Boston University Bridge
Current picture of the BU Bridge and Railroad from the Charles River
Close up picture of the two structures
A 1949 picture of the bridge with a steam locomotive and postwar automobile traffic
A 1928 picture of the Cottage Farm Bridge
Boston University President Daniel Marsh and State Senator John E. Powers unveiling the commemorative plaque
Backstory and Context
The Boston University Bridge is a long-standing part of the Boston and Cambridge area. During the 1920s, the earlier Cottage Farm Bridge was described by an unknown author in the Harvard Crimson as “an eye sore to travelers between Boston and Cambridge.”4 After its renovation in the 1940’s the bridge marked the “western boundary of the growing Charles River Campus.”1 Its renaming was the result of a group of Boston University students who proposed to rename the bridge - Boston University Bridge. They marched to the State House, presented their proposals, and allied with State Senator (and later Senate President) John E. Powers, who urged the legislation to rename the site. In May 1949 the bridge was renamed and celebrated with a “commemorative plaque that cited BU's ‘service to state & nation’" unveiled by Powers and BU President, Daniel Marsh. and Powers.1 It was followed by a parade of ROTC4 members and “pretty Boston University coeds.”2 Unfortunately, the plaque was stolen long ago and only the bolt holes remain. It has since then developed majorly and holds special significance in the Boston University culture.
The Charles River is now best known for its recreational use, yet in the past it served as an industrial site; coal barges were used to deliver fuel to the Blackstone Power Station. This original function influenced the bridge's architectural build. The bridge was build at its height to avoid potential flooding.
The CSX Grand Junction Railroad located atop is a freight train, and since its first construction it dropped from two working tracks to one. Yet now it serves more as an “urban canvas.”2 (Daniloff). The large steel squares are covered with graffiti, mostly representing school logos such as BU, MIT, Tufts, and BC; some of these tags date back to 1997. The bridge is federal property, making it illegal to deface it. Yet, despite multiple efforts to remove the graffiti, the art continuously returns adding to the overall character of the bridge.
In recent years, the Bridge has undergone major reconstruction. The decks and sidewalks needed repair, as well replacement of the rusted parts. During its closure, it altered the route of over 30,000 drivers per day.
As of 2018, the Bridge is fully functioning and operating regularly.
2. Daniloff, Caleb. “Icons Among Us: The BU Bridge | BU Today | Boston University.” BU Today, www.bu.edu/today/2009/icons-among-us-the-bu-bridge/.
3. Laskowski, Amy, and Cydney Scott. “11 Things You Didn't Know about the Comm Ave Bridge Replacement | BU Today | Boston University.” BU Today, www.bu.edu/today/2017/comm-ave-bridge-replacement-facts/.
4. “The Harvard Crimson.” NEW COTTAGE FARM BRIDGE WILL BE IDEAL FOR CREWS | News, www.thecrimson.com/article/1925/4/16/new-cottage-farm-bridge-will-be/.