Brooklyn Bridge, New York (1910)
The U.S. National Archives Catalog

27 Vintage Photos of Historic American Bridges

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The U.S. National Archives Catalog

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Though they're a common sight across the U.S., bridges are a truly impressive feat of engineering, often serving as important examples of architecture and flush with historical context. Here are 23 vintage images of bridges, many of which still get us to where we're going today. 

Note: Dates listed are approximately when the photo was taken.

Related: Vintage Beach Photos From Summers Past

Chain Bridge, Washington, D.C. (1860s)
Library of Congress

Chain Bridge, Washington, D.C.

Circa 1860s
This photograph from the 1860s shows a horse and buggy passing a man sitting on a pile of rocks at the Chain Bridge, which crosses the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. There have been numerous iterations of this bridge over the years, but it gets its name from an 1810 version supported by chains. There are no chains now.

Related: America's Most Iconic Buildings and Monuments in D.C. and Beyond

Bow Bridge, New York
Library of Congress
An Unnamed Bridge in New York (1890s)
Library of Congress

An Unnamed Bridge in Chautauqua, New York

Circa 1890s
A rustic bridge in Chautauqua in the late 1890s. Chautauqua is a small town, but its claim to fame is the Chautauqua Institution and the Chautauqua Movement, founded in the 1870s by John H. Vincent and Lewis Miller. It was a training program for Sunday school and church educators that spawned many similar programs across the U.S.

Related: 30 Historic Schoolhouses Across America

An Unnamed Train Bridge, Michigan (1891)
Internet Archive Book Images

An Unnamed Train Bridge, Michigan

Circa 1891
This bridge crossed the St. Joseph River near Berrien Springs, Michigan. It would have been a popular route for summer vacationers as the river hosted many nearby summer hotels and boarding houses.

Related: 50 Stunning Photos of Historic Train Stations Across America

The Pennsylvania Avenue Bridge, Washington, D.C. (1896)
The U.S. National Archives Catalog

The Pennsylvania Avenue Bridge, Washington, D.C.

Circa 1896
The Pennsylvania Avenue Bridge in Washington, D.C., crosses Rock Creek. It was designed by Montgomery C. Meigs and was sometimes referred to as the Meigs Bridge. The cast-iron water mains in this photo are no longer visible and have been encased in concrete since 1916. In 1913, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts objected to the redesign for aesthetic reasons, but to no avail.

Cabin John Bridge, Maryland (1864)
Library of Congress

Cabin John Bridge, Maryland

Circa 1900
The Union Arch Bridge, also known as the Cabin John Bridge, was finished in 1864 in Cabin John, Maryland. A tablet on the east abutment of the bridge would have featured the name of the bridge's designers, Montgomery Meigs and Alfred Rives. However, Rives joined the Confederate Army before the bridge was finished and so the tablet instead reads, "Union Arch, Esto Perpetua" (Let it last forever).

Echo Bridge, Massachusetts (1901)
Library of Congress

Echo Bridge, Massachusetts

Circa 1901
The Echo Bridge in Newton, Massachusetts, crosses the Charles River and is named for the echo you can hear if you shout on stairs beneath the bridge. Here, a human voice can repeat up to 15 times. This image is a Photochrom print (an ink-based photolithograph).

Harvard Bridge, Massachusetts (1905)
Library of Congress

Harvard Bridge, Massachusetts

Circa 1905
A pedestrian crosses the Harvard Bridge in Boston in this image from 1905. You can see a guard tower on the bridge and a shed owned by Boston Elevated Railways Co. in the foreground.

Brodhead Bridge, Pennsylvania (1905)
Library of Congress

Brodhead Bridge, Pennsylvania

Circa 1905
This image from Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, which depicts a bridge spanning the Brodhead Creek, was used as a postcard. The Brodhead Creek is a tributary of the Delaware River, located in the Poconos area.

The Charlestown Bridge, Massachusetts (1906)
Library of Congress

The Charlestown Bridge, Massachusetts

Circa 1906
The Charlestown Bridge spans the Charles River in Boston. It was built in 1900, thus it's fairly new in this photo from 1906. Deemed structurally deficient in 2003, a replacement bridge is slated for completion in 2023.

Related: The Best Things To Do In Boston

Blackwell's Island Bridge, New York (1909)
Internet Archive Book Images

Blackwell's Island Bridge, New York

Circa 1909
The Queensboro Bridge opened in 1909, then known as the Blackwell's Island Bridge and the fourth-longest bridge worldwide. It spans the East River between Queens and Manhattan. Today it is known as the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. 

Brooklyn Bridge, New York (1910)
The U.S. National Archives Catalog

Brooklyn Bridge, New York

Circa 1910
The Brooklyn Bridge crosses the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn. It opened in 1883, then the longest suspension bridge in the world. Here, pedestrians cross the bridge in 1910, less than a decade after the construction of the Queensboro and Manhattan bridges.

The Brooklyn Bridge, New York (1921)
Wikimedia Commons

The Brooklyn Bridge, New York

Circa 1921
Here's the Brooklyn Bridge in 1921, one year before motor vehicles would be banned as the bridge could not then support such heavy loads. In more recent times, following renovations to accomodate vehicles again, over 120,000 motor vehicles, 4,000 pedestrians, and 2,600 bicyclists would cross the bridge daily.

