History of the Andy Warhol Bridge in Pittsburgh
The Andy Warhol Bridge, formerly known as the 7th Street Bridge, holds a special place in the heart of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This iconic bridge is one of the city’s “Three Sisters,” a trio of nearly identical bridges that span the Allegheny River. Built in 1926, the Andy Warhol Bridge is not only a vital transportation link but also a historical landmark that showcases unique engineering and architectural design. In this article, we will delve into the rich history of the Andy Warhol Bridge, exploring its construction, significance, and the story behind its name.
The Early Bridges
Before the construction of the Andy Warhol Bridge, there were two previous bridges at the same site. The first bridge, known as the Irwin Street Bridge, was designed by renowned bridge engineer Gustav Lindenthal and completed in 1904. However, this traditional suspension bridge became obsolete shortly after World War I due to the War Department’s need for larger vessel access along the Allegheny River. Thus, plans for a new bridge that would meet the requirements of the time were set in motion.
Construction and Design
In 1925, construction began on the new 7th street bridge, which would later become the Andy Warhol Bridge. The American Bridge Company of New York was contracted to build all three bridges in the “Three Sisters” project, with the Andy Warhol Bridge being designed by Chief Engineer Vernon Covell and architect Stanley Roush. The designers faced a unique challenge as the ground along the Allegheny River was too unstable to accommodate traditional shore anchorages for a suspension bridge. To overcome this obstacle, they developed a revolutionary self-anchored suspension bridge design.
Instead of using cables, the Andy Warhol Bridge employed eye-bar chains or catenaries, consisting of parallel eye-bars connected with massive pins. These chains were anchored at the top of the bridge’s towers, allowing the bridge deck to hang from additional vertical eye-bars. This innovative construction method made the Andy Warhol Bridge the first self-anchored suspension bridge in the world.
Unique Features and Longevity
The Andy Warhol Bridge boasts several unique features that contribute to its longevity and historical significance. Its cantilever system, combined with the self-anchoring design, sets it apart from traditional suspension bridges. This engineering marvel allowed the bridge to withstand the test of time and serve as a vital transportation link for nearly a century.
Originally painted in green and grey, the bridge underwent a makeover in 1975 when the city adopted black and gold as its official colors. The new color scheme, Aztec gold, matched the iconic black and gold colors associated with Pittsburgh’s sports teams. This change not only added to the visual appeal of the bridge but also solidified its status as a Pittsburgh landmark.
The Name Change
In 2005, on the tenth anniversary of the Andy Warhol Museum, the bridge’s name was changed to honor the Pittsburgh-born artist. Andy Warhol, a pioneer of the pop art movement, was known for his unique approach to art and his ability to challenge traditional artistic norms. The decision to rename the bridge after Warhol was a fitting tribute to his impact on the art world and his connection to Pittsburgh.
National Register of Historic Places
In recognition of its unique design and historical significance, the Andy Warhol Bridge, along with its “Three Sisters” counterparts, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. This designation ensures the preservation and protection of the bridge for future generations. The Andy Warhol Bridge stands as a testament to the engineering prowess of its time and serves as a symbol of Pittsburgh’s rich history.
Yarn-Bombing and Community Engagement
Throughout its existence, the bridge has been a canvas for artistic expression. In 2013, the bridge became the centerpiece of a community art project called “Knit the Bridge.” Over four weeks, 580 knitted and crocheted panels covered the entire bridge, transforming it into a vibrant display of color and creativity. This project not only showcased the artistic talent within the community but also brought people together to celebrate the bridge and its namesake.
Today, the Andy Warhol Bridge remains a vital part of Pittsburgh’s infrastructure, connecting downtown’s 7th Street with the North Shore’s Sandusky Street. It serves as a gateway to the Andy Warhol Museum, where visitors can explore the life and works of the iconic artist. The bridge’s unique design, historical significance, and vibrant art installations continue to draw locals and tourists alike, making it a beloved symbol of Pittsburgh’s past, present, and future.
The bridge stands as a testament to the innovative engineering and architectural achievements of its time. From its revolutionary self-anchored suspension design to its vibrant art installations, the bridge showcases the spirit of creativity and community engagement that defines Pittsburgh. As it continues to serve as a vital transportation link and a visual icon, the Andy Warhol Bridge remains a beloved symbol of the city’s history and a tribute to the artistic legacy of its namesake.