George Washington Bridge

Jesse Fried • Jul 10, 2017

The GWB is the busiest motor vehicle bridge in the world. It is the northern terminus of that sacred highway, the New Jersey Turnpike, serving to connect not only NJ and NYC, but also New England and points west and south. It is widely acknowledged to be an unusually beautiful bridge, located between dramatic highlands on both sides of the Hudson, and designed by Swiss bridge-builder Othmar Amman.

Attempts to build bridges at more central locations across the Hudson were made throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Usually though the financial burden of spanning this wide river and consuming a portion of Manhattan was too much for New York, New Jersey, the Port Authority, and/or various private loci of capital to bear. The GWB's plan saves money in several ingenious ways, allowing the bridge to be completed during the Depression:

  • Between Bergen County and upper Manhattan, the river is narrower than it is further downstream where the city centers are located.
  • The Palisades are used as a natural anchorage and approach ramp for the bridge. Cables are attached directly to the bedrock on the NJ side.
  • The design of the bridge's steel towers was considered so beautiful that the builders skipped the step of encasing them in decorative granite.

The portion of Bergen County on the western side of the GWB was not a 19th century city. Fort Lee today is a strange hybrid of a town and a city, but overall a pretty nice place to live. Beyond it is a core of older suburbs, like Teaneck, Englewood, and Leonia.

Source: The Bridges of New York by Sharon Reier. New York, 1977