John Augustus Roebling was born on this date in 1806. While many know Roebling for his second most famous project, the Brooklyn Bridge, located in a small eastern town known as New York City, those of us from Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky remember Roebling for his most famous project, the majestic Suspension Bridge, connecting Ohio and Kentucky.
Since moving to downtown Cincinnati approximately one month ago, Roebling’s Suspension Bridge has been in the background of many of our adventures. Here’s a picture of our dog, Fiona, enjoying a walk with the bridge over her left shoulder.
And here’s Fiona gazing at the Ohio River with the bridge off in the distance.
Thousands of locals cross Roebling’s Suspension Bridge every day without realizing he also designed the Brooklyn Bridge. Or that our Suspension Bridge was the project he completed immediately before beginning the Brooklyn Bridge. Or, because Roebling would eventually lose his life to an accident suffered while working on the Brooklyn Bridge, that our Suspension Bridge was the second-to-last project he ever completed. Many also don’t realize that construction of the Suspension Bridge was halted in the late 1850’s because the project ran out of money, and only restarted in the early 1960’s during the Civil War as a way to get Union troops across the Ohio River to keep Cincinnati safe from Confederate forces.
John Augustus Roebling was a man who stood on the banks of vast rivers and said, “Let’s find new ways to get from here to there.” The danger didn’t scare him away. The impossibility of such a daunting task didn’t discourage him. When he ran into setbacks, Roebling went back to his workshop and created new inventions to solve the problems. (Literally, he used to do that. An unexpected complication would arise, and he would just invent something brand new to deal with it.)
Some people stand at the water’s edge, look across the currents to the place they want to be, and give up. They turn around and walk home, or they simply camp on one side of the river, getting stuck in the muck after years of inactivity.
And some people have the vision to see where they want to go, and then build bridges to get there. Others pass by and call them crazy, or mock them, or discourage them, or even actively try to sabotage them, but the bridge-builders keep building. Roebling kept building. I want to be a person who keeps building.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Roebling. And thank you for the courage to keep building.
Photo by Rebel Pilgrim Productions