John A. Roebling Reconsidered

John Roebling, the engineer who designed some of the most important US bridges of the middle third of the nineteenth century, is today somewhat overshadowed by his oldest son, Washington Roebling. After John’s death by accident during the earliest stages of the work on the Brooklyn Bridge, Washington became the chief engineer for that project. …

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Technology Transfer

The close-up above shows a critical element in the development of skyscrapers and, non-coincidently, one of the reasons I keep talking about late 1800s truss bridges. Tall buildings were largely responsible for the creation of my profession, structural engineering for buildings. Prior to the the construction of large numbers of tall buildings in the 1880s …

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Simple Conceptually, Difficult To Build

That’s an action shot of the construction of the Lethbridge Viaduct by the Canadian Pacific Railway, in southern Alberta, sometime between mid-1908 and early 1909. Everything about this is fantastic, in both meanings of the word. The viaduct, like most such structures, is quite simple. A series of braced towers sit on foundations in the …

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An Odd Roof

The title of that early 1900s photo is “During a performance at Hammerstein’s Paradise Gardens, New York”. The first three words are obvious, and Hammerstein is a name with a long history in New York theater, but the phrase “Paradise Gardens” is a red flag of sorts. Salesmanship appears to be intruding on reality. What …

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Excavation As An Extreme Sport

That’s the beginning of the construction of Grand Central Terminal, in 1908. To place everything, both the second and third (current) Grand Central straddle Park (Fourth) Avenue on the north side of 42nd Street. This picture was taken from approximately the line of 45th Street, a half block east of Park Avenue, looking south. Grand …

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