McKinley Bridge, St. Louis (1910)
Library of Congress

McKinley Bridge, St. Louis

Circa 1910
The McKinley Bridge is a steel truss bridge that spans the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Venice, Illinois. It was finished in 1910. Today it serves cars, bikes, and pedestrians. Many assume the bridge was named for former president William McKinley, but it was actually named for then-president of the Illinois Traction System, whose name was also William McKinley. 

Related: From Boneshakers to the Wright Brothers: 25 Fun Facts About Bicycles

Smithfield Street Bridge, Pennsylvania (1910)
Internet Archive Book Images

Smithfield Street Bridge, Pennsylvania

Circa 1910
This lenticular truss bridge is a National Historic Landmark designed by noted engineer Gustav Lindenthal. It crosses the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh and can be seen in the opening scenes of "Flashdance," that well-known '80s flick about a young steel mill worker who dreams of becoming a ballerina.

Related: 31 Historic Places Across America That You Can Tour Virtually

Bull Run Bridge, Virginia (1922)
Library of Congress

Bull Run Bridge, Virginia (1922)

Circa 1922
Stone Bridge in Prince William County, Virginia, crosses Bull Run. This one, with its striking arches, was built in 1884 to replace a previous version destroyed during the Civil War. You can see the original bridge in ruins here.

A Covered Bridge, Virginia (1933)
Library of Congress

A Covered Bridge, Virginia

Circa 1933
In this photo from 1933, a man walks in front of a covered bridge spanning Willis River in Trent Mills, Virginia. In the distance is a grist mill. According to a Federal Highway Administration report on covered bridges, the most common reason to cover a bridge is to protect its supporting timbers.

Covered Bridge, Vermont (1937)
Library of Congress

Covered Bridge, Vermont

Circa 1937
This image from 1937 by noted photographer Arthur Rothstein describes it only as a covered bridge in Plainfield, Vermont. Though there is little information from the Library of Congress accompanying the photo, this bridge looks very similar to the Martin Covered Bridge located near Plainfield village. The Martin Covered Bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places, where it's dated to 1890

Related: 20 Things You Never Knew About New England

A Swinging Bridge, Kentucky (1940)
Library of Congress

A Swinging Bridge, Kentucky

Circa 1940
This vertigo-inducing swinging bridge allowed pedestrians to cross over the Kentucky River to and from Jackson, Ken. The world record for such a bridge will eventually be held by a 725-foot swinging bridge in Kentucky and Virginia that will cross Russell Fork Gorge. 

George Washington Bridge, New York (1941)
Library of Congress

George Washington Bridge, New York

Circa 1941
The George Washington Bridge is a double-decked suspension bridge that crosses the Hudson River between Manhattan and Fort Lee, New Jersey. At the time this image was taken in 1941, the bridge's lights were shut off at night for safety reasons due to WWII.

Grassy Point Bridge, Wisconsin (1941)
Library of Congress

Grassy Point Bridge, Wisconsin

Circa 1941
The Grassy Point Bridge is a rotating truss bridge that spans the St. Louis River between Duluth, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin. Rick McDonald, a former bridge operator, fastened various stuffed toys to the bridge for years and other boaters have followed suit since McDonald's death in 2006. Here you can see the bridge in 1941. 

Golden Gate Bridge, California
Hulton Archive / Stringer / Getty Images CC

Golden Gate Bridge, California

Circa 1943
The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is one of the most famous bridges in the world. It opened on May 28, 1937, and is named for the Golden Gate Strait it spans. During the bridge's construction, a safety net was suspended beneath the bridge to catch workers who slipped. Nineteen men were caught by the net, which made them official members of the "Halfway-to-Hell Club."

Related: The 50 Most Beautiful Views in the World

Elizabethton Covered Bridge, Tennessee (1965)
Library of Congress

Elizabethton Covered Bridge, Tennessee

Circa 1965
This covered bridge spanning the Doe River in Elizabethton, Tennessee, was built in 1882 and is open to pedestrian and bicycle traffic today. In June, Elizabethon throws Elizabethton Covered Bridge Days, a festival of music, a car show, food vendors, and other family-friendly activities.

The Stennis Space Center, Mississippi (1966)
NASA

The Stennis Space Center, Mississippi (1966)

Circa 1966
Here, the NASA barge Poseidon passes through the bascule bridge at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The barge carried Saturn rocket stages and hardware used in the Apollo Program. This photo was taken in October of 1966, nearly three years before man would first land on the moon.

Related: The 50 Greatest American Inventions of the Past 50 Years

Memorial Bridge, Washington D.C. (1973)
The U.S. National Archives Catalog
Manhattan Bridge, New York (1974)
The U.S. National Archives Catalog

Manhattan Bridge, New York

Circa 1974
In this rust-colored image from 1974, a subway car crosses the East River in New York via the Manhattan Bridge. The bridge opened on New Year's Eve in 1909 and has four subway tracks.

The Kentucky and Indiana Bridge, Kentucky (1988)
The Kentucky and Indiana Bridge, Kentucky (1988) by William Alden (CC BY-SA)

The Kentucky and Indiana Bridge, Kentucky

Circa 1988
The Kentucky and Indiana bridge spans the Ohio River. It was built in the 1880s to connect Louisville, Kentucky and New Albany, Indiana, in alignment with two ancient roads: Great Buffalo Trace and Wilderness Road. Here it is a century later, in 1988. In recent years, there have been efforts to give pedestrians and cyclists access to part of the railroad bridge owned by the Norfolk Southern railway.

Related: 30 Great American Road Trips Through History