Roebling and the Smithfield Street Bridge

For several years, I had been under the impression that Roebling has designed/built the current Smithfield Street Bridge in Pittsburgh. This summer I discovered that while he certainly designed one of the bridges at this location (as well as several others in the city including an earlier rendition of the 9th Street Bridge) he did not create the current structure–here or elsewhere in the city.  The current bridge was built in the 1880s by Gustav Lindenthal.  However, according to Wikipedia, a part of Roebling’s bridge still stands as the piers were the ones built for his bridge.

As I paused in my walk across the Smithfield Street Bridge to take photos of the views off either side, a Segway tour passed.  These seem to be an ever increasing site in downtown Pittsburgh.  While walking around downtown last week, I nearly got run over by a straggler on a Segway who had some trouble navigating the turns.

The Smithfield Street Bridge connects downtown with Station Square, which I believe was one of the earliest industrial sites turned into an entertainment complex in Pittsburgh.  (Later developments of this kind are South Side Works and the Waterfront.)  The Smithfield Street Bridge is probably the most heavily used by pedestrians of any of the bridges in the city.  This is in large part because there is a large parking lot attached to Station Square, which many people who work downtown park in.  I believe downtown workers are also attracted by the restaurants and river trail which can be reached by walking this bridge.  An additional attraction for walking across this bridge from downtown is the Monongahela Incline, the base of which is across the street from Station Square.

I feel like I also hear people talk excitedly about walking the Smithfield Street Bridge as an event in and of itself.  I assume this is in part due to the fact that the sidewalks are nice and wide and there is no mesh fence caging the pedestrians in (see my complaints in earlier posts starting with the Highland Park Bridge, but not perfected until I got to the busway bridges such as the Millvale Avenue Bridge).  A larger part of the reason for this may be the bridge’s location and uniqueness.  One factor distinguishing this bridge from others in the city is the fact that it is basically flat and at street level.  Most of the other pedestrian accessible bridges that cross the rivers have inclines/declines.  Another distinguishing factor is its blue color.  I believe it is the only bridge in the city with this particular deep blue color (the 31st Street Bridge is the only other one I can think of that is any shade of blue).  This is especially significant as the Smithfield Street Bridge is located in the heart of downtown where all vehicular river bridges, except this one, are a golden-yellow color.  The third significant factor about this bridge is its shape.  All the golden bridges are either suspension bridges (see the 6th, 7th, 9th, and 10th Street bridges) or semi-circular truss bridges (see Fort Pitt, Fort Duquesne, 16th Street, and West End bridges).  The Smithfield Street Bridge is shaped like two close-set, narrow eyes.

To wrap up this post, I’ll just add that I like this view of downtown.  Perhaps I like it because of the smaller scale of the buildings seen here or for the fact that it captures some of the remnants of the old downtown or simply because it makes a nice composition for a photograph.

6 thoughts on “Roebling and the Smithfield Street Bridge

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