Caught Our Eyes: Tower Bridges in Boston, Massachusetts

This image, found while browsing for bridges in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog, lured a colleague in for a closer look.  I was glancing over her shoulder, and the photograph drew me in and stirred my curiosity, too.

Tower bridges, Fort Point Channel, Boston, Mass. Photo by Detroit Publishing Company, copyrighted 1904

Tower bridges, Fort Point Channel, Boston, Mass. Photo by Detroit Publishing Company, copyrighted 1904. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/det.4a11410

We were struck by the clarity and beautiful geometry of the image, one of the recently rescanned glass negatives from the Detroit Publishing Company Collection.  We also wondered: What’s happening here? How did the bridges work?

Yes, we’re in a library—we could look it up.  But do any of you bridge specialists out there want to shed some light?

Learn more:

  • Read about the Detroit Publishing Company Collection and sample more images: //www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/det/ and navigation links at the left.
  • View a similar image published in One Hundred and Fifty Glimpses of Boston, Cambridge, Lexington, Concord by John Francis Murphy (Boston: J.F. Murphy, 1904), available through the Hathi Trust Digital Library.
  • View a sampling of pictures of bridges through the Prints &  Photographs Online Catalog.
  • View comments on another evocative bridge picture we posted in our Flickr account—the next best thing to being there, with further illustration from those who were there!
  • We were thinking about bridges this very date five years ago!  View a Webcast celebrating the publication of two books in the Norton/Library of Congress Visual Sourcebooks in Architecture Design and Engineering series, including Bridges by Richard L. Cleary (New York: Norton, 2007).

3 Comments

  1. Paul Matus
    May 9, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    We appear to be looking at three side-by-side rolling bascule lift bridges. This is the kind of counter-weighted bridge that rolls back on a track to lift its roadway or railroad track.

    Two of the bridges are fully rolled back while the third on our left is partly lifted, perhaps as it opened or closed.

  2. Doug Cornelius
    May 9, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    The bridges are gone, but a remnant has been left behind to remind the commuters riding into Boston’s South Station:

    http://www.universalhub.com/2012/end-fort-point-channel

  3. Barbara Orbach Natanson
    May 14, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Very helpful! It’s great to learn about what was happening then and what has happened since. Thanks so much for your comments.

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