Variations on a Theme

Once in a while I’ll get stuck on an idea, whether it’s from working on a number of similar projects or researching similar papers. The name High Bridge in Kentucky got me thinking about New York’s High Bridge, and then wondering how many other bridges there are with that name. Usually, a bridge gets that name because it’s high enough to be a fixed span while there are nearby lower bridges that are either made to move out of the way when river traffic approaches or are impediments to river traffic. It’s a reasonably common name, and I want to take the time to look at some of the more interesting bridges with that name.

How common is common? The bridge above is the 1889 High Bridge at Tyrone, Kentucky, “Not to be confused with High Bridge of Kentucky.” So there are two “High Bridges” just on the Kentucky River gorge. The bridge at Tyrone, Young’s High Bridge, still stands, although it was abandoned for traffic in in the 1980s.

New York’s High Bridge is a partial replacement. As an 1848 masonry bridge, it was lower and had shorter spans than the steel truss bridges that dominate the category. High Bridge is 140 feet above the Harlem River, which is pretty good, but the length consisted of a series of short spans: five arches 80 long over the river, and another ten arches 50 feet long over land. So it was high and long overall, but composed of short spans that required many piers. In the 1920s, the river piers and spans were replaced by a single steel arch.

I wrote a few months ago about the 1889 High Bridge over the Mississippi at Saint Paul, Minnesota. It had 28 spans ranging from 40 to 250 feet, some 150 feet above the river. There’s a certain visual power to repetition:

At the risk of repeating myself too much, I also wrote last summer about the 1889 Poughkeepsie Rail Bridge over the Hudson River (informally known as High Bridge) and the 1901 Kate Shelley High Bridge over the Des Moines River in Iowa. Here’s a stereoscopic postcard of Poughkeepsie:

Now that we’re caught up on past discussion, I’ll be posting other High Bridges through the week.

Scroll to Top