars drove over the bridge in 1957, after 70 years of planning and construction. As author Mike Fornes points out in his book on the Mackinac Bridge, its construction had plenty of pushback from legislators, earning it the nickname “the miracle bridge.”
The Sunshine Skyway Bridge — If you’ve ever driven the length of Interstate 275 in Tampa Bay, Florida, then you’ll instantly recall this exquisite engineering feat. The Sunshine Skyway Bridge, simply known as The Skyway to locals, is a cable-stayed bridge spanning more than four miles over the scenic Tampa Bay. However, the current bridge is not the one that stood in its place for years. The original two-lane bridge, built in 1954, collapsed in 1980 when a freighter collided with one of its piers. Its demolition occurred in stages to avoid blocking the shipping channel to the Port of Tampa. The current Skyway presides over Tampa Bay, delighting everyone who sees it
The Smithfield Street Bridge — They don’t call Pittsburgh “The City of Bridges” for nothing. It boasts an impressive 446 bridges, more than any other city in the world, and they’re a significant contributor to the town’s skyline and aesthetic. The Smithfield Street Bridge is Pittsburgh’s oldest one. Engineer Gustav Lindenthal designed the iconic lenticular truss bridge in the late 1880s, and the bridge officially opened on March 19, 1883. The bridge is a National Historic Civic Engineering Landmark as well as a National Historic Landmark. It is also the second-oldest steel bridge in the United States.
The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge —We can surmise that this significant Bay Area landmark would be at the top of the list of historical bridges if it weren’t for its much more famous counterpart. San Franciscans first traveled on The Bay Bridge in 1936, after decades of planning and construction. In fact, historians note that residents dreamt of its inception since the early days of the California Gold Rush. One of the most interesting facets of the bridge’s construction is that it cleverly relies on Yerba Buena Island, a small island 1.75 miles from San Francisco, in order to help it span the length of the San Francisco Bay.
America has some of the most iconic bridges in the world. From suspension to cantilever, these bridges stand as a testament to American ingenuity and the irrepressible spirit of its citizens.