The George Washington Bridge: Poetry in Steel

The George Washington Bridge: Poetry in Steel

The George Washington Bridge: Poetry in Steel

The George Washington Bridge: Poetry in Steel


Since opening in 1931, the George Washington Bridge, linking New York and New Jersey, has become the busiest bridge in the world, with 108 million vehicles crossing it in 2007. Many people also consider it the most beautiful bridge in the world, yet remarkably little has been written about this majestic structure.

Intimate and engaging, Michael Rockland's rich narrative presents perspectives on the GWB, as it is often called, that span history, architecture, engineering, transportation, design, the arts, politics, and even post-9/11 mentality. Stunning archival photos, from the late 1920s when the bridge was built through the present, are a powerful complement to the bridge's history. Rockland covers the competition between the GWB and the Brooklyn Bridge that parallels the rivalry between New Jersey and New York City. Readers will learn about the Swiss immigrant Othmar Ammann, an unsung hero who designed and built the GWB, and how a lack of funding during the Depression dictated the iconic, uncovered steel beams of its towers, which we admire today. There are chapters discussing accidents on the bridge, such as an airplane crash landing in the westbound lanes and the sad story of suicides off its span; the appearance of the bridge in media and the arts; and Rockland's personal adventures on the bridge, including scaling its massive towers on a cable.

Movies, television shows, songs, novels, countless images, and even PlayStation 2 games have aided the GWB in becoming a part of the global popular culture. This tribute will captivate residents living in the shadow of the GWB, the millions who walk, jog, bike, skate, or drive across it, as well as tourists and those who will visit it some day.
  • First major book on the George Washington Bridge
  • Full of amazing facts about the GWB that will surprise even bridge historians
  • Includes over 30 spectacular illustrations, ranging from archival photographs of the building of the bridge to those that show it draped in an enormous flag after 9/11
  • Includes personal accounts of the author's adventures on the bridge


I have lived most of my life on one side or the other of the George Washington Bridge. It is the busiest bridge in the world and, since its 1931 inauguration, has gotten steadily busier. Some 108 million vehicles crossed it in 2007, utilizing its two decks and fourteen lanes. Many people have deep affection for it and consider it the most beautiful bridge in the world. the George Washington, which celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary in 2006, is in a class of its own.

When I was a young boy growing up in the Bronx, I knew about the bridge because vegetable-laden horse-drawn wagons, having crossed it from New Jersey, regularly wandered through my Bronx neighborhood. Cries were directed up to the windows of each apartment building: “New Jersey fresh; New Jersey fresh.” My mother would lean out the window and tell the farmers what she wanted and then, grabbing her pocketbook, go downstairs to complete the purchases. Egg vendors also came across the bridge from New Jersey and went door-to-door in our building. My mother bought from them too. “Direct from the hen,” she would say. in those days it seemed perfectly valid for New Jersey to call itself “the Garden State.” and for New Yorkers, the pathway to that garden’s bounty was the George Washington Bridge.

My father would often talk about being at the George Washington as a pedestrian when it opened for traffic on October 25, 1931. That day 57,788 vehicles and one man on a horse crossed the bridge. Tolls for automobiles and horse-and-wagons were an identical fifty cents, but the policemen who were then the toll collectors were unsure whether to . . .

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