Longfellow Bridge

Sunday, May 15, 2011 |

It was a great Sunday morning in May for a walk over the Longfellow Bridge, which traverses the Charles River and connects Cambridge with Boston. Now, this is a bridge with character and great views, certainly worth the effort of visiting. If the nearby Harvard Bridge (see earlier post) is for the students, then the Longfellow Bridge is for the more experienced adults among us. The stone and rusty iron bridge has four distinctive stone turrets built on it, giving the bridge the nickname of the "Salt and Pepper Shaker Bridge." The bridge not only carries vehicles (of course) and pedestrians/bikers, but also the red line of the Boston subway system. The group walkBoston couldn't have summed up the experience of trekking across the Longfellow Bridge more accurately: "As a pedestrian on this bridge, you enjoy a sensory feast. Smell the fishy, pungent river. Feel the vibrations of a Red Line train as it rumbles between Boston and Cambridge. Look at one of the best views of the Boston skyline."

The bridge was completed in 1906 and apparently has had little reconstruction work until now. In 2008, after a support beam was found in need of immediate repair, the red line trains were limited to very slow speeds, two of the four traffic lanes were closed, and one of the two sidewalks was closed. Although the immediate repair was made and those restrictions lifted, the bridge is now undergoing extensive rehabilitation. And it is getting a face lift as well, as the bridge is scheduled to have its rust removed and get its first paint job since 1953.

The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who lived during the 19th century, spent the last chunk of his life in Boston and apparently often walked across the prior bridge located at the same location. He wrote a poem about the previous bridge on that site entitled, simply, "The Bridge." And his poem about Paul Revere's ride ("Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere....") is actually painted on a narrow strip on the sidewalk of the Longfellow Bridge.

I don't think a trip to Boston is complete without a trek across the Longfellow. And not a scary bridge walk really, assuming you forget about the disrepair of the structure. I give it a 2 for height, 2 for length at 0.4 miles, and 4 for width (given its wide sidewalks and solid, low chest high railings, though rust ridden), thus a total of 8.