Bridge technology has existed since ancient times, but no bridge could span wide gaps until the suspension bridge was invented in the early 1800s. Even then, the technology had to be refined and improved before it could span a gap as wide as the Ohio River. And so it wasn’t until 1851 that the first bridge across that great waterway was built: the suspension bridge at Wheeling, WV. Following it in 1866 was the Roebling Suspension Bridge in Cincinnati. Like the Wheeling bridge, it still serves.

Roebling Bridge

It was, as its name suggests, designed and built by famed suspension-bridge designer and builder John Roebling. Except that’s not the whole story.

Roebling Bridge

In 1894 the bridge’s owners paid William Hildenbrand to significantly rework the bridge. Retaining the original towers and cables, he replaced Roebling’s deck with a new, wider, metal deck, and added new steel cables to bear its weight. Work completed in 1898 without ever closing the bridge to traffic.

Roebling Bridge

And it turns out to be wrong to say this bridge is in Cincinnati. Only its north approach is. The rest of it — indeed, most of the Ohio River itself — is in Kentucky. So this is the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge of Covington, KY. That’s where we went to photograph this bridge, by the way. Memo to leaders in Covington: It’s too hard to park in your city thanks to the old-fashioned coin parking meters. Who carries change anymore?

Roebling Bridge

Garrett and I didn’t linger long on the bridge — it was 40 degrees with strong winds. Our hands and ears quickly grew cold. We walked out partway onto the pedestrian deck long enough to get some photos, including these above and below.

Roebling Bridge

When our hands and ears couldn’t take it anymore, we headed back to the car. But it was good to experience this bridge even for a few moments.

Other suspension bridges I’ve visited: Wheeling, Brooklyn, and — are you ready for this? — Carlyle, Illinois.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
To get my newsletter with previews of what I’m working on, click here to subscribe!


11 responses to “The John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge”

  1. J P Cavanaugh Avatar

    Maybe 20-25 years ago I watched a Ken Burns documentary on the Brooklyn Bridge, another by Roebling. Fascinating stuff.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Based on what little I’ve read about Roebling, he sounds like a very intense man.

  2. Michael McNeill Avatar
    Michael McNeill

    When you wrote it was 40 degrees I was thinking Wow, that’s hot for this time of year! Then I read on…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Fahrenheit, my friend! Fahrenheit!! About 4 C!

  3. DougD Avatar

    Wow, that a very busy design. All that additional trusswork above the deck, they must have been raised (and complicated) to permit higher trucks to go through.

    And all those hot driven rivets! They don’t make them like they used to.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I can only imagine the work necessary to make this bridge accept motor vehicle traffic – size and volume.

  4. TechBook Avatar


    And all those hot driven rivets!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      They’re riveting, to be sure.

  5. […] The John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge โ€” Down the Road […]

  6. John Strathern Avatar
    John Strathern

    Just came across your site. Love it. Have to explore more. Signed up fr your “blog” letter. Recently exploring bridges across the Ohio River in Cincinnati…just for fun and so, walk, came across your site. And, thanks.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m pleased you found me! This blog is eclectic but one of my main subjects is old roads and bridges. Lots to explore here!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: