One of Pittsburgh’s “Three Sisters” (a trio of nearly identical bridges), the Andy Warhol Bridge was, until 2005, known as the 7th Street Bridge. The first of the Three Sisters to open, in 1926, it, like its counterparts, is a unique self-anchored suspension bridge, the first built in the United States. It sits between the Roberto Clemente and Rachel Carson Bridges and spans the Allegheny River connecting downtown’s 7th Street with the North Shore’s Sandusky Street. Due to its unique design and longevity, the Andy Warhol Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, along with its two “sisters.”
Bridge is the second to cross the Allegheny at this site. The first was designed by famed bridge engineer,
Gustav Lindenthal three years after the completion of the nearby Smithfield
Street Bridge which he also designed.
Known as the Irwin Street Bridge, as that was the name of the future 7th
Street, it was completed in 1904. However,
this two-span, traditional suspension bridge was deemed obsolete by the War
Department shortly after the conclusion of World War I. The War Department sought to keep the rivers
around Pittsburgh open to larger vessels, especially considering the war
materials coming out of the Steel City at that time and Lindenthal’s Bridge was
considered too low to the river and too narrow to meet their needs. As a result, construction on a new bridge,
that sat higher above the river, began in 1925.
contracted with the American Bridge Company of New York to build all three
bridges with the Warhol Bridge being designed by Chief Engineer Vernon Covell
and architect Stanley Roush. The
designers developed the bridge’s unusual design due to the fact that the ground
along the Allegheny was too unstable to secure shore anchorages required for a
normal suspension bridge. Consequently,
they decided to utilize a self-anchored suspension bridge whereby the cables, or eye-bars in this case,
would be anchored to the stiffening girder within the bridge deck. Another unique aspect was that the bridge
would be constructed using a cantilever system, making it the first self-anchored
suspension bridge on the globe so constructed.
In order to
more easily facilitate the self-anchoring system, the designers decided to use
eye-bar chains or catenaries which consisted of eight or nine parallel eye-bars
connected with massive pins and anchored at the top of each of its 83-foot
towers. They then suspended the bridge
deck from additional, vertical eye-bars that hang from the catenaries. It was originally painted green and grey, but
that color scheme was changed to Aztec gold in 1975 when the city adopted black
and gold as the official colors.
name was changed in 2005, on the tenth anniversary of the Andy Warhol Museum
which is located on Pittsburgh’s North Shore.
The son of a coal miner from Slovakia, Warhol was born in the Oakland
neighborhood of Pittsburgh in 1928. A
sickly child, he spent much of his time indoors, drawing and writing. He graduated from Oakland’s Schenley High School
and, later, from the Carnegie Institute of Technology with a degree in Fine
Arts and then moved to New York City where he became one of the best known
modern artists in the country. After his
death, he was buried next to his parents back in Pittsburgh in 1987.