L & N Bridge

From Pieces of the Past, Volume 1, pages 230-231 by Jim Reis and reprinted here with his permission.

One of the earliest mentions of this Newport bridge was in a Covington Journal newspaper account in early 1868.  Newport officials realized they needed their own bridge to Cincinnati to compete with the business opportunities offered by the opening of the Suspension Bridge in Covington in 1867.

The Covington Journal reported on May 16 that a Newport and Cincinnati Bridge Company had been formed to begin construction.  The writer noted that a large quantity of stone had been purchased and hauled to the foot of Saratoga Street for the construction of bridge abutments.  It took almost four years before the bridge could be opened to railroad traffic in March 1872 and another six months before it opened to vehicles.

A Covington writer noted that "by an oversight" the bridge wasn't constructed wide enough to handle transports and large wagons.  The design problems led to a call for changed in 1877, when Newport Mayor Albert Berry estimated it would cost $30,000 to correct the problem.  Berry said the bridge needed tracks for street cars, new sidewalks and "turnouts", places where pedestrians could seek safety when vehicles crossed the bridge.  But it was 1891 before plans were unveiled for the reconstruction work.

Those plans called for using only the piers and abutments of the old bridge, which was commonly known as the Newport and Cincinnati Bridge.  The rest of the span was to be torn down and replaced by a wider and stronger bridge.  When that work finally began a couple of years later, it was a slow and tedious process involving the erection of wooden scaffolding sunk deep into the river bottom.

A story and sketch in September 1896 noted that the bridge company was having trouble hiring workers because two men had died in falls and several others had been seriously injured.  To combat that problem, the bridge company increased the pay from $1.50 to $2.50 a day, but it was still forced to recruit men from outside the Greater Cincinnati area.

It didn't help that the bridge company forced employees to sign a release exempting it from any claims arising from injuries or deaths.  The bridge opened in May 1897.

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