News Tidbits- The Disappearing Suspension Bridge, and its Conflicting History

30 07 2008
It was during a snowstorm...in MARCH...

It was taken during a snowstorm...in MARCH...

Glancing at the Sun today, I was pleasantly surprised to see an article about the master plan written by columnist Munier Salem. The article diescusses a discrepency in the presence of the suspension bridge north of the Johnson Museum, that spans the Fall Creek Gorge from the base of the wooden staircase off University Avenue to Fall Creek Drive. In some massing renderings, the bridge doesn’t exist [1]. One of the focuses of Salem’s article was whether or not this was intentional.

My personal thought is that it was not intentional. A rough guess of foot traffic during the academic year is probably among a few thousand unique trips across the span per day, plus there’s a strong sense of establishment associated with that bridge- although the current one was built in 1960, there has been a bridge at the present site since 1913 [2].

The bridge is marked with its share of legends and lore. Most have heard the one where if someone refusing a kiss while crossing the bridge at midnight, that it will collapse into the gorge. Another, somewhat less popular legend, is that the 1913 bridge was designed by an engineering student as part of a final project in his senior year. However, when he turned it in and the professor reviewed it, the professor said that the design wasn’t structurally feasible, and failed the student. Dejected, the student jumped into the gorge for where the south end of the bridge connects to campus. His grieving family, being of considerable wealth, decided to take his design and make it a reality. Thus it was built to the young man’s decision, and it was stable. Thus, the student was vindicated.

However, these are only just legends; the original 1913 suspension bridge is mostly an embellishment of the real story (there was a low-slung one in the 1880s behind Risley, so take the concept of “original bridge” with a grain of salt). Edward Wyckoff 1889, a student at Cornell, is said to have designed the bridge as part of a project, but the professor failed him and Wyckoff withdrew from Cornell. Twenty-plus years later, he financed the construction of the bridge [4]; the bridge was built by a private company for the Cornell Heights Improvement Company, of which Wyckoff was a major financier of the company, so this seems plausible.

The 1960 bridge was designed by two professors. S.C. Hollister and William McGuire (yes, the same Hollister for whom Hollister Hall is named [3]). However, to conflict with this, article [4] suggests it was built in 1977. I’m pretty firm in that it was 1960, as an earlier DUE, from 1987, contradicts it and gives the 1960 date [5]. The current bridge sits about 138 ft. above the water level [2].

Anyways, Salem also noted the propsed bridge behind Eddy Gate; while I think it’s awesome (I lived in Casca for a year), I’ll save discussion for when I cover that in another Master Plan entry.

 

 

[1]http://cornellsun.com/node/30894

[2]http://www.alumni.cornell.edu/cu_facts/read_more.cfm?id=33

[3]http://www.cornell.edu/search/index.cfm?tab=facts&q=&id=382

[4]http://ezra.cornell.edu/posting.php?timestamp=1087880400 from June 2004

[5]http://ezra.cornell.edu/posting.php?timestamp=545716800 from April 1987


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