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GEORGE WASHINGTON BRIDGE



A Suspension Bridge in Washington Heights

Celebrating George Washington & the "Spirit of 1776"

GEORGE WASHINGTON BRIDGE (New Yorkers call it the GWB) has a main span of 3,500 feet and its length is 4,760 feet.  The 14 lanes (8 upper, 6 lower and both pedestrian and biker sidewalks) of this bridge carry over 108 million vehicles per year making it one of the busiest bridges in the world.  Vehicles cross so slowly that they are seldom able to reach the permitted speed limit of 45 miles per hour.  The double-decked bridge was first named the Hudson River Bridge for the river it spans from the upper Manhattan's Washington Heights neighborhood at West 178th Street to Fort Lee, New Jersey.  General George Washington and his troops fought important Revolutionary War battles in both Washington Heights and Fort Lee in futile attempts to keep British forces from occupying New York City in 1776.

The bridge's architect, CASS GILBERT, also designed the Woolworth Building, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower. the U.S. Customs House -- all in New York City and the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC.  Chief engineer for the GWB was O.H. Amann and among its many engineers were Leon S. Mosseiff, an engineer on the Manhattan Bridge as well.  The bridge has four supporting towers.  The wire rope cables were manufactured by the John A. Roebling Sons, Co. of the same Roebling family that built the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883.  Each cable has 64 strands containing 434 wires with a total of 26,474 wires in every cable.  The original design called for the towers to be encased in concrete and granite but this never happened due to the expense involved at the time of the bridge's construction (1925 just before the Depression).  The lower lanes of the bridge have been humorously nicknamed "Marthas" in honor of Washington's wife, Martha Dandridge Custis Washington. 

The massive bridge is a fitting tribute to George Washington who was known for his impressive size (6 feet, 2 inch) and confidence.  Washington first served in the Virginia militia, the French and Indian War and later passionately built and commanded the Continental Army keeping it together under horrible conditions during the eight-year Revolutionary War.  Troops often wore rags, were shoeless and lacking in supplies and food -- starving to the extent that they slaughtered and ate their horses.  Large numbers died from starvation and over 100,000 of smallpox.  Continental Army troops were composed of indentured servants, slaves, farmers, and immigrants from Ireland and England.  Many were young; some as young as 15.  As the nation's first President, Washington was a strong believer and advocate in the power of the Federal Government and concerned about "nation building" and the concept that the states conceived of America as a united country -- as a "United Confederation of States."

During national holidays the largest free-flying American flag (90 feet) in the world can be seen hanging from the upper arch of the bridge's tower on the New Jersey side.  A red lighthouse stands at one end of the bridge and is the subject of a popular children's book entitled THE LITTLE RED LIGHTHOUSE AND THE GREAT GRAY BRIDGE by Hildegarde Swift with illustration by Lynd Ward.  The bridge has made appearances in numerous films and television series including Citizen Kane, How to Marry a Millionaire, I Love Lucy, and Friends. 

The bridge was dedicated by the then Governor of New York and future President, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

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