The iconic John A. Roebling Bridge has spanned the waters of the Ohio River between Covington and Cincinnati for over 150 years. It is a National Historic Landmark, still serving both pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
The first charter for the Covington-Cincinnati Bridge Company was granted by the Kentucky Legislature in 1846. (Kentucky owns the Ohio River—basically to the Ohio shoreline.) Due to intense opposition from ferryboat operators and steamboat companies, construction was delayed for ten years. There were also fears that a bridge would aid runaway slaves in reaching the North.
At the outbreak of the Civil War the towers on either side of the river were under construction. John Roebling had been hired early in the process to design the bridge. His son, Washington, was the engineer on site, who oversaw the construction and dealt with problems at hand. The project slowed during the first years of the war. Besides financial setbacks, both state legislatures had to approve lowering the required clearance of the bridge over the water. In 1863, work on the towers resumed, and continued through 1864. (This is when my character Pete Strong would have been employed on the crew.) Spinning of the cables began in November 1865 (meshing nicely with Jesse’s discharge from the army in September when he’s hoping to see construction of the bridge accelerate).
Jesse, Eliza, and the rest of the Cooks were surely among the 166,000 people from Kentucky and Ohio who crossed the bridge on its opening weekend in early December 1866. They no doubt marveled at the then longest bridge in the world—later to be surpassed by Roebling’s other bridge in Brooklyn.
Having grown up in Covington, I would hear of visitors saying, “Oh, doesn’t this look like the Brooklyn Bridge.” My reply, as a proud child of the Ohio River Valley, would inevitably be, “No, the Brooklyn Bridge looks like ours.”
(Adapted from: A Quick History of the Roebling Suspension Bridge/ Covington-Cincinnati Suspension Bridge Committee)
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